The family of a man shot and killed by St. Paul police demanded the release of police bodycam footage, data from 911 calls and a third-party investigation of Sunday’s early morning shooting.
“Through our grief and difficulty, we have been left with more questions than answers as to why police officers decided to abruptly and violently take Billy’s life,” Dannah Thompson said at Monday night’s vigil at the Minneapolis American Indian Center.
The relatives and Thompson identified the victim as her cousin, William “Billy” Hughes, 45, a member of the White Earth Nation.
This isn’t the first time the family has faced tragedy, Thompson said. Philip Quinn, a cousin of Hughes, was fatally shot by St. Paul police in 2015.
“When is it going to stop?” Kathy Ficken, the aunt of Hughes and Quinn, said tearfully while holding a sign with photos of her two nephews.
About 60 people gathered with the family at the center to remember Hughes, then protested for an end to police shootings. Many called upon state and local lawmakers to change law enforcement policies.
The crowd, which included Native Lives Matter, Natives Against Heroin and Black Lives Matter, blocked traffic on E. Franklin Avenue while they chanted, “We want justice,” and waved signs.
Family members burned incense for Hughes, and others played a song in his honor, beating a drum and singing. “Our community experienced a terrible tragedy,” Thompson said, describing her cousin as beloved.
Authorities have shared few details more than a day after St. Paul police fatally shot Hughes in the city’s Summit-University neighborhood Sunday. Authorities did not release his name on Monday.
On Sunday, St. Paul police said the case has been turned over to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. BCA spokeswoman Jill Oliveira said late Monday morning that her agency “will release additional details — including the officers’ names — once the initial round of interviews is completed.”
Residents on the 900 block of St. Anthony Avenue were grappling with the shooting Monday. Mary Pinales said she was asleep early Sunday when the sound of gunfire woke her up. Soon, about a half-dozen officers wearing protective vests and carrying guns ordered her out of her apartment.
“I was lost and confused,” Pinales said.
She made her way downstairs through a second-floor apartment unit and then to the first floor, where she saw the body of the victim, who lived on the second-floor, on the enclosed porch at the foot of the stairs.
“I just feel sad for whatever happened to him,” she said, “and lost because I don’t really know what happened.”
Pinales and another neighbor, who was awake when the shooting occurred, said they didn’t hear any gunshots from the second floor where the man had lived. The first shots they heard, both women said, sounded as if they came from the porch. Pinales said she could not recall seeing a weapon on or near the man’s body. Pinales said that although she had been asleep, she is confident she would have heard any shots fired in the unit below her.
Police have said that officers were dispatched to the multiunit building for a call about shots being fired in an apartment. They arrived about 2:30 a.m. and two officers shot an armed man, police said.
According to emergency dispatch audio, the dispatcher said a caller reported multiple shots being fired on the second floor before hanging up. The dispatcher was unable to reach the caller for more information.
Pinales said the man, whose name she did not know, moved in about five months ago. She knew little else about him, but said he was a quiet person who performed maintenance work on the property.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota called for the immediate release of the identities of the man who was killed and the officers involved. The organization accused the BCA of failing to keep the public informed about the shooting in a timely manner.
The officers were wearing body cameras that were activated, and the footage has been turned over to the BCA. The officers involved are on standard paid administrative leave.