Was Terrance Franklin killed to cover up a mistake by MPD officers?

Terrance “Mookie” Franklin

The killing of Terrance Franklin by Minneapolis police in 2013 was the result of a confluence of things,
according to Mike Paddin, his family’s attorney. Padden surmised that the cops were mad
at Franklin because they thought he had tried to run over an officer when he took off and led them
on a chase through South Minneapolis. They needed a scapegoat to cover up for an errant discharge of an MP5 submachine gun.

“I think in their mindset, this was not premeditated, this was a quick knee-jerk reaction,” said Padden. “They grabbed him, took him into that little room, closed the door, and straight-up executed him.”

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) recently said that it will not review the case in a letter addressed to the Hennepin County Attorney’s office. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in May requested that they review the case while citing potential new evidence that he says was not previously available. They also pointed out that the BCA Force Investigation Unit was not created to investigate previous cases.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has said that it is evaluating its options, one of which includes re-opening the case themselves.

Franklin was killed on May 10, 2013, after officers cornered him in a South Minneapolis home following a police chase. He was pursued by police after they approached him for questioning as a possible burglary suspect. After seeing an officer draw her weapon on him, Franklin drove away and later fled on foot.

Once Franklin was located by a police K9 unit in the basement of an Uptown home, MPD officers descended onto the scene and surrounded the home. At this point, SWAT officers Mark Durand, Michael Meath, Ricardo Muro, and Lucas Peterson had entered the home.

What happened after this is contested by Franklin’s family, but the officers involved in the killing allege that Franklin attacked the K9 and knocked officer Meath across the room.

He then turned to punch Peterson and grabbed Durand’s MP5 submachine gun, pulled the trigger, and injured officers. Peterson then recounts how he lunged at Franklin and managed to fire several rounds into his skull with another round coming from the injured Meath.

None of the officers were immediately interviewed after they killed Franklin. Two were taken to the hospital and weren’t interviewed for two weeks, while the others gave their statements days later. MPD policy allows its officers to talk to each other and corroborate their stories and bars them from being interviewed for days.

Later that year, a grand jury found that there was not enough evidence to bring charges against the officers involved in Franklin’s death. At the time, MPD investigated its own officers when there was a police-involved shooting and they concluded that the officers, in this case, acted within their rights and cleared them of any wrongdoing.

“We knew it’d be a whitewash because that’s how things were back then,” said Padden. Franklin’s case was the last time the department conducted its own investigation into officer-involved shootings. There has been no investigation into Franklin’s case by an outside agency.

Franklin’s case gained renewed interest over the past year after the City of Minneapolis paid out $795,000 to settle a lawsuit from Franklin’s family in February 2020. This, coupled with the killing of George Floyd, brought more scrutiny to MPD’s handling of the case.

“As I could hear George Floyd crying out for mama, I could hear my son hollering for his dear life,” stated Walter Franklin, Terrance’s father. “When George Floyd got murdered that made me text Mike Padden to let him know, ‘hey, do you think this is a chance that we could reopen?’”

For Ashley Martin, Franklin’s former girlfriend and mother to his 13-year-old son Nehemiah, the spotlight on the case brings along a bittersweet feeling. “I’m glad that Terrance’s name is getting out there because he was kind of swept under the rug,” she said. “When I first heard about the tape and the learning about the DNA evidence—it was a hard reckoning because it made it more … It brought up all the pain of it again.”

Martin discusses some aspects of the case with her son but tries to leave out a lot of details because of his young age and instead shares that his father loved him and would be proud of him.

The new evidence in question

The wrongful death lawsuit was brought forth in 2014 by Padden and centered on new evidence that disputed the department’s account of what took place that day. At the center of this lawsuit was a 62-second video, shot by Jimmy Gaines, which showed officers running up the street towards the house where Franklin was confronted by police.

Padden conducted his own investigation into the case and was able to reconstruct a different timeline of events that disputed the MPD’s narrative. He hired forensic audio expert Ed Primeau whose work revealed that Franklin may have been alive longer than what police had claimed.

“My name is Mookie!” and “Put those hands up now!” were some of the phrases that Primeau documented in his final report in the lawsuit’s investigation. This indicated to Padden and Franklin’s family that he was still alive after the officers had been shot and that he had surrendered himself to police.

“How could he put his hands up and reach for an officer’s weapon and still get shot? I didn’t understand that,” wondered Walter Franklin. He and his sister Denise had a chance to look at the body and also reached the conclusion that Franklin was executed. “You could tell he was coming for recovery and to surrender but they didn’t let him.”

MSR News Online Mike Padden

Though it wasn’t documented in Primeau’s report, Padden believes that MPD officers used the N-word towards Franklin in the moments leading up to his death and displayed racial hostility. 

Padden had also hired R. Steven Rogers, a local private investigator, and Richard Ernest, a firearm forensics expert, to add to the investigation. The two worked together to reconstruct Franklin’s shooting by creating a 3-D model that depicted what took place according to crime-scene investigators and the medical examiner’s notes.

Franklin had been shot a total of 10 times. Five of those shots were to his head. An image from the crime scene shows two bullet holes on a door an inch apart. Investigators inferred that these two bullets, which came from different guns, were shot at the same time.

Another photo from the crime scene was of a single dreadlock from Franklin that had been left on the floor. This painted a grim picture for Padden and his team about what took place in that basement.

The lawsuit also alleged that it was Durand who had fired his own gun that injured his fellow officers and that killing Franklin was a means to a coverup. To explain how Franklin’s DNA was found on the MP5’s trigger, Padden and his team reasoned that after Durand had handed off his gun to an MPD officer, that same officer placed his fingers on Franklin’s body to detect a pulse without a glove.

The officer would go on to say that he had worn gloves when touching Franklin but removed them when handling the gun that contained his DNA as well. Franklin’s hands were not tested for gunshot residue on the MP5.

Officer Peterson’s involvement in Franklin’s killing raised many questions for Padden and those who were familiar with his history in the department. Peterson had been the subject of 13 excessive force complaints, many of which the city had settled for hundreds of thousands of dollars. This includes the case of Christopher Burns who died from cardiac arrest after being placed under a chokehold by Peterson.

Peterson also lied about being attacked during a traffic stop by Nancy Johnson who he alleged had jumped on his back while he fought with her partner Derrick Simmons. A surveillance camera captured their encounter and showed that Peterson had made it up.

Padden and Franklin’s family are still hopeful that either the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office or the MN Attorney General will eventually bring charges against the officers who killed Franklin.

“The state authorities really don’t have a choice here. If they don’t do something, the DOJ will,” said Padden in reference to the DOJ’s pattern or practice investigation into MPD.

Martin hasn’t given up hope over the several years following Franklin’s death. “I’m a spiritual person,” said Martin. “I’ve always been hopeful that he would get justice. God has the final say in all of this.”

Walter Franklin had also made a promise to his son the day that he laid him to rest.

“I told my son as he was laying to rest, I won’t stop fighting until I get justice. I won’t stop fighting until I see these officers charged,” he said.