MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP is calling the decision not to charge the officers who shot and killed Thurman Blevins another example of a system that doesn’t value the lives of black men.
“Minnesotans, we must begin to ask ourselves why we continue to witness white police officers walk away after killing black men in cold blood,” the civil rights group said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“The killing of Thurman Blevins is systematic assassination,” the statement continues. “Our current system has robbed children of a father and relatives of a loved one. This time it was Thurman Blevins, next time it could be you or your loved ones.”
Blevins, a 31-year-old black man, was fatally shot by two police officers last month in north Minneapolis.
Officials say officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly responded to a 911 call on June 23 of a man shooting a gun into the ground and the air.
Body camera footage shows that when the officers pulled up to Blevins, a chase immediately ensued.
The chase spanned several blocks, with the officers commanding Blevins to drop his gun. They also threatened to shoot him several times.
Blevins shouts back at the officers. “Leave me alone,” he says. “Please don’t shoot me.”
After the chase turned into an alley, the officers shot Blevins. He died of multiple gunshot wounds. Investigators say they found a gun next to his body, as well as a spent shell casing.
On Monday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced his decision not to pursue charges against Schmidt and Kelly.
He defended his decision by saying that Blevins fled officers with a loaded gun, failed to follow officers’ commands and pointed a gun toward the officers.
Blevins’ family and community members have maintained that the officers should not have used deadly force. They say that Blevins was not an immediate threat, and officer didn’t deescalate the situation.
The NAACP says that the officers did not see Thurman Blevins’ humanity.
“They were called to the scene for a non-life threatening situation and ended up killing a man,” the group’s statement said. “From the beginning, the officers had no intention on deescalating the situation. In fact, they did the exact opposite by screaming, cursing and threatening his life in the presence of a child and a woman.”
The NAACP also highlighted the county attorney’s different response to the police shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a white woman killed last year after she called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley behind her south Minneapolis home.
One of the responding officers, Mohamed Noor, shot her in the stomach while sitting in a squad car. She died at the scene.
After months of investigation, Freeman charged Noor, a black Somali man, with murder and manslaughter.
“In Minnesota, it appears you can only be a victim when you are white and police are only prosecuted when they are black,” the NAACP said.
On Monday, Freeman said his relatively quick decision in the Blevins case was due to the availability of body camera footage and because the officers involved spoke with investigators.
In the Damond shooting, the officers failed to activate their body cameras, and the officers didn’t talk to investigators. It took eight months before he decided to charge Noor.