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BCA released sensitive, private info in Thurman Blevins police shooting probe

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

State investigators temporarily made public passwords to city of Minneapolis email accounts, evidence management systems and other private information from the cellphones of two officers and a police shooting victim, a report by freelance journalist Tony Webster has found.

The disclosures came as part of a massive data dump when Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released the evidence it used to investigate the shooting of Thurman Blevins by Minneapolis police officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly.

Webster found the forensic analysis of the three phones amid over 2,000 pages of documents, audio recordings and videos used in the BCA's probe.

The apparently unredacted analyses included highly personal information, as Webster writes:

The forensic snapshots included all of the content on the devices, such as photographs and videos stored on the phones, text and chat history, call logs, contact lists, web browser history, and the contents of internal databases used by the devices to connect to various online services. Some of the data published online by the BCA was not legally public, and none of it was relevant to the shooting.

While the officers' department-issued phones were used predominantly for work purposes, a significant amount of personal data was also published by the BCA, such as information about one of the officer's Amazon purchases, stock market trades, Airbnb and rental car reservations, and history of watched TV shows and videos. One of their phones revealed their personal email address and the contents of their Pinterest account.

He didn't publish the sensitive data, and he waited to publish his report until the state took down the information.

"It took them 18 hours to take the data down," Webster told MPR News host Tom Crann in an interview.

During that time, one of the officer's had his home addressed published, Webster reported.  

"I'm obviously disappointed that they published my home address. That's a huge risk," the officer told Webster.

Read Webster's story on his website, and listen to his conversation with MPR News' Crann on the player above.