Forensic tests have identified Terrence Franklin’s DNA on the trigger of a Minneapolis police officer’s submachine gun, fired during a chaotic struggle that ended with Franklin’s death, sources with knowledge of the investigation said Thursday.
During the May 10 struggle, Franklin shot two officers in a dimly lit basement in the Uptown neighborhood, and it appeared he was about to fire again when SWAT team member Luke Peterson stepped between Franklin and the officer to whom the gun was still strapped, pulled out his sidearm and shot him, the sources say. Franklin, 22, died at the scene.
Officer Michael Meath, who was shot in the leg, also shot Franklin, according to sources.
A grand jury will convene next month to determine whether the officers’ use of deadly force was justified. On Thursday, the Hennepin County attorney’s office and Minneapolis police announced in separate news releases that a grand jury will be convened — standard in such cases. Both said they can’t discuss the case further until the grand jury rules.
Attorney Michael Padden, speaking on behalf of Franklin’s parents, said a wrongful-death lawsuit may commence after the grand jury findings. Padden said he believes that once all of the evidence is released, it will show that Franklin died primarily because he was black.
“It’s our contention the DNA was planted. The DNA being on the gun fits exactly into our theory of the case,” he said. “This is no surprise at all, and we have expected this from essentially Day One.”
Franklin’s death and two unrelated incidents involving Minneapolis officers allegedly using racial slurs have cast a harsh light on the department and provoked protests from community leaders. The Justice for Terrence Franklin Committee gathers every Tuesday at Zion Baptist Church in north Minneapolis, where members discuss their next strategy in fighting a battle on behalf of a man few ever met.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the investigation and numerous lab tests in the case are nearly complete. Many members of the community have asked him about the status of the investigation into Franklin’s death and when it would be presented to a grand jury, Freeman said.
Police Chief Janeé Harteau has appealed to the public to be patient as police seek to maintain the integrity of the investigation and to allow the case to proceed through the criminal justice process.
Bloodshed in a basement
Franklin’s deadly fight with officers followed a dramatic 90-minute chase through a crowded residential neighborhood during which he eluded officers who swarmed the area, at one point hiding in a bike shop as bewildered employees looked on.
A few blocks away, a related tragedy unfolded as motorcyclist Ivan Romero Olivares, 24, was fatally struck by a police vehicle that had gone through a red light as it headed to the scene.
The chase started about 2 p.m. after a caller reported seeing a man he suspected of burglarizing his home, police said. When police confronted the man, later identified as Franklin, he fled, almost hitting an officer with his vehicle.
Franklin, who had a lengthy criminal record, was tracked to the basement of an Uptown house after the owner arrived home to find a broken window.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Andrew Stender, a K9 handler who was leading the department’s SWAT team into the house, went into the basement and unleashed the dog, which charged at Franklin and began biting him, according to two sources with knowledge of the investigation. Franklin broke away and went behind a water heater.
The dog began pulling him out, and Franklin stood up. Stender shouted at Franklin to put his hands up. When Franklin didn’t cooperate, Stender started to drag Franklin out by his head as the dog kept its grip on his leg.
Stender, thinking he had the situation nearly under control, moved away to allow officer Peterson, a member of the SWAT team, to step in.
A struggle for weapon
Another struggle ensued, and Franklin broke away and leapt toward officer Mark Durand, another member of the SWAT team, who was standing nearby with an MP5 submachine gun.
The sources said Durand struggled to hold the weapon down — it was on single-shot mode, not automatic — but Franklin was able to point it up and fire twice, shooting two other officers, Meath and Ricardo Muro, in the legs.
That’s when Peterson, who was wearing a bullet-resistant vest, put himself between Durand and Franklin, who was still trying to get off another shot, and fired the shot that killed Franklin, the sources said.
David Chanen • 612-673-4465