“Please don’t shoot me,” Thurman Blevins begged as the two Minneapolis police officers closed in during a foot chase. “Leave me alone.”
Moments later, he was fatally shot, and police said he had a handgun lying in the alleyway next to him.
The exchange is captured in body-camera footage released by the city of Minneapolis on Sunday, a little over a month after Blevins, 31, was killed. His death June 23 would lead to protests across the city as activists decried the killing of yet another black man at the hands of white police officers.
The graphic videos, which include profanity, can be viewed in their entirety here.
Prosecutors said Monday that they would not file charges against Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt, the two Minneapolis police officers involved. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced the decision Monday morning at a news conference that was interrupted by protests.
In Freeman’s prepared remarks, which were released by his office, the prosecutor said there was “no basis to issue criminal charges against either officer,” because 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.”
Freeman’s office also released a 21-page report further explaining the decision and concluding that Blevins “posed an immediate threat to the officers’ safety.”
The report outlined the findings of a state investigation, which included analyzing the body-worn cameras, forensic analysis of the gun and interviews with officers involved, along with witnesses. The findings were sent to Freeman, who reviewed it with three senior prosecutors to make the decision not to charge the officers.
“These cases tear apart our community,” Freeman said in his prepared remarks Monday. “No one wins today: A young man is dead, our officers face increasing criticism and scrutiny, and the community is devastated.”
Blevins is one of 584 people fatally shot by police officers this year in the United States. His death is one of several resulting from police shootings in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area that have prompted controversy and protests in recent years, including those of Philando Castile, Jamar Clark and Justine Damond.
The officer who shot Castile was charged and then acquitted, while the officers involved in Clark’s shooting were not charged, because they thought he was trying to grab one of their guns, Freeman announced in 2016. The officer who shot Damond — an Australian woman killed last year — was charged with murder and manslaughter this year.
Before the body-camera footage from the Blevins shooting was released this week, some basic details of what happened had been in dispute. Police said Blevins had been holding a gun, but some witnesses had said he was unarmed. While the report released by Freeman’s office states that no witness saw or heard the entire sequence of events around Blevins’s shooting, authorities concluded that there was “eyewitness corroboration that Mr. Blevins had a gun in his hand and was turning toward the officers.”
One video begins as Officers Kelly and Schmidt drive through a neighborhood in northern Minneapolis looking for someone who had reportedly been firing a gun in the air.
In a transcript of the 911 call, a woman who wouldn’t give her name, for fear of being labeled a snitch, said he looked intoxicated and had also been shooting at the ground.
The description: A black male with a black backpack and a bottle of gin. Six feet tall, 180 pounds, tapered hair, wearing a white-and-gray tank top.
“That’s kind of a really good description for that to be an actual legitimate call,” Schmidt says in the video. “But . . . then again.”
Sirens on, they cruise down leafy streets lined with Victorian houses, passing through red lights. They don’t see anyone matching the suspect’s description.
Then, a few blocks from where the first caller had reported seeing a man wandering around with a gun, they spot Blevins sitting on the curb with a gray dog.
“He’s got a bottle of gin,” Schmidt says. “Is he . . . black tank top, tapered hair . . . yeah.”
Then, with considerably more urgency in his voice, Schmidt says, “He’s got a gun.”
The car comes to an abrupt stop. Both officers jump out.
Blevins springs from the curb and starts running, dropping the dog’s leash and nearly knocking over a woman with a stroller. He takes off down the street.
“Put your hands up! I will f—ing shoot you!” Schmidt yells.
Both officers chase after Blevins, shouting at him to stop and put his hands up.
“Come on, man. Come on, man. I didn’t do nothing, bro,” Blevins says as he runs.
“You’ve got a gun,” Schmidt responds, using an expletive to address the man.
“I don’t,” Blevins calls back.
“Yes, you do,” Schmidt replies “Put it down.”
Sprinting past a white picket fence, Blevins rounds a corner and turns down an alleyway.
“Homie, please,” he pants. “Please, don’t shoot me. Leave me alone.”
About 45 seconds into the chase, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Schmidt starts firing. Blevins collapses. When the officers get closer, what appears to be a small handgun is lying on the ground near Blevins’s right hand.
In addition to the two officers’ body-camera videos, the city also released an “enhanced” version of the footage in which the gun police say he was carrying has been circled. The object is visible in Blevins’s pocket when the officers arrive at the scene, then in his hands when Schmidt opens fire.
A warning that precedes the enhanced video says that the video was “stabilized and analyzed” by the National Center for Audio and Video Forensics in California to reduce camera shake but that the content was not altered.
Blevins’s cousin Sydnee Brown told the Star Tribune that the footage confirmed her belief that Blevins had not been a threat to police.
“Officers Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt should be fired without pay and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” she said, according to KSTP.
Schmidt’s attorney, Kevin Short, had a different interpretation. “It’s gratifying to know the actions of the officers were justified,” he told the station. “Hopefully the public learned a lesson to wait for all the facts and video to come out before vilifying officers.”
Reactions to the video were mixed. Some argued that the officers had been justified in shooting Blevins, because he appeared to have a gun and had refused to drop it despite multiple warnings. Others argued that police should have done more to de-escalate the situation when they arrived at the scene.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told local media outlets after the video was released that he could not comment on the footage, because a criminal investigation into the shooting was pending. Both officers are on leave.
In a news conference Sunday night, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey described the footage as “traumatic” but declined to interpret it or pass judgment.
“Regardless of the circumstances and facts that took place on the afternoon of June 23rd, and regardless of how our own life experiences and backgrounds inform the conclusions that we draw, let us all recognize one conclusion,” he said. “A life was lost, and that, in and of itself, is a tragedy.”
This report has been updated with the news that neither officer will be charged.