Once again, Minneapolis is going through the painful experience of seeing a fellow citizen shot and killed by police — with conflicting accounts of the circumstances. And once again, the community's patience is in order as the investigation proceeds.
It's understandable that many who gathered at north Minneapolis protests and vigils over the weekend were angry. Just 2½ years ago, there were similar protests over the police shooting death of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. And the community's wounds have yet to heal from the death of Philando Castile, who was shot and killed during a July 2016 traffic stop in Falcon Heights as his girlfriend recorded it on Facebook live, as well as the death last summer of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who was shot by a Minneapolis officer near her south Minneapolis home after she called 911 to report a possible rape.
This time, according to police, 911 callers said a man was firing a handgun into the air and ground just after 5 p.m. Saturday near the 4700 block of Byrant Avenue N. The Minneapolis Police Department said responding officers confronted a man and a "foot chase ensued that ended in shots being fired." The man, 31-year-old Thurman Junior Blevins, became the 30th person to have been shot and killed by Minneapolis police since 2000. More than half of those who have died, including Blevins and Clark, were black.
Police reported that a handgun was recovered near Blevins' body. But conflicting accounts from some witnesses say Blevins was carrying only a bottle or a cup as he fled from police. Authorities say the officers involved were wearing body cameras that recorded the encounter. We'll join the call from the community, including from 10 City Council members, for swift release of the bodycam footage — as long as making it public in no way damages the investigation.
It's also worth remembering that the police video may only tell part of the story. The investigation should reveal if there are other video accounts of what happened, including from surveillance cameras in the alley where the shooting occurred. It also appears that a number of witnesses either saw or heard the shooting.
Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo rightly emphasized that Blevins' death was tragic regardless of what the investigation reveals. They announced that the review was immediately turned over to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).
Together and in separate encounters with residents on Sunday, Frey and Arradondo acknowledged the painful history of police-community relations in the city. Frey said the investigation will be "absolutely transparent" and include release of the bodycam footage as soon as possible.
Both Frey, who became mayor in January, and Arradondo, who was confirmed as chief in August 2017, have made rebuilding public trust in the department a priority. How effectively they address the questions raised by the death of Thurman Blevins will be a first major test of their efforts.