Minneapolis, MN – In an arduous 16 hours for Thurman Blevins’ family and friends, body camera footage showing Blevins death was published and the next morning it was announced that no charges would be filed against the officers involved in fatally shooting Blevins.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that no charges will be filed against the Minneapolis Police officers Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt for killing Thurman Blevins, stating Blevins was “actively evading arrest” and posing “an immediate threat to the officers’ and others safety“.
“Witness testimony, body camera video and forensic testing all proved that Blevins had a nine millimeter semi-automatic handgun in his hand and refused multiple commands to drop the gun during the foot chase that ended in his death.” – Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman
On Tuesday, July 31, the day after the announced of no charges, a protest dubbed ‘Thurman Blevins “Please don’t shoot me!” Emergency Rally’ started in the late afternoon at the Government Center. Hundreds of protesters marched through downtown Minneapolis during rush hour. Unicorn Riot covered the event, watch below:
Two press conferences were held on Monday morning by authorities: Minneapolis Police union head, Bob Kroll, spoke at the Minneapolis Police Federation building and County Attorney Freeman was interrupted within minutes of his press conference by Blevins’ family and community members at the government center.
Hennepin County Attorney’s website provides links to all of the case files, including Freeman’s speech, charging decision, the three body camera videos (one raw video from Kelly and Schmidt and an analyzed and stabilized video), the BCA’s case files, and a video of Freeman’s speech, which he took from his office after protesters interrupted his public attempt.
In quite a major error on the part of the BCA, they originally published private and sensitive information when they released massive amounts of data from their case files on Monday after the announcement of no charges.
Unredacted and sensitive information from the forensic analysis of the cell phones of Thurman Blevins and the two officers who shot him showed government passwords, addresses, and much of what a person has on their phone. The cell phone files were deleted from public city web servers 18 hours after independent journalist and renowned public records researcher, Tony Webster, alerted the BCA.
My latest: BCA investigators published full copies of the cell phones of Thurman Blevins and the involved officers, including sensitive texts, photos, government passwords, and home addresses. They didn't take it down until 18 hours after I told them. https://t.co/D8XHPJ0j8V
— Tony Webster (@webster) July 31, 2018
Police union President Bob Kroll’s press conference on Monday lasted about ten minutes. He made a statement and then answered a few questions. Kroll said that Blevins was “fair game” and because he was armed, not obeying orders, and even shooting at the police, he gave Schmidt and Kelly no choice but to kill him.
Kroll said that Blevins shot at Kelly and that the BCA recovered a casing. Statements from Mike Freeman verify that the BCA did in fact find a cartridge casing close to Blevins’ body.
Kroll said that politicians did a “disservice” by ever believing Blevins didn’t have a gun and that they should learn what it’s like to be a police officer or “resign” from their elected positions.
Kroll said that because most witnesses said Blevins did not have a gun, he expects criminal charges be filed against the ones he said were “lies“. It is clear from the video that Blevins did not start the encounter with the gun in his hand, it was in his right pocket or tucked in his right hip. Blevins pulled it out about two blocks into the foot chase, when he reached the alley.
Kroll then condemned protesters and called on community members to either join the police force or “remain silent and support” them. Kroll has previously made headlines for calling Black Lives Matter protesters “terrorists,” while he himself is connected to the racist white power ‘City Heat’ biker gang.
According to a 2007 lawsuit filed by several African-American Minneapolis police officers (including the present MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo), Kroll “has a history of discriminatory attitudes and conduct” and “wears a motorcycle jacket with a ‘white Power’ badge sewn onto it.” Kroll has been sued in seven lawsuits and had 37 complaints filed against him, seven of which were from the internal affairs.
31-year-old father of three, Thurman ‘Junior’ Blevins, was on the corner of 48th and Camden Avenues with his young daughter, her mom, and a dog when Kelly and Schmidt pulled up in their squad car responding to a 911 call of a man shooting a gun at the ground and in the air.
