As regular readers know, there have been several controversial police shootings in Minneapolis in recent years. (To be fair, all police shootings are now controversial, even when they are obviously justified.) This one occurred on June 23, a little over a month ago, when officers received a call to the effect that someone was walking down an alley and firing a gun in predominantly African-American north Minneapolis.
The officers proceeded to the scene and encountered a 31-year-old man named Thurman Blevins. He was armed, but was not firing his gun at that moment. They told him to stop and put his hands up, but he fled instead. He ran away and ignored several more orders to and put his hands up. Eventually he pulled out his gun and apparently began to point it at the police officers. They opened fire and killed him. Blevins’ gun was found next to his body, with a spent casing nearby.
Several witnesses told a different story. They insisted that Blevins was unarmed and said he was carrying a bottle, not a gun. I’m going from memory, but I believe one or more witnesses claimed that Blevins was trying to surrender when the officers shot him.
Fortunately, the officers had body cameras that were turned on. Today, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman released the body cam footage and announced that the officers would not be criminally charged.
Witness testimony, the officers’ 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 state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigative report released by Freeman, Blevins fired once from his handgun, but it’s not clear whether he or the officers fired first.
“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].”
Presumably Freeman did not want to replicate the fiasco of Mohammed Noor’s fatal shooting of Justine Damond one year ago. Ms. Damond called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. Officers responded to her call and drove down the alley. Damond, 40 years old and wearing her pajamas, approached the squad car to talk to the officers, and Noor shot her for no apparent reason. That case lingers on, and the facts remain murky both because no cameras were operating, and because Noor has refused to say what he thinks happened. Scott has covered the Noor case extensively.
County Attorney Freeman evidently decided to get out ahead of controversy over the Blevins case by releasing the video and announcing that no charges would be filed:
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. In a conference call with reporters, Freeman attributed his fast charging decision to body cameras, cooperative officers and making the decision himself, rather than deferring to a grand jury.
Of course, that didn’t satisfy anti-police activists:
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.
The protesters may be “disgusted by the leaders of the world,” but the cause of Mr. Blevins’ needless death lies a lot closer to home. Although he had a moderately extensive criminal record, Blevins would not have been in much trouble simply for walking down an alley and firing his gun. If he had followed the officers’ instructions, dropped his gun and put up his hands, there would have been no tragedy. Instead, he ran, and continued running despite numerous orders to stop. Eventually, he pulled his firearm and apparently fired it at the officers, or tried to do so.
One wonders: what did Thurman Blevins think would happen when he responded to officers in this way, and eventually pulled out his gun and apparently fired it? How could this possibly end well? Someone should have had a talk with Blevins a long time ago.
The activists will never be satisfied, but for everyone else the case is closed.