Nearly a year ago, prosecutors had promised to revisit Terrance Franklin’s 2013 murder by Minneapolis police officers. Family members continue to wait for official information about progress in this complex and shocking case.
Franklin died by five shots to the head, in what his family’s wrongful-death suit, since settled, described as a police execution. A lengthy TIME article and documentary in June 2021 detailed the evidence supporting their contention, including a recording of an officer shouting, “Come out, little n—-r! Don’t go putting those hands up now!” seconds before the 22-year-old Black man was killed. Two shots were fired from the gun of a pair officers, who held their guns together and shot into the man’s head simultaneously.
The coverage prompted vows of action from the state’s two most prominent prosecutors, including Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, whose office presided over the original exoneration of the Minneapolis Police SWAT officers involved. Freeman said the case “troubles me” and in late July vowed to revisit it even after a state law enforcement agency declined his request to investigate, citing questions of jurisdiction.
“I am determined not to let this review die,” Freeman told TIME.
It was apparent that his office had begun to pursue a case against at most some of the involved by autumn. Reports claimed that two officers who were present at the encounter had been contacted by attorneys to discuss immunity in return for information. However, it has been more than six years since the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the news. Star Tribune.
“The case is ongoing,” Freeman said in a brief telephone interview on June 13. “We’re still working on it.”
The prosecutor declined to elaborate, however, and the unexplained delay feeds the doubts of Franklin’s father. Walter Franklin says his skepticism is grounded in Freeman’s 2013 defense of the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) self-investigation of the shooting, which repeated falsehoods about the police chase, cast Terrance as an automaton carrying out movie-villain feats, and failed to examine the audio recording that blows apart the officers’ account of the encounter.
“My gut feeling, to be honest, is he didn’t stand with us the first time. My confidence is just kind of down with him,” Walter Franklin said of Freeman, whose term as county attorney expires in January. Noting that the 74-year-old prosecutor is not seeking re-election, Franklin asked, “Is he going to just drag this on? If he leaves office, we got to start all over with somebody new.”
Continue reading: Minneapolis Police Cleared Terrance Franklin’s Death. Franklin’s Family Says a Video Proves He Was Executed—and Now the Case May Be Reopened
Other Minnesota’s prosecutor could be involved in the case, having vowed to restart the Franklin investigation. State attorney general Keith Ellison last summer declared himself “shocked and appalled” by TIME’s reconstruction of the case, and grew animated discussing its implications. “This thing is going to build,” Ellison predicted in an interview, “because if it is what it looks like–and we don’t know yet—it’s very, very concerning.”
“Some of these old cases need to be looked at,” Ellison added. “The truth is, in some there’s going to be some inherent missing pieces that are going to make it extremely hard to draw a solid conclusion. And some of them, well, one category: some of these old cases are just appalling facts that need to be investigated, like Terrance Franklin.”
Ellison’s office did not respond to requests to comment for this story. According to state law, Franklin would be brought before him by the Minnesota Governor. Tim Walz who, in 2020, had Ellison replace Freeman as the prosecutor of Derek Chauvin along with three Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s murder.
Continue reading: George Floyd Square: The Uncertain Future
Ellison, who is running for re-election in November, kept Freeman involved in the Floyd case, despite Freeman’s early misstepsa difficult reputation among Minnesota civil right activists. Other prominent police shootings were also handled by the Democrats. The most recent was when they jointly announced that Amir Locke would not face charges for his death. Locke was a young Black man who had been woken up in a police raid. According to the prosecutors, Locke was carrying a firearm when he died.
Body cams were not available in the Franklin case. Five SWAT officers were present with Franklin when he was killed. They were the only ones in the basement at a South Minneapolis residence where Franklin had hidden. A false report that Franklin had tried to flee a police dragnet, which was triggered by his attempt to overthrow a sergeant about an earlier burglary led him to believe that he attempted to do so.
Franklin wasn’t armed. However, two police officers were injured by bullets from a submachine guns during the basement encounter. The cops, who were allowed to speak privately to investigators before they interviewed them, all shared the same story. Franklin managed to get the machine gun and was killed quickly by self-defense officers. That narrative was adopted by the MPD, who portrayed officers as heroes.
Continue reading: Two Years After George Floyd’s Murder, Minneapolis Is Still Struggling to Redefine Policing
A different scenario was laid out in the family’s lawsuit. According to the family, Franklin could have been blamed for his death or that of the officers who were injured when the machine gun went off by accident. This alternate narrative aligns with a mosaic of evidence gathered by the family’s investigators, including two forensic reports.
One was where an audio specialist examined the soundtrack of the videotape that a witness recorded in front of the Franklin house. The key passage is stippled with racial epithets and dread: Franklin is heard announcing himself by his nickname–“My name is Mookie!”–and hollering, “Let me go!” It is then that he’s told “don’t go putting those hands up now” just before being shot 10 times.
The body of the victim was discovered on the ground near a dryer and washer. A dreadlock from his hair was discovered next to the body. A firearms expert was hired to investigate the incident using crime scene photos and the autopsy report. It was his report that indicated two police pistols had been fired into Franklin’s head in parallel and at the same instant.
“Those officers still need to be held accountable,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a prominent civil rights activist in Minnesota and former law professor at St. Thomas University in St. Paul. “It was so egregious.” She recalled that at the time of the killing, a few small protests were organized to pressure officials, but that Franklin’s death was “something that really fell below the radar screen. It was before the BLM movement, before the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson.” The case escaped scrutiny even when the city paid the family $795,000 in early 2020 to settle the wrongful-death suit.
“Freeman lacks integrity when it comes to these issues,” charged Armstrong, a past president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP and co-chair of the current mayor’s Community Safety Workgroup. She also doubts the attorney general’s sincerity, despite the Chauvin conviction. “From the public’s perspective, they may be champions for police accountability, but that’s just not how it is,” she said. “I think they put on a show for you, to look like they cared.”
This was not the view of everyone. Ashley Martin, the mother of Terrance Franklin’s son, who recently turned 14, noted that Freeman last July said, “I like to think we’ve learned some lessons” since 2013. She believes the prosecution.
“I think I have confidence in Freeman now,” she said. “I didn’t at first, but as of now I do. I’m confident that he’s going to do what he needs to do this time.”
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