Freeman says clear body camera video led to quick decision in Blevins case

Announcement to not charge officers came five weeks after shooting

Morning News
July 31, 2018 - 10:14 am
Mike Freeman before the seige

Entercom

Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman says the availability of clear body camera video is among the reasons he was able to make a quick decision to not bring criminal charges against the two police officers who shot and killed Thurman Blevins.  The announcement yesterday came five weeks after the shooting.

"Body camera footage, and good camera footage, that we could see and then we could have analyzed and enhanced so you could really see what happened," said Freeman on the WCCO Morning News with Dave Lee.

The body camera video tapes were released Sunday night and Freeman cleared Officers Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt in the June 23 shooting, in which the 31-year-old Blevins was shot multiple times in a north Minneapolis alley following a foot chase with police. Officers were called to the scene on a report of a man firing a gun into the air and ground in the northside neighborhood.

Freeman said releasing police video too soon after such an incident can be tricky.

"When you release body-worn camera or any kind of surveillance tape several days after the incident, the investigation is still just getting going, and that can have a negative impact. That's what we get concerned about," he said.

Freeman says the Minneapolis police department's cooperation and the swift work by the BCA also helped him make a decision on charges in a relatively short period of time.

By comparison, it took Freeman more than four months to decide not to file charges in the 2015 officer-involved shooting death of Jamar Clark. The officers were not wearing body cameras and there was very little clear surveillance or amateur video of the incident, which happened in the middle of the night.

Freeman charged former MPD officer Mohamed Noor in last summer's shooting death of Justine Damond, making the announcement more than eight months after the incident. Noor and his partner did not have their body cameras turned on when the shooting occurred.

Blevins' family members are organizing a protest Tuesday starting at 4:30 p.m. at Minneapolis City Hall. They say the video shows the officers were in no danger when they chased after Blevins before gunning him down in a north Minneapolis alley on June 23.

Freeman said the rally is people expressing their opinions and he's hopeful it'll be peaceful.

"I think people have had a good chance to look at the video," said Freeman, adding that more evidence gathered in the investigation is on his office's website. "People look at that and I think they'll support the decision I made. I don't like police shootings, I don't like people in the community getting shot, but people have to do their job and I think that's what happened here."

Minneapolis police are in the middle of an internal investigation of the shooting. The officers who killed Blevins remain on standard administrative leave.

Blevins' family members are calling for the officers to be fired and prosecuted.