Thurman Junior Blevins was the 30th person killed by police officers since 2000 in Minneapolis, and his death once again laid bare racial tensions in the city.
Blevins’ family and activists repeatedly took to City Hall over the past month to decry his death and demand the immediate release of police body-camera footage. But in the wake of the June 23 shooting, those who knew Blevins best recalled him as a motivated young father who strove to serve as a strong role model.
Rashaun Brown, his cousin, said Blevins was the father of three daughters and two stepsons and called him “funny, humble and motivational.”
Two weeks ago, 200 mourners gathered at Faith Deliverance Holiness Church in Minneapolis to remember Blevins. He was the sixth of eight children, according to his obituary. He went to Minneapolis schools and loved listening to music and playing basketball.
“Junior lived life with an ambitious attitude and strove to learn something new daily,” it read. “He was determined and when faced with adversity he would often declare ‘I’m going to bounce back.’ ”
Shortly after the shooting, Jerome Peters, a friend of Blevins’ who slept overnight beside a growing street memorial near the shooting, also spoke well of the man he knew by the nickname June — short for Junior.
“June used to wear collared shirts all of the time, and he was always looking out for the kids, and look at what they did to him,” Peters said.
Court records show that Blevins had several criminal convictions over the past decade. He was convicted in 2010 of being a felon in possession of a firearm and of fleeing Minneapolis police in 2008 and 2012.
He also pleaded guilty in 2015 to one count of fourth-degree assault for spitting at and kicking a Minneapolis Park Police officer. A minor drug possession charge was dismissed June 8.
The officers involved in the shooting, Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt, remain on standard paid administrative leave.
Kelly joined the department in 2013 after a brief stint with the Lower Sioux Police Department on the Minnesota-South Dakota border.
Schmidt, hired in July 2014, is also an employee of Minneapolis-based Archway Defense, a business that provides security training for law enforcement and the military along with businesses and churches. In his biography, Schmidt is described as a military veteran who has worked in defense training since 2007.