A community meeting about the fatal police shooting of Thurman Blevins turned hostile Thursday night when the head of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension tried to speak at a gathering in north Minneapolis.
The meeting quickly descended into chaos when Blevins’ sister and cousin angrily confronted organizers about the purpose and format of the meeting at the Webber Park Community Center. The site was just a few blocks away from the alley where two Minneapolis police officers shot the 31-year-old Blevins on June 23.
BCA Superintendent Drew Evans had been invited to talk about how the investigation was being conducted. When some in the audience of about 50 people said that “this wasn’t going to be the BCA’s meeting,” Evans tried to reassure them that he understood.
Then Corey Blevins, Thurman’s sister, stood up in the back of the room and addressed the crowd. She said the organizers of the meeting — the Council for Minnesotans of African-American Heritage, Liberty Church and MAD DADS of Minneapolis — had disrespected her family. She said she doesn’t trust the BCA and wanted the focus of the meeting to be about justice for her brother.
“He wasn’t a bad man. We all make mistakes,” she said. “Everybody deserves a future. Now my brother doesn’t have a future.”
Those in attendance quickly started to argue with each other. Some wanted Evans to speak, while others shouted that the BCA would never do an honest investigation involving a police shooting. Many people also demanded that journalists leave.
A few minutes later, several people confronted Evans, who was sitting in the back of the room. They demanded to know if he had seen body camera footage of the shooting. He sat quietly for a time, then left with two other men.
People mingled in the meeting room for about 15 minutes before most of them dispersed.
“What happened at the meeting was supposed to happen,” said organizer Resmaa Menakem, a clinical social worker who specializes in trauma. “This community has been brutalized for years, and people are showing their pain.”
Blevins was shot to death in an alley after a short chase involving the two officers. Minutes earlier, a 911 caller had reported that a man was shooting his gun into the ground and in the air, as well as a detailed description of the man’s appearance.
The officers — Ryan Kelly, hired by the department in October 2013, and Justin Schmidt, hired in July 2014 — are on standard paid administrative leave.
Before the meeting, Justin Terrell, executive director of the Council for Minnesotans of African-American Heritage, said the community wanted a transparent conversation with the BCA about Blevins’ death.
“We have demanded that the BCA meet with the community, give us the 911 transcripts and release the body camera video,” he said. “And they said they are going to do all three.”
Terrell said he met with the Blevins family Wednesday night and that it was his understanding that none of them would attend the meeting.
When Menakem tried to talk to journalists after the meeting, he was taunted by several people. “People are tired of seeing bodies destroyed like this,” he said. “This is historical trauma showing up.”
“I really didn’t care what Evans had to say,” he said. “It obviously wasn’t time for the community to hear what he had to say, either.”