No Charges for Minneapolis Officers Who Shot Armed, Fleeing Suspect
Two Minneapolis police officers involved in the shooting death of a 31-year-old black man will not be charged, the district attorney announced.
Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman said on Monday, July 30, that Officers, Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt were justified in using lethal force in the chase and shooting death of Thurman Blevins on June 23, 2018.
The police officers responded to a 911 call about an intoxicated man firing a gun into the air. When they arrived on the scene and sighted Blevins firearm, the 31-year-old began to run. He drew the weapon and fired while running.
The officers shot Blevins four times, resulting in Blevins’ death.
The entire incident was captured by the officers’ body cameras. The footage, released on July 29, shows Blevins ignoring repeated commands to stop, and shows him pulling the gun from his pocket shortly before being shot.
Despite the fact that Blevins was armed, fleeing, and firing his gun, his shooting sparked protests against excessive and unjustified use of force against black males, CBS News reported.
Protesters took over the podium at the press conference where District Attorney Freeman was announcing his decision not to press charges, Fox News reported.
“We’re tired. We’re going to tear this city up,” one protester said. “Black people are tired of being hunted down.”
A Facebook site titled “Justice for Thurman Blevins” was created after the shooting. It has since been taken down.
WARNING: Video contains disturbing images and adult language
Frightened Resident Called Police
The caller told the 911 dispatcher, “There’s a guy walking around shooting off his gun and he looks intoxicated and um, that’s just not safe around here.”
The 911 caller also said the gunman was carrying a “big bottle of Amsterdam.” New Amsterdam Spirits Company manufacturers both gin and vodka.
The caller told the dispatcher that police officers needed to hurry. He said, “You gotta move around before he shoots somebody!”
Justified Use of Force
When Officers Schmidt and Kelly arrived at the scene, they saw the man matching the description of the shooter sitting on the curb at the corner of 48th Street and Camden Avenues North. The suspect was sitting next to a woman standing with a toddler in a stroller. He was holding the leash of a medium-sized dog and had a black knapsack.
The officers saw the butt of a pistol protruding from his pants pocket as they drove up. Officer Schmidt told Officer Kelly, “He’s got a gun,” a moment before the two officers exited the car.
The two officers ordered the suspect to halt and freeze. Instead, he fled down a nearby alley. Both officers pursued, with Officer Schmidt leading.
The officers shouted to the fleeing suspect to stop and put his hands up. The suspect, later identified as Thurman Bevins, shouted back, “I didn’t do nothing.” The officer shouted back, “You’ve got a gun,” to which Blevins responded, “No.” Blevins also yelled, “Please don’t shoot me.”
At one point in the chase Blevins pulled the gun from his pocket and fired into the ground. It is not clear if he intended to fire or jerked the trigger while tugging the gun out his pocket.
Bevin, still running started to twist his body back toward the pursuing officer. When the gun became visible to Officer Schmidt, he fired at the fleeing suspect. Officer Kelly, further away, also fired. Blevins was hit four times and killed.
Officer Schmidt’s body-cam shows Blevins drawing the gun, but it is not clear exactly when he fired. A shell casing was found at the scene. Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll told the press conference that the exact moment the shot was fired would be discovered as the investigation of the incident proceeded.
“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 Schmidt and Officer Kelly,” District Attorney Freeman said in his press statement.
“Their decision to use deadly force against Mr. Blevins under those circumstances was authorized by Minn. Stat. § 609.066 and as such there is no basis to issue criminal charges against either officer.”
Minnesota Statute 609.066, which governs the use of deadly force by peace officers, includes Sub-division 2 (1) “ …. the use of deadly force by a peace officer in the line of duty is justified only when necessary:
(1) to protect the peace officer or another from apparent death or great bodily harm,” among its provisions.
WARNING: Potentially disturbing imageThurman Blevins was struck by four bullets and was pronounced dead at the scene. (Minneapolis Police screenshot)
Video Shows Entire Incident
The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) released the body-camera footage from both officers’ cameras on July 29.
A composite video, which combines the footage from the two officers has been produced by the National Center for Audio and Video Forensics in Beverly Hills, California at the request of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
According to the MPD, this composite video was put through a stabilizing and analysis process.
“The stabilizing software identifies pixels from each frame and aligns them to help limit the shake that can occur without altering the content.”
The MPD has released the raw footage along with the composite version to show that the composite has not been doctored.
The stabilized video clearly shows the firearm in Blevins’ hand just before Officer Schmidt opened fire.