Two Minneapolis police officers who fatally shot a 31-year-old black man during a foot chase in June, sparking protests across the city, won’t be charged, prosecutors announced Monday.
Over the weekend, officials released body-camera footage from the two officers, Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly, that showed Thurman Blevins was shot from behind.
“Please don’t shoot,” Blevins can be heard saying at one point, as he runs away from them with what appears to be a gun.
On Monday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman attempted to hold a press conference about his decision to not file charges against Schmidt and Kelly, but the event was soon overrun by protesters and Blevins’ family members. He was shouted down, and left the stage.
“When Mr. Blevins fled from the officers with a loaded handgun, refused to follow their commands for him to stop and show his hands and then took the gun out of his pocket and turned toward the officers, Mr. Blevins represented a danger to the lives of Officer [Justin] Schmidt and Officer [Ryan] Kelly,” Freeman said in a statement. “Their decision to use deadly force against Mr. Blevins under those circumstances was authorized.”
Blevins’ cousin, Sydnee Brown, took the stage at the press conference Monday, saying, “The family is hurt.”
“The family is devastated,” she continued. “We knew everything was going to play out exactly the way it played out. We were prepared. I don’t want the media and the world to think we’re angry. We’re not angry. We’re more so disgusted. We’re disgusted by the leaders of the world, we’re disgusted by the leaders of Minneapolis and Minnesota.”
A man standing beside Brown interjected: “This is murder.”
Others demonstrators underscored the fact that Blevins was “running away from police,” while one protester recited rap lyrics in honor of the man’s death, as the crowd around him held up their fists in solidarity.
Freeman told reporters that his decision not to charge the two officers was the result of a “very thorough, professional and expedited investigation.” When asked how the one-month investigation was performed so quickly—which typically isn’t the case for police-involved shootings—Freeman said that body cameras, cooperative officers, and his decision not to convene a grand jury sped up the process.
Body-cam footage of the June 23rd incident showed police telling Blevins: “Stop, stop! Put your hands up! I will [expletive] shoot you!” He responded, “I didn’t do nothing, bro,” “Please don’t shoot,” and “Leave me alone.”
The cops were in the northern Minneapolis neighborhood after receiving a report from a woman about a man who appeared to be intoxicated firing a gun into the ground.
Minneapolis Police Union President Lt. Bob Kroll insisted that the officers were “forced to fire at the suspect” and performed “nothing short of excellent police work.”
“As Blevins’ gun comes around, you see he fired, it hits the pavement in the alley, the round hits the pavement right in the direction of officer Kelly,” Kroll said. “I do know all the officer shots occurred within 4 seconds.”
But Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey had a much different take on the video, calling the shooting “traumatic.” Kroll said he was disappointed that the mayor did not back the police, but claimed Frey was just “pander[ing] to the ultraleft.”
Blevins’ kin believes the video proves he wasn’t a threat when he was killed.
“He didn’t deserve to die,” Brown told the Minneapolis Star Tribune after the footage was released. “He wasn’t a threat when [the officers] approached him. They didn’t view him as a human being.”