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Deadline nears for release of body camera footage in Blevins shooting

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Police investigate the scene of an officer-involved shooting.
Police investigate at the scene of an officer-involved shooting Saturday, June 23, 2018, in Minneapolis.
Aaron Lavinsky | Star Tribune via AP

Just a few days remain until the self-imposed deadline set by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to release police body-camera footage from last month's fatal police shooting of Thurman Blevins.   

Frey said earlier this month that he would release the footage by the end of July — which is Tuesday. The release of the video is something the Blevins family and community activists have been pushing for, as they dispute police accounts of what happened before Blevins was shot in a north Minneapolis alley on June 23.

Family members, frustrated with the delay in releasing the video, took part in a rally Friday at the headquarters of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to demand the release of the body camera footage. The BCA is investigating the shooting.

Kevin Short, an attorney for Justin Schmidt, one of the police officers who shot Blevins, released a statement this weekend saying in part that the investigation will reveal Blevins "was armed, had discharged his weapon, ran from the police with that weapon, and pulled his weapon out of his pocket as the police were pursuing him."

Short's statement said that while the shooting is a "tragic situation" for Blevins' family and friends, Schmidt and Officer Ryan Kelly "fulfilled their oaths to protect and serve and should be commended, not vilified, for their bravery in so doing." Short said both officers have cooperated with the investigation since it started.

Short's statement was in response to an audio clip aired by KSTP-TV on Friday night that suggests Blevins was saying "please don't shoot me" before the two officers shot him multiple times. KSTP reported that the audio came from a surveillance system on a house near the shooting scene.

MPR News hasn't independently confirmed the validity of the audio recording.

Authorities have said police received a 911 call about a man firing a gun before the June 23 shooting, and that the two Minneapolis officers fired their guns after chasing Blevins into an alley. They said a gun was recovered at the scene, but some community members have disputed that account and said that Blevins was unarmed.

Frey initially said that he would release the officers' body camera footage once key witness interviews were completed and Blevins' family was consulted. He said on July 20 that he had confidence the video would be released before month's end.