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Franklin v. Peterson

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 10, 2016

Walter Louis Franklin, II, Trustee for the Estate of Terrance Terrell Franklin, Plaintiff,
v.
Lucas Peterson, individually and in his official capacity; Michael Meath, individually, and in his official capacity; Janeé Harteau, Chief of Police for the Minneapolis Police Department, individually and in her official capacity; and the City of Minneapolis, Defendants.

          J. Ashwin Madia, Esq., Madia Law LLC, and Michael B. Padden, Esq., Padden & McCollister PLLC, attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Susan L. Segal, City Attorney, Timothy S. Skarda, Sara L. Lathrop, Brian S. Carter, George H. Norris, Assistant City Attorneys, Minneapolis City Attorney's Office, attorneys for Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DONOVAN W. FRANK United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Lucas Peterson, Michael Meath, Janeé Harteau, and the City of Minneapolis. (Doc. No. 47.) Plaintiff Walter Louis Franklin, II, as Trustee for the Estate of Terrance Terrell Franklin (“Plaintiff”), initiated this lawsuit after Terrance Franklin (“Franklin”) was shot and killed during an altercation with Minneapolis police officers. Plaintiff asserts four causes of action: excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count 1); wrongful death (Count 2); intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count 3); and negligence (Count 4). (Doc. No. 2.) The parties stipulated to the dismissal of the claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count 3). (Doc. No. 58.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is denied as to Counts 1 and 2 and granted as to Count 4.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of deadly force used by police against Terrance Franklin, a young, black male, on May 10, 2013. Police became involved with Franklin after being contacted by a bystander who believed that Franklin was the person he had seen on security footage from an apartment building that had been burglarized. (Doc. No. 50 at ¶ 2, Ex. 1 at 7, 14-17.) Police officers were dispatched to a parking lot where Franklin was located. (Id. ¶ 4, Ex. 3.) Three officers initially responded. (Id. ¶ 5, Ex. 4 at 4, 11, 50.) After the officers arrived, Franklin fled the scene in a vehicle he was driving and struck the door of one of the officers' squad cars. (Id. ¶ 5, Ex. 4 at 55; id. ¶ 6, Ex. 5 at 19, 20, 33-34.)

         After fleeing the initial officer interaction, Franklin broke into a home and hid in the basement. (Id. ¶ 9, Ex. 8 (“Durand Dep.”) at 77.) Franklin was located by a group of police officers from the Minneapolis Police Department including Officers Lucas Peterson, Michael Meath, Mark Durand, Ricardo Muro, and Sergeant Andrew Stender with his K-9 Nash. (Durand Dep. at 90.)

         According to Defendants, Franklin was located by K-9 Nash behind the water heater in a small closet under the stairs leading to the basement. (Id. at 108.) K-9 Nash bit onto clothing that Franklin was wearing and tried to pull Franklin out from behind the water heater. (Id. at 109.) Sergeant Stender claims that he ordered Franklin to “show his hands” several times but Franklin remained in his hiding spot and did not show his hands. (Doc. No. 50 at ¶ 13, Ex. 12 (“Stender Dep.”) at 70, 97.) Defendants claim that in an effort to compel Franklin to respond and comply with the officers' orders, Sergeant Stender approached Franklin and struck him in the head with a closed fist, and, when Franklin did not respond, Sergeant Stender hit Franklin with his flashlight. (Stender Dep. at 52, 70.) When Franklin continued to refuse to show his hands, Sergeant Stender moved into the closet and attempted to pull Franklin out from behind the water heater by putting Franklin into a headlock. (Id. at 71.) Sergeant Stender states that Franklin resisted. (Id.)

         To assist, Officer Meath attempted to subdue Franklin by grabbing onto his shoulders, pulling him backwards, and delivering two to three knee strikes to Franklin's upper body. (Doc. No. 50 at ¶ 18, Ex. 17 (“Meath Dep.”) at 89-90.) Officers Peterson and Durand state that they heard Officer Meath yell “are you grabbing for my gun?” (Doc. No. 50 at ¶ 10, Ex. 9 (“Peterson Dep.”) at 125-25; Durand Dep. at 113.) Officer Meath claims that Franklin then forced his way out of the closet. (Meath Dep. at 91.)

