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Franklin v. Peterson

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 26, 2017

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

          Submitted: October 19, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

          Before LOKEN, BEAM, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.


         After the shooting death of Walter Louis Franklin, II, at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, Franklin's estate ("the estate") brought this action against two officers, the City of Minneapolis and the Chief of Police claiming excessive force, wrongful death, and negligence. The defendants moved for summary judgment, which the district court[1] denied on all but the negligence claim. The officers appeal the denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity.[2] We dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Herein we recite the facts as stated by the district court. This case is unique in that the bulk of the facts set forth by the district court are those advanced by the moving party because Franklin is deceased and was the only other individual at the scene with the officers.

         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 previously burglarized. Police officers were dispatched to a parking lot where Franklin was located. Three officers initially responded. 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 as he did so.

         After fleeing from the parking lot, Franklin broke into a home and hid in the basement. Officers from the Minneapolis Police Department located Franklin, including Officers Peterson, Meath, Durand, Muro and Sergeant Stender with his K-9, Nash. According to the officers, K-9 Nash located Franklin behind a water heater in a small closet under the basement stairs in the home. K-9 Nash bit Franklin's clothing and tried to pull Franklin out from behind the water heater. 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. The officers claimed 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. When Franklin continued to refuse to show his hands, Sergeant Stender moved into the closet and attempted to pull Franklin out by putting Franklin into a headlock. Sergeant Stender stated that Franklin resisted.

         To assist, Officer Meath attempted to subdue Franklin by grabbing his shoulders, pulling him backwards, and delivering two to three knee strikes to Franklin's upper body. Officers Peterson and Durand stated that they heard Officer Meath yell "are you grabbing for my gun?" Officer Meath claimed that Franklin then forced his way out of the closet.

         Once out of the closet, Officer Peterson stated that Franklin punched Officer Peterson in the face and that Officer Peterson grabbed Franklin's hair, ripping off some of Franklin's dreadlocks. Franklin then turned and tackled Officer Durand, driving him into the laundry room and to the floor. The officers claimed 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. Officers Meath and Muro were each hit by bullets.

         Officer Durand stated 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." Officer Peterson stated that he saw the struggle over the firearm and that Franklin gained sufficient control of the firearm to point it at Officer Peterson. Officer Peterson claimed 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. Officer Meath, who had been shot by the MP5, claimed that he saw Franklin sitting on the ground, with his arms extended, with Officer Peterson "basically kind of on top of" Franklin. When he spotted a gap between Franklin and Officer Peterson, Officer Meath fired his handgun. Franklin suffered gunshot wounds to the head and torso of his body and was pronounced dead at the scene.

         The estate presented evidence to the district court in support of its contention that there is a genuine dispute about the events that took place in that basement that day. In support of this argument, the estate relied in part on evidence from a video filmed by Jimmy Gaines ("the Gaines video") as well as a report from a proposed expert witness who reviewed the Gaines video and offered an analysis. According to the estate, the Gaines video and the accompanying analysis contradict the time line and sequence of events set forth by the officers. The estate highlighted a seventy-second gap of time between when the first shots were fired and the time the officers fired on Franklin, which the estate argued supported a conclusion that the sequence of events was not as presented by the officers and there remained a question as to whether Franklin posed a threat when he was shot and killed.

         Too, the estate argued that the evidence gathered at the scene is inconsistent with the officers' testimony, additionally creating an issue of material fact as to the threat posed by Franklin when the events transpired. The estate pointed out that neither Officer Muro nor Officer Meath observed the MP5 being discharged. The estate additionally noted that the MP5 had no blood on it despite the officers' testimony that there was an ongoing struggle when Franklin was shot, and there was ample amounts of blood on items in the laundry room and on Franklin himself. These inconsistencies, according to the estate, call into ...

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