Terrance Franklin's father filing suit against Mpls. police over son's death

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  • May 8, 2014 - 2:46 PM

The attorney for Terrance Franklin's father says he will file a lawsuit in federal court Friday that alleges the 22-year-old Minneapolis man was shot dead by two members of the Minneapolis SWAT team after he had surrendered to police with his arms in the air.

News of the suit comes nearly one year to the day since dozens of Minneapolis police officers pursued Franklin through a dense Uptown neighborhood for 91 minutes after an apartment building manager called 911 to report a burglary suspect, Franklin, on his property.

By the end of that day, May 10, 2013, Franklin was shot dead, two of the SWAT officers were injured with gunshot wounds to the legs, a motorcyclist was dead after colliding with a police cruiser that was responding to the scene, and the motorcyclist’s passenger was injured. The case rocked the police department’s relations with the city’s African-American community and proved a test of newly-installed Police Chief Janeé Harteau.

A police investigation found that Franklin charged at police officers when they found him hiding in the basement of an Uptown house and that he managed to use one of their own weapons to injure two officers before he was shot by officers who feared for their lives. No independent witnesses saw the deadly confrontation between Franklin and police. His family, friends and supporters, meanwhile, rejected the police account and launched public protests and a social media campaign alleging that Franklin, known to friends as “Mookie,” had been killed despite surrendering.

That’s the basis for attorney Mike Padden’s lawsuit, which he said he would file Friday on behalf of Franklin's father, Walter Louis Franklin II, against Minneapolis officers Lucas Peterson, Michael Meath, Chief Harteau and the city of Minneapolis. According to the suit:

• Franklin was at a friend’s apartment complex in South Minneapolis when police were called. As police questioned him, Franklin drove off in the car with his friend and her two children inside. After a short distance, he got out of the car and ran.

• Franklin was unarmed and fleeing police, but dozens of officers responded to the scene and searched the neighborhood with their guns drawn.

• Franklin broke into the Bryant Avenue South home and called three women from the basement. He was very scared, not suicidal, and did not say he wanted to injure or kill anyone from the MPD.

• A police dog found Franklin in the basement, and six SWAT team members went downstairs to apprehend him. As they separated the dog and Franklin, an officer’s MP5 went off “due to a firearm phenomenon known as ‘accidental discharge’ with one round each accidentally striking two separate SWAT team members.”

• After the gun discharged, the dog was removed from the basement and Franklin was apprehended.

• A man named Jimmy Gaines stood across the street from the Bryant Avenue home and made a video using his smartphone as police officers surrounded the house. The video captured sounds on the street, including police radio broadcasts playing on the mics of the police officers. A SWAT team member in the basement turned on his shoulder mic, and phrases uttered in the basement were broadcast on the mics worn by the officers on the street.

• In this way, the 62-second video captures six statements that came from the basement, including Franklin identifying himself to police officers, an officer calling Franklin a racial slur, Franklin asking to be let go and an officer saying "Don’t go putting those hands up now!"

• Two minutes or longer after the accidental discharge of the MP5, officers Lucas Peterson and Michael Meath, angered by the injuries from the accidental discharge, shoot Franklin ten times.

The lawsuit continues saying Chief Harteau and the police department sought to “dishonestly disparage and demonize” Franklin after the shooting by saying that Franklin had an “extensive” criminal record. Padden writes in the lawsuit that while Franklin had a criminal record, it was not extensive and did not include violence toward police officers.

Padden takes issue with the police investigation, saying it took investigators too long to interview the officers, and that the police ignored the Gaines video by not doing a forensic examination of the sounds captured on it. The investigators should have done a gunshot residue test on Franklin’s body to confirm whether he shot the MP5. Padden also said there’s “ample evidence” that Franklin’s DNA was planted on the MP5.

The department never should have investigated the shooting in the first place, but should have turned to an outside agency to investigate, the suit contends.

Union president John Delmonico, shown a copy of the lawsuit, called it "crazy."

"They're lies," said Delmonico. "Anybody can say whatever they want. The truth will come out. Terrance Franklin was a criminal and these cops were heroes. It's sad somebody will stoop this low to try to make their point."

The Minneapolis Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit.

The police account

A police investigation determined that Franklin, who had broken into the house at 2717 Bryant Av. S. after fleeing police, charged at officers when he was discovered hiding behind a water heater in the home’s cramped and darkened basement. A violent brawl at close quarters erupted in gunfire when Franklin grabbed an MP5 machine pistol hanging from the shoulder of one of the officers and pulled the trigger, hitting officers Michael Meath and Ricardo Muro in the legs. Both survived. DNA analysis later showed that Franklin had touched the trigger of the gun.

Fearing that he was about to be shot, officer Lucas Peterson shot Franklin four times. Meath told investigators that he also shot four times at Franklin. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s autopsy found 10 bullet wounds on Franklin’s body; a police spokesman said that’s possible if some of the eight bullets the police fired made more than one wound as they passed through Franklin’s body.

As for whether or not Franklin was armed that day, the police department in March presented DNA evidence that suggests Franklin had a gun but ditched it before the shooting. An Uptown homeowner said he found a Desert Eagle 9mm handgun wrapped in a black sock on Oct. 28 while raking leaves out from under his porch. The man’s home is located near the spot where Franklin first ran from police. DNA found on the sock matched Franklin’s. 

A copy of the suit as written so far can be found below. Padden said he plans to file the complete suit on Friday.

Franklin lawsuit

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