The St. Paul Police Federation on Friday addressed the shooting death of a man who exchanged gunfire with a St. Paul police sergeant before he was killed, saying the officer's actions were justified.
Federation President Mark Ross offered condolences to the family of 24-year-old Howard P. Johnson while also expressing support for Sgt. Cody Blanshan, a 10-year veteran of the department.
"Blanshan's actions were clearly reasonable and justified both based on our training and the rule of law," Ross said. "If not for Sergeant Blanshan's quick actions, we could very well be mourning the death of an innocent community member, another police officer, or more."
Blanshan exchanged gunfire with Johnson on Monday, according to video and analysis by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, after responding to a domestic violence call in St. Paul's Dayton's Bluff neighborhood. Investigators say Johnson was committing a carjacking when Blanshan struck him with his squad car. The sergeant opened the door and yelled "Don't do it!" before about 10 shots rang rang out.
Johnson was struck in the leg and torso and died at Regions Hospital. Blanshan was unharmed and is on standard administrative leave.
BCA investigators are still piecing together who fired first and what happened during the encounter. Blanshan's attorney, Paul Engh, said Blanshan has cooperated with investigators. Imran Ali, a consultant for the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, defended Blanshan for making a quick decision while in danger.
"This was not a toy gun. This was a .45 caliber handgun, an extremely powerful firearm," Ali said. "This event changed the lives of so many people. Not only those, but also the victims ... that oftentimes aren't talked about enough."
The incident caused tension in the community and among Johnson's family. Family members defended Johnson on Wednesday, saying they want to see any and all footage of the incident to decide for themselves what happened.
St. Paul police released some footage of the shooting Thursday, which appears to show Blanshan and Johnson exchanging gunfire. Still images of the video seem to show muzzle flash from a .45 caliber handgun Johnson held, and an image of the gun lying next to him after the shooting.
Kenneth Manning, Johnson's stepfather, said the release of the edited footage does not meet the family's demands for transparency.
"We would like to see all the video, including the video from the [sergeant's] car that did the shooting, and if there wasn't a camera on that car, then we need to know why that car was allowed to be involved in the situation in the [first] place," Manning said. "We need to see all the footage available clean and unedited. What they showed us has been put together to control the narrative, but what we need is the unfiltered truth."
Police Chief Axel Henry declined to comment on specifics of the case but supported releasing more footage if it doesn't impede the BCA investigation. He acknowledged that the dash camera on Blanshan's squad was not activated.
"I think the video speaks for itself," Henry said of the body camera footage at Thursday's news conference. "But I certainly haven't done a forensic exam of any of it, and I don't want to make judgments about a case that I'm not personally involved with."
Ross and Ali said they also support releasing more footage if it does not trouble the case.
The BCA plans to release all footage it has collected when the case is "closed and fully adjudicated." Family members were told that could take up to three months.