Two Minneapolis police officers who fatally shot an armed suspect after a foot chase last month will not face criminal charges in the killing, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement.
Thurman Blevins, 31, was shot on June 23 after police received a call of a man firing a handgun into the air and into the ground in a residential area in Minneapolis.
The foot chase and fatal shooting of Blevins, who was African-American, was caught on both officers’ police body-cameras, and the video footage was released to the public by the city.
Freeman said the officers, who are both white, fired only after Blevins grabbed his loaded firearm and turned toward the officers. Based on evidence from the crime scene, interviews with witnesses, and police body-camera footage, Freeman said the officers were authorized to fatally shoot Blevins.
“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.
But members of Blevins’ family said he was not a threat to police and should not have been killed. Amid chants of “Black Lives Matter” at a news conference Freeman held on Monday, the family called for justice and for the officers to be arrested.
“The family is hurt. The family is devastated,” said Sydnee Brown, Blevins’ cousin.
What the body cameras show
The police body-camera footage shows Minneapolis officers Kelly and Schmidt encounter Blevins on the afternoon of June 23. The officers say they see a gun in his waistband and immediately jump out of the vehicle toward him.
Blevins flees from the officers as they chase him and yell for him to stop, put his hands up, and drop the gun.
“Put your hands up!” Schmidt says.
“I haven’t done nothing, bro,” Blevins says.
“You’ve got a gun, motherf—–!” the officer responds.
The officers chase Blevins for about two blocks through the neighborhood and then down an alley. At that point, police say Blevins took the gun out of his pocket and turned toward the officers.
The raw body-camera video does not clearly show this. However, the National Center for Audio and Video Forensics released an enhanced version of the video in which they circle an object that officials say is a gun. A police union official also said the officers fired only after Blevins fired at them.
The officers fired 14 shots at Blevins, and four struck him, Freeman said. Blevins was pronounced dead at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds. The entire incident, from their first encounter to the fatal shots, lasted less than a minute.
A gun was recovered next to Blevins’ body, police said. Analysis of the crime scene released by Hennepin County shows that one cartridge case was recovered near Blevins’ body and was determined to have been fired by his gun.
In addition, Hennepin County identified a civilian eyewitness who reported that he saw Blevins pull a gun out from his pocket and turn to his left before officers opened fire. The eyewitness did not see Blevins fire his gun.
‘Justice for Jun’
At the Monday news conference, Freeman attempted to announce and explain the decision not to file charges. However, members of Blevins’ family interrupted the press conference and cut him off as they called for “Justice for Jun,” Blevins’ nickname.
“We’re not angry, we’re more so disgusted,” Brown said. “We’re disgusted by the leaders of the world, we’re disgusted by the leaders of Minneapolis and Minnesota.”
When the family interrupted the news conference, Freeman left the podium and went to a side room. He later released the rest of his explanation on Hennepin County’s website.
Kevin Short, the attorney for Schmidt, one of the officers, said in a statement: “The use of deadly force by these two officers was clearly justified. Their independent decisions to use deadly force arose from their belief that Mr. Blevins was going to kill them.”
He said the June 23 incident was a “tragic situation for the family and friends of Mr. Blevins, that does not take away from the fact that what happened was dictated by the actions of Mr. Blevins.”
Lt. Bob Kroll, the president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, defended the officers’ actions.
“They located the suspect, gave numerous orders for him to reply, pursued the suspect as he fled. They were forced to fire at the suspect only after he pointed a gun and fired at the officers,” Kroll said.
“The officers did exactly what the public expects them to do,” he added.
By Eric Levenson and Amanda Watts, CNN