Another police-involved shooting in Minneapolis has left a 30-year-old African American man dead and local residents demanding an investigation.
Witness accounts and police reports differ in the killing of Thurman Blevins in a north Minneapolis neighborhood at about 6 p.m. on Saturday. According to one account, Blevins was sitting on a curb when police rolled up and tased him. He then attempted to run away, and police shot him in the back multiple times, killing him.
An angry but peaceful crowd gathered at the scene of the shooting and remained there until about midnight, facing down a line of police officers who were not dressed in riot gear, according to local media reports.
The version told by police is different. They said that just before 5:30 p.m., at least two people called 911 to report a man walking in the neighborhood and randomly firing a handgun. According to the Star Tribune, “Officers confronted the man and a ‘foot chase ensued that ended in shots being fired,’ a police statement said. The man died at the spot where he was shot behind a garage in the alley between Aldrich and Bryant avenues N.” An unidentified police source told the newspaper a gun was found at the scene.
But some witnesses described it to the Tribune as follows:
According to Katya Kelly, the sister of Blevins’ girlfriend, officers shot Blevins as he ran from them. Kelly said Blevins and his girlfriend had been drinking and that he had a bottle in his hand as the two walked to Kelly’s house.
Police confronted Blevins and told him not to move, said witness James Lark. Officers then used a Taser on Blevins, who tried to run away, witnesses said. That’s when shots rang out.
“I heard nine, 10, 11, 12 shots,” Lark said. “They opened up on him right there in the alley.”
Another witness said:
A squad car rolled past, then another parked in the street, she said. Officers yelled at him to put his hands up. He was starting to comply when he was tased, she said.
Then he took off running, she said, as police yelled for him to stop. She said he was yelling, “Don’t shoot!”
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating, and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said body camera footage from the officers involved would be made publicly available.
“Public trust is absolutely cornerstone to what I want to see in terms of our culture at the Minneapolis Police Department,” Arradondo said, according to the Star Tribune. He added that the community “can be assured there will be a fair and thorough investigation.”
In a lengthy statement posted on Facebook, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said, “Regardless of what happened tonight – too many times, people from across Minneapolis and the Twin Cities have been stung by the pain of a life lost in the course of an encounter with law enforcement. Regardless of what happened tonight – the historical trauma inflicted on communities of color is never far from nearly every facet of our lives.”
He added: “At the end of the day, we know that no matter what transpired in the moments leading up to the shooting, we know with certainty that the outcome is a tragedy. To everyone hurting tonight: I’m sorry.”
In a statement on social media, the NAACP said, “There are still a lot of unanswered questions. We are asking for full transparency and that the footage from the body cameras be released. We are praying for the family and community members.”
Conduct by police in Minneapolis and surrounding areas has sparked intense rage in the past few years, particularly in light of the fatal shootings of Jamar Clark in 2015, Philando Castile in 2016, and Justine Ruszczyk in 2017.
“The strained relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve, especially communities of color, have exacted a toll on the very soul of our city, of our state, and of our nation,” NAACP President Leslie Badue said, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Late Saturday night, protesters and community members confronted police with chants of “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “When are you gonna stop killing us?” the Tribune reported.