A correctional officer’s will to win (and his wrestling skills) help him survive a battle against a terrorist
On December 7, 2020, Officer Dale Franquet faced a near-deadly encounter with a prisoner committed to carrying out a terror attack
On December 7, 2020, Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy was serving a 40-year sentence in the Allenwood Federal Penitentiary in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. El Bahnasawy, who was born in Afghanistan and migrated first to Canada and then to the United States, landed in Allenwood after the ISIS devotee planned a deadly attack against the subway in New York in June 2016.
While in prison, as the anniversary date of the Japanese attack on the U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor approached, he planned and then prepared for an attack of his own to remind people in the U.S. the war of terror directed at them had not ended.
As a part of his plan, El Bahnasawy had duped his psychologist into believing he could be trusted to be allowed out regularly without restraints. With that accomplished, Abdulrahman secretly removed a section of metal meant to secure a desk to the floor of his cell. In time he formed the metal into a deadly 14-inch shank. He wrapped cloth around the weapon to serve as a grip and in the early morning hours of December 7, 2020, he tethered the weapon to his wrist and waited for his cell door to open.
On December 7, at 6:15 a.m., Officer Franquet was making his way down “the range,” opening individual cell doors of prisoners housed there. Franquet, a 24-year veteran corrections officer was known for maintaining positive relationships with prisoners he got to know. However, he had never had any dealings with this convicted terrorist and therefore had not established a rapport of any kind prior to this day. Franquet approached the cell suspecting nothing.
It is important to note that Officer Franquet had a second calling in his life beyond the bars as “Coach Dale Franquet Jr.” He was a long-time high school wrestling coach and he would say later to this writer that on December 7, 2020, “Wrestling saved my life!”
Officer Franquet explained that as he opened each cell the prisoners were required to stand inside their cells and wait until they heard the “all clear” signal before they exited for their walk-about. On this day, however, after the officer opened all the cells and began walking back down the range, the wild-eyed fanatical enemy combatant exploded out of his cubicle, screaming “Allahu Akbar,” brandishing his homemade shank. In an instant, the terrorist slashed Franquet’s neck, striking at his jugular.
Officer Franquet said later, “I felt the pain and was a bit dazed by the attack,” but instead of succumbing to his injury as some would have, Franquet said, “I kicked him, driving him back and then managed to capture the wrist in a wrist lock.” He remembered later it was at this point he thought, “I don’t know how long I have left to live.” After this, he said, “My wrestling kicked in.”
The two grappled on the upper-level walkway for a time, turning the area between the cell and the railing into a bloody battlefield in the War on Terror. At that point, something happened that neither years of wrestling, nor defensive tactics training prepared the officer for. Franquet lost his balance after slipping on his own blood, which was spilling copiously onto the floor. The instant the officer became momentarily off-balance, El Bahnasawy drove the shank into Franquet’s right eye.
Despite this terrible wound, the indomitable wrestler still would not submit and continued to fight on. He said, “I don’t like to lose.”
The wrestler re-engaged the terrorist and rallied to recapture the wrist. Franquet lost track of how long the struggle carried on but was told later by those who watched surveillance video that his high stakes lone battle with the terrorist lasted for 3 1/2 minutes of constant close grappling, amounting to nearly two periods in a wrestling match.
The corrections officer finally heard the keys of his backup arriving and to avoid further injury he delivered one last effective elbow strike. This stunned the terrorist, which enable the officer to disengage. His backup pepper-sprayed the terrorist into submission. (Pepper spray was the only force option available beyond verbalization and empty hands to these corrections officers).
Officer Franquet walked to the in-house hospital for his initial care, grievously injured, but undefeated.
After some initial care, he was transported by ambulance to an area hospital where he was admitted to the intensive care unit because of the seriousness of his wounds. After his neck was stitched up, he underwent surgery in an effort to save his eye and contain the bleeding in the area of the brain caused by the brutal attack. Doctors were unable to save the officer’s right eye and would later say one of the cuts came to within “the width of a dime” from being fatal.
Officer Franquet spent December in the hospital and eventually was released.
Officer Franquet has not yet returned to work. He said it would take some adapting to his new reality, because he has always felt that the jobs of a corrections officer and police officer ideally would take “four eyes, with two being on the back of your head, and now I have only one.”
Life goes on
While recovering Officer Franquet turned his life-long dream into a reality. He has opened the “Twisted Steel Training Center,” which is a facility allowing wrestlers to train year-round. Besides being available for ongoing training, Franquet schedules clinics for wrestlers to enhance their skills with the guidance of local coaches. The facility not only has wrestling mats but also has batting cages available.
Coach Franquet’s insights shared
Having survived his life-changing encounter with the terrorist, Coach Franquet offered these insights for both corrections and police officers:
- Always be vigilant and ready to compete.
- Keep mentally and physically in shape so you are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
- Don’t take anything for granted.
- Train to last as long as you need to.
- Consider wrestling skills as a valid addition to your defensive tactics training.
- Train your survival skills to the point that they become automatic when you need them.
- Be fair, firm and consistent in your contacts. This will prevent many potential confrontations, but not all.
- Have a close support network at work. They will be there when you need them.
- Make your family the most important part of your life, because they are the ones that are always there for you.
The future for the hero of the ‘Battle of Allenwood’
When I asked Officer Franquet’s wife how he is doing now she said, “He’s doing as good as can be expected, sometimes better than me.”
Considering the terrible circumstances Franquet survived one would have to say, “Good is definitely good enough for now.”
As Coach Franquet is still on the mend, his family, friends, students and fellow employees have been behind him every step of the way. With his dream wrestling facility for kids now a reality the future for those kids and for Coach Franquet looks bright.
May God bless this survivor. This scrappy grappler is truly a shining example of an American hero.