By R. Turfley
February 20, 2021, has become “one of the most tragic days of my life” shared Niagara Falls Human Rights Commissioner Saladin Allah. That morning, he received a phone call informing him that his father, Philip B. Frank, a military veteran and retired city of Niagara Falls painter, died in his sleep. Frank was just two weeks shy of his eightieth birthday. Hours later Allah received another phone call; his brother Casey Frank was slain in cold blood outside of his twin brother’s residence, and the armed and dangerous suspect was still at large.
Speaking about this tragedy that seems like something out of a movie, Allah lamented, “I am taking it one day at a time and still striving to process all of this. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel real. To lose a father and brother hours a part, on the same day, under two entirely different circumstances, has been devastating to my family.” Regarding the killing of his brother, “To be a Human Rights Commissioner and to experience something this inhumane to a family member is traumatic. This has been the most difficult experience in my life.”
Philip Frank was a lifelong resident of Niagara Falls, a Private First Class MP in the U.S. Army, a National Guardsman and the second great grandson of Underground Railroad Freedom Seeker Rev. Josiah Henson. Henson’s life as an enslaved person was used as the primary narrative in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous 19th century novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Prior to the 2018 opening of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, Philip Frank was included in a photo shoot that features his family’s Underground Railroad legacy for the Center’s Freedom Gallery.
“My father was very excited to be involved in this project! He always taught my siblings and I about our classical civilization, African American history and our Underground Railroad heritage. He was very proud of this, and I am thankful that people will be able to see this contribution to our local history for years to come.”
For his brother Casey, over 700 postings of condolences were shared on Casey Frank’s Facebook page, public vigils were held in his honor, and a GoFundMe was started by a childhood friend for Casey’s two children and newborn grandchild. “My brother was well loved, and since his childhood, he always sought ways to help others, especially the elders in our community,” said Allah. “That sense of selflessness stuck with him his entire life. Just weeks prior to his murder he organized a free food giveaway for the homeless to share his love for the community. Nobody prompted him to do it, and he did not do it for notoriety. He did it because he saw the need and that is what was in his heart.”
Almost two weeks after the homicide, the U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force along with the Niagara Falls Police Force arrested Wayne Littlerattler Printup for the fatal shooting of Casey Frank. Positively identified by more than two sources at the scene of the crime, Printup was charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.
Although this is viewed as an open-and-shut case, Niagara County suspended all trials in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and is currently scheduling those trials. Backlogged for an entire year means that the Frank family may not see any progress in the case until this time in 2022. Frustrating circumstances like this within Niagara County can be interpreted by Allah and other families as justice delayed is justice denied.
“It is tremendously frustrating for us and many families in our county,” said Allah. “With so many cases backlogged, there may be a greater emphasis on plea bargaining. While this may work for some families, I am sure that my family expects Wayne Printup to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. As a repeat offender and armed and dangerous fugitive, the city and our county will be much safer without him on our streets.”
As summer is upon us and the uncertainty of COVID-19 guidelines loom overhead, Allah remains optimistic about the outcome of this case. “Presently, there are no in-person trials and the County D.A. has provided our family virtual options to attend all hearings and to meet to discuss any issues about the case. Our friends and co-workers have also been extremely supportive in our family’s time of need, and we are extremely thankful for that. We all have confidence that we will receive the justice that we deserve so we can move forward with the healing process.”