No charges will be filed against two Minneapolis police officers who fatally shot an armed Thurman Blevins during a foot chase last month, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Monday.

Witness testimony, body camera video and forensic testing all proved that Blevins had a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun in his hand and refused multiple commands to drop the gun during the foot chase that ended in his death on June 23, Freeman said in a statement. According to the investigative report, Blevins fired one round from his handgun.

“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,” the statement quoted Freeman as saying. “Their decision to use deadly force against Mr. Blevins under those circumstances was authorized [under the law].”

The officers fired 14 shots from their weapons, four of which struck Blevins, Freeman said.

Freeman also released a detailed account he intended to read at a news conference halted by protesters. The account said Kelly “heard the man shoot, then [he] saw the silver handgun pointing directly at him. At that point, Officer Kelly said he shot, and the man went down.”

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One cartridge casing recovered by BCA investigators near Blevins’ body was determined to have been fired from his gun, Freeman’s account read. Also, “cartridge cases associated with [Blevins’] gun” bore his fingerprints, according to Freeman’s account of BCA testing and analysis.

The swiftness of Freeman’s decision came after what the county attorney called a “very thorough, professional and expedited investigation” by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The speed of the decision in a fatal shooting by a law enforcement officer is rare if not unheard of, particularly in recent years when tensions in communities around the country have run high following the killing of people of color by police.

News conference halted

Freeman’s attempt to hold a news conference to make the announcement was interrupted by protesters and family who took over the room to decry Blevins’ death.

“The family is hurt. The family is devastated. We knew everything was going to play out exactly the way it played out. We were prepared.” Blevins’ cousin Sydnee Brown said from the dais. “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.”

Freeman was about 2 minutes into the news conference explaining the threshold for charging police officers before he was shouted down. After attempting to continue, he abruptly turned and left.

Freeman’s announcement came one day after the Police Department released the officers’ body-camera video showing them running after 31-year-old Thurman Blevins and ordering him to give himself up and drop his handgun.

Instead, Blevins keeps running and at one point turns toward the officers and appears to raise the gun in their direction. The head of the police officers’ union said Blevins fired one shot at the pursuing officers, prompting them to return fire. Blevins went down in the alley and died with a handgun next to him.

Lt. Bob Kroll said officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly “were forced to fire at the suspect only after he pointed a gun and fired at the officers.” He said the shot did not hit either officer.

“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.”

Kroll said the officers exhibited “nothing short of excellent police work” while encountering and chasing Blevins before they opened fire on him in a residential alley in the 4700 block between Aldrich and Bryant avenues N.

The video was released at the direction of Mayor Jacob Frey, who said afterward that what it showed was “traumatic.” The mayor declined to address the actions of Blevins or the officers.

Kroll said he was disappointed that Frey didn’t back his employees, but “you have to pander to the ultraleft.”

The release of the video so soon after the shooting comes as police departments in the Twin Cities and beyond cope with public backlash over the shooting of men of color during encounters with officers. In this and other shootings, activists have demanded rapid release of police bodycam video, believing the images will reveal that officers are too quick to shoot suspects.


(c)2018 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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