Terrance Franklin's family, still unconvinced by police shooting evidence, plans to sue

Press conference
Minneapolis activist Mel Reeves, at left, attorney Mike Padden, center, and Walter Franklin, father Terrance Franklin, at right, speak on Thursday Sept. 27, 2013 about the Minneapolis police shooting death of Terrance Franklin in May.
MPR Photo/Rupa Shenoy

The family of Terrance Franklin will move ahead with a civil lawsuit against Minneapolis police after the 22-year-old man's shooting death in the basement of an Uptown neighborhood home in May.

The Minneapolis Police Department released hundreds of pages of documents related to the case on Thursday that describe the chase, chaos and struggle leading up to the confrontation. The documents describe the fear that responding officers had of being shot because they said Franklin had gained control of an officer's gun, and how more than one officer shot at Franklin.

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But Mike Padden, the Franklin family's lawyer, disputes the police version of events. Pointing to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's autopsy report that said Franklin was hit only on his right side, Padden said that meant only one police officer fired shots.

"I think you have an officer that's really angry about the situation and he blames this young black man, because if he hadn't tried to get away, the situation wouldn't exist," Padden said. "I think it was a split-second anger decision."

Minneapolis Chief of Police Janee Harteau reiterated in a statement Thursday that she stands by the five officers who tried to apprehend Franklin in the basement. A grand jury last week decided not to bring criminal charges against them.

But Franklin's father, Walter Franklin, disputes its findings. "They killed my son," he said.

The 228-page redacted police report released Thursday paints a detailed picture of the struggle in the basement. Statements by the five officers who confronted Franklin are similar in many respects, often using the same language to describe the situation. But there were instances in which the officers' accounts differ.

In the report, at least three officers said when they found Franklin behind a water heater in the home's basement, he had a blank or "vacant" stare, said nothing and showed no emotion, even as a police dog bit him, and after one officer punched him in the face and hit him in the head with a flashlight. But within seconds, the officers said, Franklin suddenly "exploded," thrashing, swinging wildly and charging "like a bull" or a football player, with his head down.

According to the report, one of the officers Franklin pushed was Mark Durand, who said in his statement he was wearing his gun from a sling around his neck and left shoulder.

Durand said as he was pushed backward into the small laundry room, he took his hand off his MP5 submachine gun to brace his fall and double check his handgun strapped to his thigh. He said that as he continued to fall, he saw Franklin's finger inside the trigger well of his MP5. Durand said as he was still falling, he tried to push the muzzle of the barrel down and to the left and accidentally turned on the light attached to the gun. Durand said when he and Franklin fell, the 22-year-old was lying across his legs with his head near Durand's right shoulder.

Two shots went off, said Durand, who later learned Officers Michael Meath and Ricardo Muro were shot in the legs. Durand said he saw Officer Luke Peterson approaching. He said Peterson straddled him and Franklin, and Peterson shot Franklin.

However, Peterson said Franklin was not on top of Durand. Peterson said Franklin used the flashlight on the gun's barrel to scan the room. "I knew the suspect was trying to find a target," Peterson said.

Peterson said he then reached out for Franklin and brought his handgun close so he wouldn't shoot an officer. "I believe I shot [Franklin] two to four times," he said.

Walter Franklin said his family will file a lawsuit within 30 days. He is determined to see the officers punished for what they did to his son.

"I hope justice be served," he said. "No justice, no peace."

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