Story for The UpTake by Sheila Regan
Three months after the controversial police shooting of 22-year-old Terrance Franklin in a South Minneapolis basement, community demands for a complete investigation and full public accounting continue to rise, just as authorities promise a Grand Jury inquiry into the incident beginning next month.
On Saturday (Aug, 17), community activists plan a 1 p.m. march and rally at the Hennepin County Government Center calling for Twin Cities communities and organizations to come together for justice for Franklin. As answers and accountability have come slowly from Minneapolis Police and city officials, anger and frustration have risen in the community. Saturday’s rally/march is intended, “Justice 4 Terrance Franklin” organizers say, to show “how other oppressed communities are impacted by police harassment, brutality and profiling.” (Click here to see the Facebook page for the event).
The May 10th shooting ended with two injured police officers and the death of the 22-year-old Franklin, as well as apparent confusion among top police and elected officials who released very little information to explain the shooting. In addition to the death of Franklin, motorcyclist Ivan Romero was struck and killed by a police car which ran a red light while speeding to the Franklin shooting a half hour after the incident. The sequence of events that afternoon remains murky. Results of a police investigation into Franklin’s death have been sealed until the completion of a grand jury inquiry, which is set to begin in September and could take as long as 30 days, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. That could push a public resolution of the incident that has disturbed community activists into October — five months after Franklin died. Justice delayed is justice denied, activists contend, as a chorus of voices has risen to demand explanations from the city.
Minneapolis police authorities have offered few details except that Franklin was a suspect in a burglary, fled police and ended up hiding in a basement of a house at 2717 Bryant Ave. So. There, he “was involved in an intense physical altercation with officers, including a (police dog),” according to a police press release on May 11, which alleges that Franklin tried to take control of an officer’s MP5. “Shots were fired during the struggle,” the report states.
Community protests began shortly after the shooting, with activists demanding answers to questions that have not been addressed by city officials, with some accusing the city of stalling to cover up the facts.
After Franklin was reported to have died at the scene, many of Franklin’s friends were in shock and disbelief. “This can’t be true,” Rae Rae Patterson recalled thinking. “They must have the wrong person.”
Emma Mercer, another friend, didn’t think the incident was compatible with what she knew of Franklin’s character. “You guys are hiding something,” she remembered thinking. “That’s not Terrance’s character. They are lying.”
After a vigil for Franklin, his friends decided to take action, started a petition campaign, and were soon joined by local African-American activist Mel Reeves and other older leaders from the community. The group became the Justice For Terrance Franklin Committee, and have held several rallies and marches in places such as downtown Minneapolis, North Minneapolis, Uptown and St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, raising awareness and demanding justice in Franklin’s death.
Groups and organizations that are expected to participate in Saturday’s protest include Save the Kids, Idle No More, Boneshaker Books, AFSCME 3800, Occupy Homes MN, We Win Institute, MayDay Books and more.
Franklin’s friends describe him as someone who was always cracking jokes, who enjoyed singing and rapping and who cared tremendously about his five year old son, Nehemiah, who lived with the child’s mother, Franklin’s ex-girlfriend, Ashley Martin.
Franklin would usually visit his son once a week, Martin said, often taking him out to do activities. Franklin was charming, Martin said, and a ladies’ man, which is why they weren’t together anymore.
Emma Mercer, who grew up with Franklin, said he was always trying to make people laugh and put a smile on people’s faces. “You always felt good being in his presence,” she said. “That’s how he was.” Franklin didn’t like being called Terrance, she said, and preferred his nickname, “Mookie.”
Rae Rae Patterson, another friend, described Franklin as being the life of the party, but said Franklin’s passion was his son.
Franklin didn’t finish high school, but did get his GED, according to his father, Walter Franklin. He also had attended Dunwoody College, but had left school and work because of a surgery for a hernia in April, his father said.
Before he died, Mercer said she hadn’t seen Franklin about a month. “He had been missing in action,” she said. “He’s not perfect, none of us are. We’ve all done something in our past. But he didn’t have any enemies.”
Multiple versions of what happened
Mike Padden, the attorney for Franklin’s parents, is considering bringing a civil suit against the city if a settlement isn’t reached. Currently, the police department is “refusing to give us any of the evidence,” Padden said. “It’s been three months since the homicide,” he said. “What’s taking so long?”
Walter Franklin, Terrance’s father, said he wants to know “who is investigating the investigators.” He has not received an autopsy, and never viewed his son’s body. However, his sister, who is a make-up artist, viewed the body herself, he said, and took a photograph.
Padden has also viewed the photograph, and described it as showing a bullet hole in the left side of Franklin’s head.
Mel Reeves, in an article that appeared in the Spokesman Recorder (and in numerous public statements since then) has said unnamed sources told him that Franklin’s body “appeared to have been shot five times in the back of the head and twice in the back.”
The Star Tribune, meanwhile, also cites unnamed sources in their account http://m.startribune.com/news/?id=207968221 , which describes Franklin, after breaking away from a police dog, hiding behind a water heater, being dragged away from it by the K-9 dog and its handler, who then moved away. Another struggle then ensued, according to the Strib’s anonymous sources, between Franklin and officer Luke Peterson, before Franklin grabbed the gun of officer Mark Durand and shot two other officers in the legs before Peterson, wearing a bullet-resistant vest, shot Franklin.
Padden believes some version of what leaked sources from the police have told to the press will be presented publicly. Padden said the police version — an unarmed suspect extricates himself from a police canine and somehow shoots two cops with an officer’s gun before being killed himself — is absurd. “No one is going to buy it outside the police department,” he said. “Not even Caucasian people are buying this scenario.”
Padden says he doesn;’t have high expectations for a full accounting from the grand jury, either.
“Realistically, the notion that the Hennepin County Attorney will do anything but give a rubber stamp to the police’s version, that any officers are going to be indicted, is a joke,” he said. “It’s a foregone conclusion. This is a kangaroo court — they are just going to present the police’s version.” Padden said that comments that the county attorney, Freeman, has made to the media suggest he has already made up his mind.
Freeman, in turn, says he’s not going to get into a public debate about the case. His statements about the case, he said, were based on information on what’s been in the media.
Padden said that he has evidence to indicate that Franklin was wrongfully killed. “He had nothing to do with the shooting of two officers,” he said.
Meanwhile, The Justice for Terrance Franklin Committee continues to demand justice. “We live in a nation of laws,” said Reeves. “You can’t take someone life without answering for it. Terrance was a human being. He had a right to have his day in court. He wasn’t perfect, but he was somebody’s son.”