Two wounded Minneapolis police officers were safely in the hospital Friday and the suspect they battled had been dead for 35 minutes when a police SUV hurrying toward the shooting scene had a fatal collision with a motorcyclist in south Minneapolis.
According to police records, the shooting happened at 3:30 p.m. in a house at 2717 Bryant Av. S. By 4 p.m., the two officers wounded in the gunfight had arrived at Hennepin County Medical Center with wounds that were not life-threatening.
The police call records show the accident with the police SUV that left a 24-year-old Minneapolis motorcyclist dead and his girlfriend injured was reported at 4:05 p.m.
Asked why the police SUV and two other vehicles were continuing to the scene when the emergency appeared to be over, police spokeswoman Cyndi Barrington said, “We are not able to answer those specific questions at this time as there is an active investigation into the traffic collision.”
In news release issued Saturday night, she said that the SUV had been traveling “well below the posted speed limit” and that video evidence showed “that the motorcycle struck the rear passenger side of the squad car,” which had its red lights and siren activated.
Authorities also remained tight-lipped about details of the basement struggle that left the two officers shot and the burglary suspect they had been chasing dead.
On Saturday, KSTP-TV continued to report accounts from anonymous sources who said the officers had been shot with a police weapon the suspect had grabbed while scuffling with SWAT officers.
The Saturday police statement said only that the suspect had tried to gain control of a police machine pistol known as an MP5.
“Exactly who fired and how many times has not been determined,” the release said, adding that investigators were still awaiting autopsy results and forensic tests on evidence from the shooting scene.
“I ask for the public’s patience in allowing us the necessary time to thoroughly review and investigate. We owe it to everyone involved and the general public to be thorough and disclose the facts as we get them, and not simply respond to speculation,” Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said.
The wounded officers were identified as Michael Meath and Ricardo Muro. Both men are members of the SWAT team and have received numerous commendations. Meath has been a Minneapolis officer since 2005; Muro joined the force in 2001.
They remained in HCMC and were listed in satisfactory condition, as was the passenger on the motorcycle, Jocelin Torrejon.
Harteau said she had visited both officers and Torrejon. “This is a tragic accident for everyone involved,” she said.
Bakery employee killed
According to witnesses, the motorcycle had a green light and the police SUV, followed by more police vehicles, was traveling on 26th Street when it went through a red light at Blaisdell Avenue.
Dead at the scene was Ivan Romero Olivares, a 24-year-old bakery employee who emigrated from Morales, Mexico, about five or six years ago, according to friends. He owned the Yamaha motorcycle.
The shooting happened nine blocks to the west and one block to the south from the accident scene. Police had shut down traffic in the area while looking for the suspect, who had fled in a car and then on foot after being confronted by officers who had received a report he may have committed an earlier burglary.
The man, identified by friends and family as Terrence Terrell Franklin, 22, was shot by police after he allegedly struggled with a police dog and then with officers in the basement of the house on Bryant Avenue.
Use of siren, signals debated
Paul Applebaum, a metro attorney who specializes in federal litigation against police agencies, said Minneapolis police could have a hard time justifying use of emergency driving well after any perceived danger at the shooting scene was contained.
“To me it’s not an emergency, even though they had their lights and sirens on,” Applebaum said Saturday.
“In my opinion, a half-hour after the situation had been brought under control, there’s no justification for driving in an emergency lights and siren fashion through a congested area like south Minneapolis,” Applebaum said.
The location of the accident, in front of Calvary Baptist Church, is a four-signal intersection area typically busy with pedestrians, bicyclists and traffic. Saturday morning, bouquets, balloons and candles marked the area where the motorcycle driver, an employee of Franklin Street Bakery, was killed.
Even in the cases of actual emergencies, Applebaum added, police are obligated to drive in a manner that does not endanger the public.
The Minneapolis police manual describes how police should respond to emergencies, saying they “shall exercise caution and due consideration for the safety of the public.”
The manual, which governs police protocol, says that while Minnesota law exempts officers from traffic statutes, “the use of the red lights and siren does not exempt officers from the need for caution nor does it exempt them from criminal or civil liability.”