Minneapolis, MN – Mayor Jacob Frey announced the City of Minneapolis will release police body camera footage of Thurman ‘Junior’ Blevins’ death as soon as the Blevins family is consulted and all of the witnesses have been interviewed by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). The mayor’s decision comes in the wake of vigils, protests, and community calls for transparency. Another protest is planned at the City Council chambers on Wednesday afternoon.
A day after Minneapolis police officers shot and killed 31-year-old Thurman ‘Jun’ Blevins on the north side of Minneapolis, a protest took place at the 4th Precinct police station as well as two memorial vigils. A grieving community mourned as Blevins’ friends, family, and children now have to deal with the void of not having Junior around.
Watch a two-minute video of the alley vigil for Junior Blevins below.
After speaking to a handful of witnesses who did not see Blevins with a gun, the following day, Unicorn Riot spoke with the first witness who hinted that Blevins may have had one. Robert Lang, a resident who lives very close to the shooting, told Kare 11 that he saw Blevins’ dead body. Lang said he was outside when he heard someone yelling “drop the gun.” He then heard two shots followed by a brief delay, and then an additional eight to ten shots were fired.
Lang said that he looked into the alley and saw Blevins laying in a pool of blood and a black handgun about a foot or so away from his body. He then stated that police kicked the gun away from Blevins when they reached the scene.
4th Precinct Police Officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly are reported by the Star Tribune as the officers who killed Blevins, and both are reported to have fired their guns. Kelly, on the police force for over four years, and Schmidt, a military veteran hired in July 2014, are both on paid administrative leave.
Both Schmidt and Kelly are said to have had body cameras on, and that at least one of the officers activated their camera. If that is true, video of the incident is highly likely to show what happened. Family members, activists, and community members have been calling on the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to release the videos.
In a surprise statement late Tuesday night, Minneapolis Mayor Frey stated that “the desire for a transparent process must always be balanced with the need for a complete and fair investigation. To that end, I have decided to release the body camera footage.”
All 13 Minneapolis City Council members had quickly released a statement calling for the release of the videos as soon as possible. Though the mayor has made his statement calling for the release of the videos “as soon as possible“, it will take an unknown amount of time to meet the two conditions that precede the videos’ release. There is no deadline or timetable; the public will have to wait on the interviews to be finished by the BCA.
Minnesota’s laws are clear that police agencies can readily release body camera footage; they aren’t legally obliged to withhold it:
“Any law enforcement agency may make any data classified as confidential or protected nonpublic […] or as private or nonpublic […] accessible to any person, agency, or the public if the agency determines that the access will aid the law enforcement process, promote public safety, or dispel widespread rumor or unrest.” – Minnesota Statute Section 13.82, Subdivision 15
At a time when racial tensions in Minneapolis are particularly high, stoked continuously by some of the country’s highest racial disparities in terms of imprisonment, employment, housing, and education, the killing of Blevins by white police officers invokes more discontent.
Sunday’s rally at the Minneapolis Police’s 4th Precinct, where Officers Kelly and Schmidt work, featured some grieving family members as well as many familiar speeches demanding justice via successful prosecution of the police involved (which has not ever happened in the state of Minnesota) and gaining political power. There was also chants of “no justice, no peace, prosecute the police.”
Heavy emotions were felt, and were on display, as hundreds attended a rally demanding justice for #ThurmanBlevins earlier today.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) June 24, 2018
Quite a few speakers spoke about feeling hopeless and many wondered what to do now, seeking answers. Seemingly the most vociferous response from the crowd of 200+ people was when abolishing the police was brought up by Ricardo Levins-Morales. Morales was speaking about an initiative called MPD 150, a community-based “people’s project” researching the 150 years of Minneapolis Police and working towards a community-created alternative to the police, effectively abolishing them.
Unicorn Riot was live for the rally.
After the rally there were night vigils at two different sites in close proximity in the Camden neighborhood of North Minneapolis. Hundreds gathered at 48th Avenue and Camden Avenue, the site where activists and community members had come together the night of the shooting, and also where the incident with Blevins had begun.
#Minneapolis tonight: Now @ Camden & 48th St N., Crowd of a few hundred. Speakers say – need for increased community self defense – asking "What will we tell his child? What will we tell his daughter? That the police who are here to protect and serve you, killed your father?" pic.twitter.com/d2nEfzo1oe
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) June 25, 2018
In the alley near the end of the 4700 block between Aldrich and Bryant Avenues, Junior Blevins took his last breaths. A memorial was built as a vigil commenced (check out the video at the top of the page).
Vigil site in alley where #ThurmanBlevins took his last breaths had many close friends and some family attending.
This vigil and site are separate from the rally and speak out happening two blocks down at 48th and Camden. pic.twitter.com/PvkUHPBdYj
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) June 25, 2018
Whether he was armed or not, many community members still feel Blevins should be alive. His family has a fundraiser to pay for Junior’s “after life expenses and financial support for his children left behind.”
Unicorn Riot will continue to follow this story.
UPDATE – July 31, 2018 2:30 pm Central: Body camera footage was released Sunday, July 29, showing Blevins had a gun. The next day, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that no charges would be filed against MPD officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly.
Unicorn Riot coverage of Thurman Blevins' Killing by MPD:
- Police Kill Man in North Minneapolis - June 23, 2018
- Witnesses Claim Thurman ‘Jun’ Blevins was Unarmed when Killed by Minneapolis PD - June 24, 2018
- Body Cam Videos of Police Killing Blevins to be Released Post-BCA Interviews - June 27, 2018
- Questions Remain in Blevins Killing as Mayor Promises Footage Release by End-of-July - July 23, 2018
- No Charges Filed in Blevins’ Killing as Body Camera Footage is Released - July 31, 2018
- Killed by Police: Thurman Blevins Remembered One Year Later - July 23, 2019