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Minneapolis mayor says he'll release video of fatal police shooting

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Mayor Jacob Frey talks with a woman attending a vigil.
Mayor Jacob Frey talks with a woman attending a vigil for Thurman Blevins in north Minneapolis, near the place Blevins was shot and killed by police Saturday evening.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Updated: 1:45 p.m. | Posted: 5:37 a.m.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said he'll release body camera footage from the fatal shooting of an African-American man by Minneapolis police. But the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension pushed back Wednesday, saying public data from the case would not be released until the case is closed.

Thurman Blevins, 31, died of multiple gunshot wounds on Saturday in north Minneapolis. Investigators say the two officers' cameras recorded video. Witnesses differ on whether they saw Blevins with a gun. 

Frey said he'll first consult with the Blevins family and wait until the BCA has completed interviews with key witnesses before releasing the video.

"State law gives authority to law enforcement entities, within certain parameters, to determine when evidence — including body camera footage — is released. The Minneapolis Police Department, under the leadership of Chief Arradondo, is the law enforcement entity within the city, and the MPD reports to me," said Frey in a statement. "The desire for a transparent process must always be balanced with the need for a complete and fair investigation. To that end, I have decided to release the body camera footage." 

The BCA responded with a statement Wednesday stating it would release all public data once the case is closed, "as we would in any other investigation. This protects the rights of everyone involved." 

"We want to assure the community that the investigation will be conducted in a systematic and comprehensive manner in order to present a complete and accurate account of the events to the Hennepin County Attorney for review," the statement said.

"The BCA is required by law and established procedures to fully search for all available evidence, information, and witness accounts; to obtain forensic and other analyses; and to synthesize all the material, before its report is provided to the County Attorney's office."

Blevins' family members, community leaders and activists have questioned the account of the shooting and have called for the release of the video. Many have said they don't trust the BCA to conduct the investigation, and some have called for an out-of-state, independent, third-party agency to investigate the shooting. 

Frey said the BCA has already started interviewing key witnesses. He did not give a timeline for when those interviews might be completed.

The two officers involved in Blevins' shooting have been identified as Ryan Kelly, who has been with the department since 2013, and Justin Schmidt, who has been on the force since 2014. Both Kelly and Schmidt are on standard administrative leave.

Police said they received a 911 call Saturday that a man was in the area shooting a handgun. The BCA said Blevins fled on foot when officers got out of their squad car. Blevins was shot by officers in a nearby alley where he was declared dead. 

The BCA said investigators recovered a gun at the scene. The agency is investigating and will turn its findings over to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.

In previous police shooting cases, video was released after the investigation was complete. Last week, state investigators released police body camera videos showing Minneapolis police officers shooting a suspect after he stabbed himself in a police interview room. The release came six months after the shooting occurred, and a couple of weeks after Marcus Fischer, 19, was sentenced to six years in prison for pleading guilty to two counts of assault in the case.