From the release of the videos, Schmidt can be heard speaking to Kelly in the squad car as they approach Blevins, saying that he has on a black shirt, has tapered hair, and has a bottle of gin, two of the descriptors matching the description from a 911 call they were responding to. (The 911 caller said that someone shooting their gun had a “white or grey” tank top. They added they were mid-thirties, had a black backpack, tapered hair, and a bottle of liquor with them.)
Immediately upon police pulling up to Blevins, a gun is visible in Blevins right hip. Schmidt says, “he’s got a gun“, and jumps out of the passenger side of the squad with his gun pointed at Blevins and his family.
Schmidt yells, “Put your fucking hands up now!” while his gun is raised and he’s running towards Blevins, who immediately picked up his bottle of liquor with his right hand and started to run away. As they are running for the first of two and half blocks, Schmidt yelled:
“Stop – Put your fucking hands up now!” “Put your fuckin hands up – I will shoot you!” – MPD officer Justin Schmidt
Blevins yelled back while running, “Why?”
Schmidt yelled “Stop!” again, and Blevins said:
“C’mon man. C’mon man. I haven’t done nothing bro.” – Thurman Blevins
Schmidt, who was running very close behind Blevins, yelled back while pointing his gun at Blevins the whole time, “You got a gun motherfucker!” to which Blevins responded “no, I don’t“.
They continued to run for another half block exchanging words, with Schmidt making it clear to Blevins that he saw him with a gun and reminding him,
“I will fucking shoot you!” – MPD officer Justin Schmidt
When they reach the alley between Aldrich and Bryant, Schmidt yells twice, “Put your hands up!”
Blevins continues running south while yelling his last words,
“Please don’t shoot me! Leave me alone! Leave me alone!” – Thurman Blevins last words
Blevins, who had dropped the bottle of liquor that he had in his right hand a block before the alley, is seen visibly grabbing his gun while continuing to run up the alley.
Schmidt and Kelly opened fire with over a dozen rounds. Blevins was shot and dropped the gun. Blevins then bleed out and died from his gunshot wounds while the police cleared the scene.
See a picture timeline of the footage, here.
Fourteen shots were fired by MPD towards Blevins as he was running and holding onto a gun with his right hand, and four bullets struck him, killing him within minutes. Kelly, who was trailing Schmidt and Blevins by about 30 yards, fired eight shots, several fired after Blevins was already down.
One of the bullets fired by Schmidt and Kelly ended up hitting the windshield of a witness’ car in the alley, barely missing him while he was standing two feet away (see below).
Three bullets struck a Benjamin Franklin work vehicle that had to be towed to the BCA for evidence collection to find the bullets, and a couple garages were also struck by gunfire. No bystanders were hit.
Below are pictures taken of Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly after they killed Blevins.
Sydnee Brown, Thurman Blevins’ cousin, was part of the group that disrupted Freeman’s press conference. She spoke from the podium at which Freeman was standing just minutes before, stating that the police officers weren’t in fear when they were driving around looking for the 911 suspect.
Brown stated that the approach that Schmidt and Kelly took in jumping out aggressively with their guns drawn and yelling at Blevins intensified the situation as opposed to deescalating it. She also said that the Blevins family is devastated.
“The family is hurt, the family is devastated.” – Sydnee Brown
Jeniffer Rohr, who also spoke at the podium, said that she felt Blevins was saying “it’s in my pants“, “it’s in my belt“, when responding to Schmidt’s push to get Blevins to drop the gun while they were in the foot chase.
A local community based research group called MPD 150 released a statement on Monday, asking what kind of relationship the police had with that neighborhood or the mindset in which they are working in, saying in part:
“Explicit instances of police violence are part of a larger system of violence; it isn’t just about how individual officers act in individual moments; it’s about the larger system/culture that led to those moments in the first place. What relationships between the police and that neighborhood existed before that moment? What kinds of mindsets did the police enter into that moment with? What sorts of resources and alternatives are missing from the picture? These aren’t always easy questions, but they’re worth asking.” – MPD 150 statement regarding Blevins body cam footage release
Unicorn Riot will continue to explore issues surrounding the Minneapolis Police Department and its relationship to the residents of the city. See our latest report detailing some of the department’s recent scandals:
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