Good Kids Bad City
Kyle Swenson
Contributed by Greta Venegas

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Chapter 2
Summary

The author gives details of what transpired on the day Harry J. Franks, a Caucasian salesman, was shot dead outside Robinsons’ store. Swenson mentions that two other murders had already been committed by the third Monday of May 1975, “a year that was already outpacing the last in violent deaths” (Swenson, 2019, p. 38). The author describes the day as having been normal for Ronnie, Rickey, and Wiley. He recounts their activities from the start of the day until the time they arrived at the murder scene. Earlier that day, Ronnie had driven his four nieces and nephews to school, an everyday practice. Subsequently, Ronnie went back home and was visited by his friend, Rickey Jackson, around mid-morning. The two teenagers played chess in Ronnie’s bedroom for a short time before leaving to meet Wiley, Ronnie’s elder brother. Sometime later, the group decided to relax and play at a local basketball court. 

Swenson explains that on the afternoon of May 19, 1975, Mr. Harry Franks collected $429.55 in cash from Maxwell’s drug store and decided it was already too late to deposit the money at the bank. So he went with it to his next stop, the Robinsons’ store. Upon leaving, he was attacked by two men, robbed, and shot dead while his attackers escaped into a waiting getaway car. The author mentions that Karen Smith, an honor student from the neighborhood, had noticed two unfamiliar young men leaning on the wall of the Robinsons’ store as she was returning empty soda bottles; during this time, Mr. Frank was leaving the store. As soon as she had placed the soda bottles on the counter, the author explains that she heard a groan outside, followed by a muffled noise. Mrs. Robinson, the store’s owner, dashed to the front door and noticed that two young men were engaged with Mr. Frank. The author explains that Mrs. Robinson identified one as having been dressed in dark colors while the other wore a flowered shirt. The men tossed Mr. Frank to the ground, splashed acid onto his face, and shot him dead. Mrs. Robinson was also shot, in the neck, when she shouted at the men and tried to stop the assault.

While this was happening, the author explains that Ronnie and Rickey were returning from the basketball court. They were in the company of a few other neighbors when they heard someone shout (that a person had just been shot at the Robinsons’ store). Curious, the boys rushed to the scene where they found detectives collecting evidence and interviewing onlookers while they jotted down notes. After seeing the dead body, the author states that Ronnie felt uneasy and sympathetic, believing that the dead should be respected and not left lying there in the street. He immediately suggested to his friends that they should leave the scene.

Analysis

Just as the title of this chapter portrays, the author is describing the events of the fateful day when Mr. Frank was shot dead. The author starts by detailing the activities of the main characters — Ronnie, Rickey, and Wiley — just prior to the murder. Swenson describes the morning as being fairly normal and routine for the three boys. The author also shows the three teenage boys as having been close friends who would spend most of their time together. Swenson is also keen to underline and emphasize Ronnie’s soft and sympathetic nature when he mentions how the sight of an uncovered dead body made him “feel ill”. Aside from that, Swenson mentions a few other characters, including Karen and Mrs. Robinson — who were both at the scene when Mr. Frank was killed; they would later serve as key witnesses in court.

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