         Once out of the closet, Officer Peterson states that Franklin punched Officer Peterson in the face and that Officer Peterson grabbed Franklin's hair, ripping off some of Franklin's dreadlocks. (Peterson Dep. at 97-98.) Franklin then turned and tackled Officer Durand, driving him into the laundry room and to the floor. (Id. at 98; Durand Dep. at 116.) Defendants claim that as Franklin and Officer Durand fell, Franklin grabbed the pistol grip of Officer Durand's MP5 sub-machine gun and pulled the trigger twice. (Durand Dep. at 117-20, 129, 130, 141.) Officers Meath and Muro were each hit by bullets. (Meath Dep. at 57; Doc. No. 50 at ¶ 16, Ex. 15 (“Muro Dep.”) at 100.)

         Officer Durand states that a struggle ensued with Franklin over the MP5, during which the flashlight on the muzzle of the MP5 switched on and Officer Durand yelled out “he's got a gun.” (Durand Dep. at 124-25, 128.) Officer Peterson states that he saw the struggle over the firearm and that Franklin gained sufficient control of the firearm to point it at Officer Peterson. (Peterson Dep. at 100, 118.) Officer Peterson claims that in response to this perceived threat, he moved toward Franklin and Officer Durand, reached out in the darkness for Franklin's head, aimed his handgun, and fired at Franklin five times. (Id. at 101, 104, 107, 111.) Officer Meath, who had been shot by the MP5, claims that he saw Franklin sitting on the ground, with his arms extended, with Officer Peterson “basically kind of on top of” Franklin. (Meath Dep. at 101.) When he spotted a gap between Franklin and Officer Peterson, Officer Meath fired his handgun. (Id. at 101, 103.) Franklin suffered gunshot wounds to the head and torso of his body and was pronounced dead at the scene. (Doc. No. 50 at ¶ 7, Ex. 6.)

         Plaintiff contends that there is a genuine dispute about whether the factual claims made by Defendants are accurate. Plaintiff relies on evidence from a video filmed by Jimmy Gaines. (Doc. No. 50 at ¶ 25, Ex. 24. (“Gaines Video”).) Plaintiff further relies upon the report of Plaintiff's expert witness, Edward Primeau, which details an analysis of the Gaines Video. (Id. ¶ 26, Ex. 25 (“Primeau Report”).) Plaintiff claims that the Gaines Video and Primeau Report contradict the timeline and sequence of events set forth by Defendants. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that there is agreement that at second 11 of the Gaines Video, the phrase “officer shot” can be heard. (Primeau Report at 25; see also Doc. No. 50 at ¶ 32, Ex. 31 (“Wyatt Dep.”) at 8.) At second 43, Primeau states that he heard: “Come out (unintelligible) . . . put those hands up now[.]” (Primeau Report at 25.) Primeau also states that he “believed that [he] heard gunshots” at second 53. (Id. at 26; see also Doc. No. 61 at ¶¶ 8, 10, Exs. 7, 9.) In addition, Plaintiff claims that the deposition of Geoffrey Wyatt-who radioed the “officer shot” statement-demonstrates that statement occurred approximately 30 seconds after the shots were fired. (Wyatt Dep. at 40-41.) Thus, Plaintiff claims that there was a gap of over 70 seconds between the time the first shots were fired and the time the officers fired on Franklin.[1] Based largely on this gap-which Plaintiff claims is inconsistent with the sequence set forth by Defendants' witnesses-Plaintiff asserts that there is a dispute over whether Franklin continued to pose an immediate threat when he was shot and killed.

         Plaintiff further argues that there are genuine issues of material fact due to inconsistencies between the officers' testimony and the facts gathered from the scene. Plaintiff asserts that neither Officer Muro nor Officer Meath observed how the MP5 discharged. (Muro Dep. at 100; Meath Dep. at 97.) Plaintiff additionally notes that the MP5, which according to testimony was the subject of an ongoing struggle when Franklin was shot, had no blood on it, despite ample amounts of blood on items in the laundry room and on Franklin. (Doc. No. 50 at ¶ 22, Ex. 21 at 11-12, 27.) Based on ...


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