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Tucson PD Serve, Protect, and Wait Around

TUCSON (CN) -Tucson Police failed to follow up on a young woman's complaints about her violent ex-boyfriend until more than a month after he shot her to death, her parents claim in court.

Joseph Francis shot Ashley Hicks to death on Dec. 20, 2012, after she returned from looking at Christmas lights with friends, her parents claim in Pima County Court. Francis then drove to her parents' house, admitted his crime, and shot himself in the head John and Wendy Hicks and in the lawsuit.

They sued Tucson and the Tucson Police Department (TPD) in Pima County Court.

Ashley, who was 23, had reported Francis's abusive, violent and suicidal behavior to Tucson police at least twice since their August 2012 breakup, but police never arrested or even questioned him, the Hickses say.

They claim that Francis had been caught hiding in a wash near their home, said he would kill himself if he didn't get Ashley back, and that he'd taken rat poisoning.

Then he "began calling Ashley's work, harassing her supervisor and other co-workers, following her home, and refusing to leaver her parents' home," the lawsuit states.

Francis also stole Ashley's motorcycle and threatened her at a local grocery store, the parents claim.

Ashley called police, and an officer told her would issue an order for Francis's arrest. But seven days later, a different TPD officer called Ashley and said that her "motorcycle had not been entered as a stolen vehicle by the preceding officer," the Hickses say.

The officer also said that the order to stop and question Francis had been entered improperly, according to the lawsuit.

"The Tucson Police Department never contacted and/or arrested Mr. Francis regarding the August 17, 2012, disorderly conduct and domestic violence crime committed against Ashley," the complaint states.

Ashley obtained an Order of Protection against Francis, but that didn't stop him. On Sept. 12, 2012, he showed up at her apartment, screaming and banging on her front door.

"Ashley was on the phone with 911 when Mr. Francis punched through the window near her front door, unlocking the door from inside," the lawsuit states. "Mr. Francis proceeded to unlawfully enter Ashley's home, coming at her wildly with blood dripping down his arm."

The complaint continues: "Mr. Francis pushed over an entertainment center and threw Ashley's motorcycle helmet at her. Ashley told Mr. Francis she had called the police, at which point he grabbed her, ripped her cell phone from her hand, and smashed it to the ground.

"Mr. Francis then went into the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife, threatening her and to kill himself, with the knife held to his throat. Afraid for her life, Ashley ran to a closet to protect herself from Mr. Francis' further attacks."

By the time police arrived, Francis was gone.

"Mr. Francis was never contacted or arrested by the Tucson Police Department regarding the September 12, 2012, crimes," according to the complaint.

Francis continued to bother Ashley, showing up at her work and hacking into her Facebook account, the parents say, but TPD never followed up.

On Dec. 20 last year, Ashley went to look at Christmas lights with her friends, leaving her motorcycle at a friend's apartment.

"Upon their return to the apartment complex parking lot and her exiting her friend's vehicle, Ashley was approached by Joe Francis," the complaint states.

"Mr. Francis was brandishing a pistol, and grabbed Ashley's arm, demanding to talk to her. As Ashley screamed, Mr. Francis shot Ashley over seven times, including in the temple, cheek, chest, and her left hand as she attempted to shield herself from the onslaught of bullets."

She was pronounced dead.

"Mr. Francis fled the scene, arriving a short time later at Ashley's parents' house on the northwest side of Tucson. Mr. Francis asked to speak with Ashley's mother, Wendy Hicks. Ashley's father, John Hicks, advised Mr. Francis that he needed to leave the property. Mr. Francis told John that he had killed Ashley, and then left," the complaint states.

John Hicks called TPD, and as they drove up, Francis shot himself in the head.

More than a month later, on Jan. 30, 2013, a TPD detective called John Hicks, looking for Ashley so he could follow up on the Sept. 12 assault.

"The Tucson Police Department detective told Mr. Hicks that the crime lab had processed evidence (blood samples and fingerprints) from the prior assault, and that they had numerous witness statements, but that nothing else had been done since the evening of the September 12, 2012, attack," according to the complaint. "The detective could not offer an explanation as to why nothing had been done, noting it would have been standard practice and protocol for Mr. Francis to have been immediately arrested for the violation of the order of protection and prosecution of the aggravated assault and criminal damages charges." (Parentheses in complaint.)

The Hickses say: "The next day, Mr. Hicks received a call from Sgt. Lupitas at the Tucson Police Department. Sgt. Lapedus confirmed that no action had been taken by the Tucson Police Department to follow up on the prior assault and violation of the Order of Protection. Sgt. Lapedus was unable to explain why procedures and protocols were not followed which would have required the immediate arrest of Mr. Francis. ...

"Had the Tucson Police Department taken action as required, to intervene and arrest Joseph Francis, Mr. Francis would likely have received evaluation and mental health treatment.

"Had the Tucson Police Department taken action as required, to intervene and arrest Joseph Francis, Mr. Francis would not have killed Ashley Hicks on December 20, 2012, whether due to his extended incarceration or otherwise."

ATucson Police spokesman said they could not comment on pending litigation.

The parents seek damages for negligence, gross negligence, pain and suffering and loss of consortium.

They are represented by Martin Rodriguez and Kenneth Graham.

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