Police describe details of Terrance Franklin shooting

Terrance Franklin
Minneapolis police released this surveillance photo, which they say shows Terrance Franklin in the elevator of an apartment building shortly after a building resident placed a 911 call to report a burglary.
Courtesy of Minneapolis Police Department

In the moments before Terrance Franklin was shot and killed on May 10, Minneapolis police say the 22-year-old wanted for questioning in a burglary case broke into a home in the Uptown neighborhood, hid in the corner of a dark, cramped basement, refused to surrender and struggled with officers.

Officials confirmed for the first time Thursday that their investigation found Franklin grabbed an officer's semiautomatic weapon and fired at two officers before he was shot eight times.

"Terrance Franklin had numerous opportunities to surrender," Minneapolis Chief of Police Janee Harteau said after a grand jury cleared officers of wrongdoing in the incident. "But it was clear in his actions that from the beginning he had made the decision not to get caught at any cost."

Commander Catherine Johnson, who led an inquiry into the incident, said investigators found Franklin's DNA on an officer's gun. But police did not conduct a gunshot residue test on Franklin.

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"That's not something we normally do," Johnson said.

Minneapolis Police Department presentation of Franklin shooting

"Terrance Franklin had numerous opportunities to surrender... But it was clear in his actions that from the beginning he had made the decision not to get caught at any cost."

Mike Padden, the attorney for Franklin's parents, said a gunshot residue test was the only way to prove Franklin fired the weapon. Padden maintains that Franklin never fired. He said Franklin's parents expect to file a civil suit and may request a federal investigation.

"If you want people to buy this story, don't you think they would do a competent GSR test?" Padden said. "That's law enforcement investigation 101."

Before Thursday, there was little public information on what led to Franklin's death. Harteau had revealed few details, citing the ongoing grand jury investigation that routinely follows officer-involved shootings.

In a series of protests this summer that drew hundreds to downtown Minneapolis, demonstrators said the secrecy was aggravating long-held suspicion that some in the African-American community had toward law enforcement. They pointed out that no Hennepin County grand jury has chosen to bring criminal charges against police officers since 2000.

Within hours of the grand jury announcement Thursday, Harteau broke her silence with a multi-media presentation of the Franklin police report. The account began just before 2 p.m. on May 10, when a building manager at 2743 Lyndale Ave. South reported a burglary suspect. According to the presentation, this is how the events unfolded:

"We have somebody who broke into a unit and stole some stuff," the manager told a 911 operator in a recorded call later provided to the media. "They actually just came back to the building. And they're in a Plymouth PT Cruiser."

The building's elevator camera captured an image of Terrance Franklin in a black T-shirt and red pants, one hand in a pocket and the other gripping keys.

Three officers arrived about 2:10 pm and found Franklin in a parking lot in the PT Cruiser. Officers got out of their cars and drew their weapons. Minneapolis police Sgt. Gerald Moore told Franklin to turn off the engine. Franklin took the keys out of the ignition, held them up and looked at Moore.

"He hesitated for 10 to 15 seconds," Moore told reporters. "By his behavior I felt that he was not going to comply with my commands. So the driver reinserted the key into the ignition and restarted the car."

Franklin's car began to back up. Moore said he thought Franklin would hit Sgt. Kathy Smulski, another officer on the scene. Moore was aiming to fire when he heard a woman yell that there were children in the car.

"Prior to the female making this statement, I had made up my mind to discharge my weapon," Moore said. "However when that comment was made, all other options were out."

Moore said Franklin accelerated, hitting a patrol car door. Smulski jumped out of the way and Franklin drove away. A witness later told police Franklin stopped near 500 W. 28th St., got out of the car, and ran away, jumping fences. The witness then saw a woman and two small children get out of the car.

Franklin went inside Flander's Brothers bike shop at 2707 Lyndale Ave. South. He called the owner of the PT Cruiser at about 2:18 p.m. She later told police Franklin told her where she could find her car. Others in the bike shop said Franklin seemed nervous. When a squad car pulled up outside, he ran away.

Police closed off traffic to several residential blocks and searched for Franklin. After one unsuccessful sweep, officers let some homeowners back into the area. One of them found the back door to his home forced open and alerted police.

Broken door
This photograph provided by the Minneapolis Police Department shows a broken door in the south Minneapolis home in which police say they found Terrance Franklin.
Minneapolis Police Department

Officers surrounded the home and a group prepared to go inside. Among them were Sgt. Andy Stender and officers Lucas Peterson, Mark Durand, Ricardo Muro, and Michael Meath. A police dog named Nash went with them.

Stender yelled into the home, warning anyone inside that the dog would bite them if they did not surrender. When no one responded, the five officers searched the first floor. On the second floor, Nash signaled he found something in a closet, but it was empty. Police said they later learned the closet had contained a blue robe Franklin had taken.

The officers assembled at the top of the stairs to the basement, which was dark and cramped. They yelled down, telling Franklin to come up. When he didn't, Stender sent Nash down the stairs and followed after him. The dog found Franklin, who was 5-foot-11 inches tall and weighed 196 pounds, wedged in a roughly 18-inch-wide space behind a water heater. Franklin stood up, took off the blue robe, and kicked Nash.

Three times, Stender ordered Franklin to show his hands. When he didn't, Stender punched Franklin in the face and struck him with a flashlight.

Stenderthen asked the other officers if anyone had a Taser, and no one did. Meath tried to pull Franklin out.

"Once I grabbed a hold of the suspect, he immediately started thrashing his upper body left to right using his elbows in an attempt to strike me. While I was holding him I attempted to deliver two to three knee strikes with my right knee to his stomach and chest area," Meath told investigators. "On my last knee strike the suspect used my pulling momentum against me and exploded forward, pushing me backwards to the point where I lost ahold of his shoulders."

According to police, Franklin charged Peterson, then Durand, forcing Durand backward into the laundry room.

This photograph provided by the Minneapolis Police Department shows the basement of the south Minneapolis home in which police confronted Terrance Franklin.
Minneapolis Police Department

"As I was falling, I looked down and could see that [Franklin's] finger was now inside the trigger well on my MP5," Durand told investigators. "I took my left hand and attempted to push the muzzle of the barrel down and away towards my left. I screamed, 'He's got a gun! He's got a gun!' and then two shots went off."

Muro and Meath were struck. Stender dragged Muro to the base of the stairs. Durand and Franklin were still struggling for control of the MP5, a long weapon that typically hangs on a strap from the wearer's shoulder. A flashlight on the weapon turned on, its beam falling on Peterson. Later, Peterson told investigators he thought he was going to be shot.

"I reached out in the darkness and felt for [the suspect's] head," Peterson is quoted as saying. "The suspect was still trying to work the weapon and was in control of it...I remember feeling the dreadlocks in the suspect's hair again and knew in the darkness where he was at. I also knew that Officer Durand was close to the suspect's head so I brought my handgun close to me and at a different angle so as to not shoot Officer Durand."

Peterson then fired his handgun four times, stopping when he no longer felt Franklin fighting for control of the MP5. Meath, who was injured and lying on the ground, also fired at Franklin.

Franklin was hit eight times.

When asked directly whether the officers had acted correctly, Harteau said that was still under review.

Mike Padden, the attorney for Franklin's parents, said the account provided by the police doesn't make sense.

"When he was holed up in that basement, he called three different people on his cell phone," Padden said. "At least one of the three made it abundantly clear to him that there were all kinds of people after him and they had cordoned off a large area. He knew he had no escape -- at all. What's he going to do? Kill five cops and then get outside and kill 10 more? It's just absurd."