A 31-year-old black man shot by police in north Minneapolis died from “multiple gunshot wounds,” authorities said on Monday. But the two-line report leaves many questions unanswered, and witnesses have provided some conflicting accounts.
What’s known is that police shot and killed Thurman Blevins Jr., who was known to his neighbors as “Jun.” What's still unclear is whether he had a gun at the time — police said he did, but their account has been disputed by some witnesses — whether he was tased, and whether he was cooperating with police commands.
The officers were responding to two 911 calls reporting shots fired into the air and the ground. The Minneapolis Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the shooting, said they recovered a gun from the scene. Police also say that the shooting was captured by body-cam footage, but despite calls from local politicians to release the tape, they haven’t done so yet.
Community members, in the meantime, have gathered in protest and vigil, mourning the loss of one of their neighbors.
“They pulled up on him, him and his woman and a newborn baby, and they told him, ‘Don’t fucking move,’ something about a gun,” a person at the scene of Blevins’ death told Unicorn Riot, a media collective that has roots in Minneapolis. “And dude stood up, and his hands up. Next thing I know I hear a pop sound. I don’t know whether they shot, somebody said they tased him, but I thought they shot him and he broke out running. That’s when I heard eight, nine, ten more shots. And it was over with in about a minute and half, two minutes.”
Other witnesses who spoke to Unicorn Riot said that although Blevins was tased, it didn't seem to have much of an effect as he continued running down the street as police fired. Another suggested that cops might have planted a gun on him after he was killed.
“I’m the mother of five boys, and that was like their big bro,” a woman told Unicorn Riot, referring to Blevins, at the vigil on Sunday night. “They knew if Jun was outside, they were getting a popsicle.”
“These officers took a good man from our neighborhood,” she added.
But yet another witness, who spoke to the Associated Press, said Blevins did indeed have a gun on him. Robert Lang, who lives near where Blevins was shot, said he heard cops yelling “Drop the gun!” Lang came out from behind his garage and saw the cops kick a gun that was lying on the ground away from Blevins.
About 300 people gathered peacefully on Sunday in front of a police station to protest Blevins’ death. Later on Sunday, a vigil was held near the site where Blevins was killed. Mayor Jacob Frey was in attendance.
“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," Frey said in a statement.
Minneapolis City Council member Jeremiah Ellison and son of Rep. Keith Ellison is calling on the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is overseeing the investigation into Blevins’ shooting, to be transparent with their investigation and release the body-cam footage.
“Whenever a death is involved, whenever a weapon is involved, and lethal force is involved, people really need answers, and I think we need them as soon as possible,” Ellison told Minnesota Public Radio. “I think that certainly the video would give us a better sense than we have now.”
Cover image: Candles illuminate a memorial at a vigil for Thurman Blevins on June 24, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Blevins, 31, was shot and killed yesterday after an altercation with Minneapolis Police. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)