About 200 mourners gathered at Faith Deliverance Holiness Church in Minneapolis Saturday to remember Thurman Blevins, the 31-year-old man shot and killed by police three weeks ago a few miles north of the church.
The death of Blevins, who was black, at the hands of police sparked tensions and protests, but Saturday’s gathering was personal and peaceful.
The closed-casket funeral was officiated by one of Blevins’ uncles and attended by friends and relatives. Reporters were not allowed inside the church at the request of the family.
Inside, Blevins’ life was celebrated for about two hours through prayer, song and eulogy. Gospel music and the voice of a preacher occasionally pounded through the church’s red brick walls.
Pastor Ora Lee Goodman White of Faith Deliverance said the service was “peaceful” despite the circumstances of his death.
“It’s our position to try to get them to focus on the positive, and that’s Jesus,” she added. “If we pray, everything will be all right. That’s where we get our comfort and consolation.”
Blevins’ casket, with an arrangement of white and purple flowers on top, was carried down the steps of the church about 1:50 p.m. People took their phones out to record the scene as it was placed inside a black hearse.
A procession then drove to Crystal Lake Cemetery in north Minneapolis, where Blevins was buried.
A handout given to attendees had a photograph of Blevins printed on the front. He was wearing a suit, his hands resting in front of his belt, looking up at the camera with a crisp fade haircut and a slight smile.
Printed inside the handout was an obituary for the man called by those who knew him as “Junior” or “June.”
Blevins was the sixth of eight children, according to the 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.’ ”
He had three daughters and always worked to be a good father and role model, according to the obituary. Relatives have described him as “funny, humble and motivational.”
“His sense of humor with his warm smile and his caring heart could brighten anyone’s day,” the obituary read. “Junior was a kind gentle soul whose light would shine in dim places.”
Blevins’ funeral capped a week of events in which people expressed outrage over his death and its subsequent criminal investigation.
Family members stood outside of Minneapolis City Hall Monday to mourn him and plead for justice. Later in the week, tensions flared as the head of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is leading the investigation, was shouted down during a community meeting.
The shooting, which happened in a residential alley in the Camden neighborhood, was captured by the officers’ body-worn cameras. People continue to demand that the footage be released before the end of the investigation, as was assured by the city.
Blevins was the 167th person in Minnesota killed by police since 2000, according to records compiled by the Star Tribune. The 168th person, 16-year-old Archer Amorosi, was shot and killed by Carver County deputies during a standoff on Friday.