MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It started with a 911 call to police on June 23. The report was of a man shooting a gun into the air and ground near Bryant Avenue North.
Upon arrival, Minneapolis police officers found a man, later identified as Thurman Blevins, sitting on a curb with a woman. They say he took off and they chased him on foot. At some point, officers shot and killed Blevins.
The investigation revealed a handgun was found at the scene. The community has varying accounts of whether Blevins was armed. One witness heard police repeatedly say “drop the gun.”
“Probably a foot-and-a-half from him on his right hand side was a firearm,” said witness Robert Lang.
The next day, protests started. Demonstrators expressed their distrust for police and questioned why officers shot Blevins. They delayed the start of the annual Twin Cities Pride parade.
They also gathered outside the 4th Precinct, where the officers work, and held a vigil for Blevins.
Days later, the investigating agency, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, identified the officers as Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly. The police union defended the officers’ decision to shoot.
“It’s our belief that body camera will reveal what happened, that the officers were subjected to a threat,” said Bob Kroll, the president of the police union. “There were numerous commands to drop the firearm, the suspect did not comply with these commands.”
That same day, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said he would release body camera footage of the shooting once all witnesses were interviewed.
The community continued to protest over the next few weeks, demanding to see the body camera video. Meanwhile, Blevins’ relatives continued to question why he had to be shot.
“This was a cowardly act done by the Minneapolis Police Department,” said Darlynn Blevins, Thurman Blevins’ sister. “We do demand justice and that means putting these two officers behind bars.”
Thurman Blevins was laid to rest nearly a month after his death, with a funeral held at a Minneapolis church.
The officers involved are on leave, which is standard when police use deadly force.
The Hennepin County Attorney could ultimately decide if they face charges in this case.