Freeman: Decision Not to Charge Officers in Blevins Shooting Made 'Late Last Week'

July 30, 2018 06:51 PM

UPDATE 1:30 p.m.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Monday afternoon that he made the decision late last week not to file charges against two Minneapolis police officers involved in the shooting death of 31-year-old Thurman Blevins.

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Freeman said in a conference call with media that the decision was made before body camera footage released to the public Sunday night showed Blevins fleeing from police before shots were fired.

"I had made the decision late last week and I slept on it Friday night," Freeman said. "Then I decided it Saturday morning."

According to investigators, Minneapolis police officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly had responded to a 911 call of a man firing a gun into the air on the city's north side.

Freeman had scheduled a news conference earlier Monday to discuss updates in the Blevins case, but was shouted out of the room by protesters.

Instead of making an announcement, Freeman issued a statement, which read, in part:

When Mr. 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, Mr. Blevins presented a danger to the lives of Officer Schmidt and Officer Kelly. Their decision to use deadly force against Mr. Blevins under those circumstances was authorized by Minn. Stat. § 609.066 and as such there is no basis to issue criminal charges against either officer.

In his conference call, Freeman cited the availability of body camera footage, the fact that he and not a grand jury made the decision on whether or not to bring charges and cooperation from the Minneapolis Police Department when it came to making officers available for interviews (something he said has not always happened in other cases) as factors in allowing a decision to come quicker in this matter than in previous officer-involved shootings.

"Every case has its own issues," Freeman said. "Sometimes things come together to make it easier to move more quickly."

Freeman also said two casings that came from the gun found next to Blevins after he was shot were recovered: one in the area where a 911 caller first reported Blevins had been firing his weapon in the air and at the ground, and one near his body.

He said Kelly testified he believed Blevins had fired a shot at him, and the spent cartridge recovered near the body would lead one to believe he had indeed fired a shot at the officers pursuing him. But he said there is not conclusive proof that was the case.

However, he said whether or not Blevins actually fired at officers was irrelevant when it came to making a decision on whether or not to bring charges.

"The mere fact that he pointed a loaded handgun at officers that he he had fired earlier that day - both of which we can prove - gave the officer sufficient justification to fire his weapon," Freeman said.

The Minneapolis Police Department released a statement from police chief Medaria Arradondo later Monday afternoon:

"Today Hennepin County Attorney Freeman after careful examination and review of the facts of this investigation made the decision to not criminally charge Minneapolis Police Officers Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt," the statement read.

"I accept and respect the County Attorney's decision in this matter."


Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman will not file charges against two officers involved in the shooting death of 31-year-old Thurman Blevins.

Freeman had scheduled a news conference to discuss updates in the Blevins case but was shouted out of the room by protesters.

Instead of making an announcement, Freeman issued a statement, which read, in part:

When Mr. 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, Mr. Blevins presented a danger to the lives of Officer Schmidt and Officer Kelly. Their decision to use deadly force against Mr. Blevins under those circumstances was authorized by Minn. Stat. § 609.066 and as such there is no basis to issue criminal charges against either officer.

READ a transcript of Freeman's charging decision here

Freeman began speaking during a 10:45 a.m. news conference before protesters in the room interrupted him and began speaking into the microphone.

Protesters expressed frustration following the release of police body camera video from the officer-involved fatal shooting.

Blevins was fatally shot June 23.

According to investigators, Minneapolis police officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly had responded to a 911 call of a man firing a gun into the air on the city's north side that day.

Body-camera video released Sunday night showed Blevins fleeing from police before shots were fired.

RELATED: Minneapolis Releases Police Body Camera Footage of Thurman Blevins Shooting

The National Center for Audio and Video Forensics in California determined "there are no less than 14 gunshots, but it is possible that additional gunshots are 'hidden' within the sound of the known gunshots."

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension determined Blevins was hit four times.

The police union head said earlier Monday that the video proved the officers acted reasonably.

RELATED: Police Union President Calls Officers' Actions 'Heroic' in Blevins Shooting

"All of us have a role to play in reducing community violence," Freeman wrote in his remarks. "This responsibility rests with us individually and collectively. All of us prosecutors, police and the community have much work to do to reduce violence. Only by working together can we accomplish this critical goal. I look forward to this work."

Credits

Rebecca Omastiak

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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