MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman will not pursue criminal charges in the death of Thurman Blevins, the 31-year-old black man shot by Minneapolis police officers last month on the city's north side.
"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 on June 23," Freeman said in a statement released Monday.
Minneapolis police officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly responded to a 911 call about a man firing a gun in a north Minneapolis neighborhood. The officers shot Blevins after a short chase.
"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 Schmidt and Officer Kelly," Freeman said. "Their decision to use deadly force against Mr. Blevins under those circumstances was authorized by Minn. Stat. § 609.066 and as such there is no basis to issue criminal charges against either officer."
At a morning press conference announcing his decision not to charge the officers, Freeman was interrupted by family and friends of Blevins, who took the podium after his exit.
"Mike Freeman, you better think long and hard about prosecuting these officers," a relative of Blevins said. "We're not angry. We're more so disgusted."
Hennepin County Attorney Press Conference Interrupted By Protesters
Some of the activists at the press conference said they wanted to see the officers arrested and charged within 48 hours.
Rashan Brown, Blevins' counsin, said the 31-year-old should still be alive since he didn't pose a real threat to officers.
"He pleaded and begged for his life," Brown said. "Him and that police officer had a full conversation while running for two blocks."
A protest is planned for Tuesday afternoon at the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis.
On Sunday night, body camera footage of the shooting was released.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, praised the officers for their response.
"This was nothing short of excellent police work," Kroll said.
The body camera video shows the officers pulling their cruiser up to Blevins, who was seated on a curb near a woman with a child in a stroller.
Immediately, Blevins takes off running. Schmidt chases him, repeatedly telling him to drop the gun and threatening to shoot him.
After turning into an alley, Blevins yells, "Please don't shoot me," and then gunfire erupts.
Kroll says Blevins fired a shot in the direction of the officers.
"I don't know exactly the seconds of the shots, but as Blevins' gun comes around, you'll see he fired," Kroll said. "It hits the pavement in the alley. The round hits the pavement right in the direction of Officer Kelly."
According to BCA files released Monday, a cartridge case was recovered from Blevins' gun at the scene of the shooting.
Still, it remains unclear if Blevins fired a shot before police bullets struck him.
"Police officers never want to be forced to fire their weapons," Kroll said. "Sadly, Blevins gave them no other option."
Before the Monday morning press conference was interrupted, the county attorney said these fatal police shooting cases are tearing the community apart.
"No one wins today," Freeman said. "A young man is dead, our officers face increasing criticism and scrutiny, and the community is devastated."
Here is a link to a video of what Mike Freeman would have said about Thurman Blevins case, had the press conference continued: https://t.co/JIgHOnkJuU
— Susan-Elizabeth (@susanelizabethL) July 30, 2018
In a video statement released after the press conference interruption, Freeman said that the reason he was able to make his decision in just five weeks is because of the body camera footage and because the officers involved agreed to be interviewed.
In contrast, it took Freeman eight months to come to a charging decision in the shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who was fatally shot by Minneapolis police last year in south Minneapolis.
In that case, the officers involved didn't activate their body cameras and they didn't give interviews to investigators. Still, Mohamed Noor, the officer who fired the fatal shot, was charged with murder and manslaughter.
Following Freeman's announcement Monday, the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called for an independent investigation into Blevins' death and for an overhaul of Minneapolis police policies in regards to use-of-force incidents.
John Gordon, the executive director of ACLU-MN, called the body camera footage of the Blevins shooting "disturbing, terrifying, and appalling."
"The footage shows that officers Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt unnecessarily escalated a situation and failed to do their duty to investigate and protect," he said. "We cannot continue to allow police officers to threaten, intimidate, and harm communities without accountability."
Kelly and Schmidt remain on administrative leave, which is standard procedure following an officer-involved shooting.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo issued a brief statement on the county attorney's decision not to charge the officers, saying only that he accepts and respects the decision.
Arradondo's office says the shooting remains under investigation and that the chief will only speak about the case after the criminal and internal investigation is complete.
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