A woman accused of driving into a teenage girl because she believed she was Mexican had struck another child with her car less than an hour earlier, Iowa authorities say.
Police say Nicole Marie Poole Franklin struck a 12-year-old black boy as he walked home from school in early December. The 42-year-old Des Moines woman has not discussed her motive in that incident, but authorities say they are sickened by the actions that occurred over less than two hours that day, ending with Franklin allegedly calling African Americans racial slurs in a gas station.
“When you look at the pattern of behavior here, you look at the victim selection, I think it speaks for itself,” said Sgt. Paul Parizek of the Des Moines Police Department.
Franklin’s case drew anger and fear last week when officials announced that the woman had not only confessed to a Dec. 9 hit and run but also told police that she targeted a 14-year-old for her perceived country of origin. Local community members pushed for a hate crime designation to be added to a charge of attempted murder.
More charges against Franklin — including assault and committing a hate crime — followed Sunday for the gas station confrontation. Then, on Monday, another count of attempted murder was brought against her as police traced Franklin to another hit-and-run from Dec. 19 that left a boy with minor injuries.
The Washington Post was unable to reach an attorney for Franklin, sometimes named as just Nicole Marie Poole, on Tuesday. Court records did not list a lawyer, and police and jail staffers said they could not give a name.
Police say Franklin struck the 12-year-old boy with an SUV as he walked on a sidewalk within the apartment complex where Franklin lives. Witnesses said the car accelerated as Franklin jumped the curb and hit the child’s leg, then fled the scene, according to police and an incident report.
Video from the apartment complex shows how the car “side swipes” the boy, who police have not identified, Parizek said, then quickly takes off.
“She doesn’t even hit the brake,” Parizek told The Post. “Lot of times with a hit-and-run crash, the first thing the person does is stop — like ‘oh my God, what did I do.’ … This one, none of that.”
The driver’s behavior led officers to believe that the crash was intentional, Parizek said.
The boy was hit but not run over, he added, saying he does not think the child went to the hospital.
The girl whom police say Franklin hit later in the nearby city of Clive was not so lucky, officials said. Injuries kept her out of school for a week, they said, after Franklin veered onto the sidewalk and hit her, then sped off.
The girl told KCCI that she didn’t remember the impact — only waking up afterward in the snow, where other children indicated that she had lost consciousness. Scratches and bruises were visible on her face as she spoke.
“I just remember the car coming toward me,” she said in the interview. “I was just a girl walking to a basketball game. I didn’t deserve this; I didn’t deserve to get hit by a car.”
She has since returned to school, but police in Clive said the family has requested privacy after learning that the attack was intentional.
“Shocked would be an understatement,” Clive Police Chief Michael Venema said of his reaction to Franklin’s reported confession that she was trying to hit “a Mexican.”
Local advocates called for a hate crime charge, telling The Des Moines Register that hateful offenses in Iowa have trended upward since President Donald Trump was elected in 2016.
Not pursuing a hate crime charge in the hit-and-run “would give the green light to anybody to do this type of terrible thing,” said Joe Henry, president of the Des Moines branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
But authorities have said the label would not bring stiffer potential penalties.
The Polk County attorney did not respond to inquiries Tuesday, but Parizek said police and prosecutors still think a hate crime designation would not be productive in either case. The county attorney is concerned that a jury might opt for just the lower charge, Parizek said, and that the addition wouldn’t enhance the 25 years in prison Franklin may face if convicted on each attempted-murder charge.
Charges filed against Franklin in the gas station incident, he said, are better candidates for a hate crime enhancement.
Officers responded at about 5:15 p.m. Dec. 9 to reports of a woman yelling and throwing things at the West Des Moines store, according to a police report. An employee and a witness told police that Franklin put an ice cream cone in her pocket, grabbed chips off the shelf and tried to seize a bottle of liquor.
When an employee questioned her, Franklin grew upset — using racial slurs against the staffer and other African American men in the store, police say.
Police arrived after she threw items at the employee without causing injuries, according to the incident report, which led to charges of assault, public intoxication and misdemeanor theft. Franklin was already in custody for the West Des Moines arrest when police linked her to the alleged hit-and-run involving the girl.
Shock over Franklin’s alleged crimes has mounted as more details from Dec. 9 come to light.
“Poor little kid,” Parizek said of the boy Franklin’s now charged with hitting. “Just walking home from school.”
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The Washington Post’s Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.