MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Relatives of a black man fatally shot by Minneapolis police called for criminal charges against two officers Monday, saying they believe the killing wasn’t justified because he posed no threat while running away.
Thurman Blevins Jr., 31, was shot and killed June 23 after Officers Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt chased him on foot for a few blocks into a north Minneapolis alley. The state agency investigating the shooting confirmed that Kelly and Ryan both fired their guns while responding to a 911 call of a man firing a handgun into the air and the ground.
Police said they recovered a gun from the scene, but some witnesses said Blevins was carrying a bottle or a cup.
Activist Mel Reeves said he’s planning a community meeting Wednesday about the killing of Blevins, who was known as “Jun.” He was joined by Blevins’ sister, aunt and cousin, who have called for greater transparency in the investigation and for the dismissal of the officers, who remain on paid leave.
“The family doesn’t understand, nor the community, how a person running away from the police was a threat,” Reeves said. “We feel like Jun should still be alive and that he should not have been shot in the back.”
An autopsy found Blevins was shot multiple times, but it did not say where he was hit.
The head of the police union has said Blevins ignored commands to drop the gun and pulled it out before the officers fired. Family members said officers should have approached Blevins differently when they responded.
News of the shooting has rocked family members, who described Blevins as funny and outgoing.
“He was at the beginning of his life,” said Blevins’ sister, Darlynn. “That was taken away from him.”
His funeral is scheduled for later this week.
Mayor Jacob Frey has called for the release of body camera footage after the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension completes interviews with key witnesses and consults with the family. The timing of the video’s release has not been set, but such a release would deviate from past police shootings in Minnesota because investigative data — including video — is typically not made public before the conclusion of an investigation.
Minneapolis has a history of high-profile fatal police shootings in recent years, including the November 2015 shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark and last July’s shooting of 40-year-old Justine Ruszczyk Damond. The officers in the Clark case were not charged. A trial is pending for the officer who shot Damond.