MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A prosecutor announced Monday that two Minneapolis police officers won’t be charged in last month’s fatal shooting of a black man.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Thurman Blevins was fleeing from officers with a loaded handgun and had refused commands to stop and show his hands. Blevins took the gun out of his pocket and turned toward officers, Freeman said.
“The decision to use deadly force against Mr. Blevins under those circumstances was authorized,” said Freeman, adding that officers fired 14 shots and hit Blevins four times
Freeman’s decision came after the officers’ body-camera video was released late Sunday night by the city. And it came by news release after he was shouted down at a news conference by community members where he had planned to detail the case.
Jeniffer Rohr, a friend of the family, referred to audio in which one officer is heard saying “He’s got a gun” as their squad car rolled up to where Blevins was seated on a curb.
“He just gave himself a license to shoot Mr. Blevins,” Rohr said.
Officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly were responding to a 911 call of a man firing a gun into the air on the city’s north side June 23. The video released Sunday shows them pulling their cruiser up and Blevins seated on a curb near a woman with a child in a stroller. As the officers pull up, one says, “He’s got a gun!” Blevins jumps up and runs, as the officers yell “Stop, stop! Put your hands up! I will (expletive) shoot you!”
In a chase that takes less than a minute, Blevins yells back, “I didn’t do nothing bro,” ”Please don’t shoot” and “Leave me alone.” An enhanced version of the video has a red circle drawn around Blevins’ hand to highlight what appears to be a gun.
After the chase turns down an alley, Blevins is shot, still running.
Lt. Bob Kroll, the head of the police union, said the footage proved the two officers acted justifiably. He said the video showed Blevins firing a shot as he ran.
“You shoot until the threat ends,” Kroll said.
The shooting has been under investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the BCA had finished its work, and officials didn’t immediately respond to messages Monday. Investigators have not previously said Blevins fired a shot while running.
Investigators said both Kelly and Schmidt fired their weapons. An autopsy showed Blevins was shot multiple times.
Investigators have said the officers arrived to find Blevins sitting with a woman on a curb before he ran, carrying a black and silver gun. A gun was recovered at the scene. Some witnesses had disputed Blevins was armed, saying he was carrying a bottle or a cup. He appeared to have something in each hand when he first ran.
Sydnee Brown, a cousin of Blevins, told the Star Tribune that the video confirms her belief that he was not a threat to police.
“He didn’t deserve to die,” Brown said. “He wasn’t a threat when (the officers) approached him. They didn’t view him as a human being.”
The two officers are on paid administrative leave. A protest of Blevins’ death was planned for Tuesday afternoon at the Hennepin County Government Center.
Blevins’ death prompted earlier demonstrations and community advocates demanded transparency and urged the swift release of body camera footage.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in June that the body camera video would be released after the Blevins family was consulted and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension had finished interviewing key witnesses.
Frey said Blevins’ family viewed the video about an hour before it was released publicly. He called Blevins’ death “tragic,” but declined to comment on what the footage showed.
“I know that right now in our city there’s a lot of pain,” he said. “Pain in many cases that I cannot understand.”
Blevins’ relatives previously called for both officers to face criminal charges.
The city released raw footage from both officers’ cameras, as well as what it called a “stabilized” video that includes footage from both officers produced by the National Center for Audio and Video Forensics in Beverly Hills, California. Officials said that footage had gone through a process to identify pixels from each frame and aligned them to help limit shaking.
In Minnesota, investigative data is typically nonpublic until an investigation concludes. But state laws allow for the release of material like body camera footage if it’s deemed a benefit to the public or if it dispels “widespread rumor or unrest.”
Blevins’ family and other community members had pushed for the prompt release of the footage, and Frey had pledged to do so as soon as possible. Video from past high-profile police shootings in the state has usually not been released until after long investigations by the BCA.
Chief Medaria Arradondo said he could not comment while the investigation is pending.
Kelly has been with the police department since 2013 and Schmidt joined in 2014. Both had served in the military and had been recognized numerous times for their work as police officers, according to redacted personnel files. They also both have had complaints against them: Kelly has had five complaints, all closed without discipline, while Schmidt has had three complaints against him, including two that were closed without discipline and one that remains open. Details about the complaints were not released.
Minneapolis has been rocked by two high-profile fatal police shootings in recent years, including the November 2015 shooting of Jamar Clark, 24, and last year’s shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, 40. Officers in the Clark case were not charged, and trial is pending for the officer who shot Damond.