Minneapolis mayor: Police to release shooting bodycam video

Published 8:23 pm Wednesday, June 27, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis police will release body camera footage of the fatal shooting of a black man “in the near future,” the city’s mayor said, after community activists called for greater transparency and demonstrators again took to the streets in a city with a history of high-profile police shootings.

Thurman Blevins Jr., 31, was shot and killed Saturday after Officers Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt pursued him on foot for several blocks and into a north Minneapolis alley. Investigators said Kelly and Ryan were responding to at least one report of a man firing a handgun.

The head of the police union has said Blevins ignored commands to drop the gun and pulled it out before the officers fired. Some community members insist Blevins was not armed and have called for the swift release of body camera footage. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said a black and silver gun was recovered from the scene.

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In a statement Tuesday night, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said he has ordered the release of the body camera video. Frey said it will be released “in the near future,” but only after Blevins’ family is consulted and the bureau finishes interviewing key witnesses. No specific timetable was provided.

“These interviews must be conducted without interference,” Frey said. “Releasing the body camera footage prior to these witness interviews would be harmful to what we as a city collectively want: That the investigation retain its integrity and that we have a thorough and transparent account of the facts.”

In Minnesota, investigative data is typically not made public until an investigation concludes. But state law allows for the release of material such as body camera footage if it’s deemed a public benefit or dispels “widespread rumor or unrest.”

According to a redacted incident detail report from the police department, a call came in on Saturday night at 5:26 p.m. and Kelly and Schmidt’s unit was reported to be on the way two minutes later. They arrived at 5:31 p.m. It’s not immediately clear from the report when shots were fired, but the medical examiner ruled earlier this week that Blevins died at 5:35 p.m.

The report indicates dozens of Minneapolis police units responded in the minutes and hours that followed.

The BCA said Tuesday that both officers fired their weapons and have been placed on administrative leave. Kelly has been with the police department since 2013 and Schmidt joined in 2014. The officers’ full personnel files had not been released by Wednesday morning.

But some data released by the police department show Kelly had five complaints filed against him. All were closed without discipline. Schmidt had three complaints filed against him, two were closed without discipline and one remains open. Details about the nature of the complaints were not available.

The Star Tribune reported that Schmidt also worked for Minneapolis-based Archway Defense, which provides security training for law enforcement, the military, and businesses. Schmidt’s biography lists him as a military veteran, instructor and law enforcement adviser.

By early Tuesday, Archway Defense removed Schmidt’s photo and name from the website and listed his biography under “J.S.” Archway Defense founder Peter Johnson said in a statement to The Associated Press: “It’s sad to see a continued media bias against law enforcement.” He did not answer questions about Schmidt.

Minneapolis has been rocked by two 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 . Officers in the Clark case were not charged, and trial is pending for the officer who shot Damond.

The killings of Damond and Clark sparked multiple street protests and led to a police department shake-up, including the resignation of Chief Janee Harteau and stricter rules for officers’ use of body cameras.

Hundreds of people protested Blevins’ shooting outside a police station Sunday afternoon, followed by a vigil at the site of his shooting. Several organizations planned to demonstrate against police shootings at a Minneapolis City Council meeting Wednesday afternoon.