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Activists block trains, protest Minneapolis police shooting

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Rashaun Brown, cousin of Thurman Blevins, shouts at hecklers.
Rashaun Brown, cousin of Thurman Blevins, shouts at hecklers during a march commemorating his cousin in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated: 7:16 p.m. | Posted: 5:30 a.m.

Activists and family members of a black man who was fatally shot by Minneapolis police marched through downtown, blocking trains during the evening rush hour as they chanted some of Thurman Blevins' last words: "Please don't shoot me! Leave me alone!"

Hundreds of people gathered for the protest which started at the Hennepin County Government Center Tuesday evening. They held signs calling for justice for Blevins, who was shot June 23 by officers after they chased him into an alley in north Minneapolis.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman declined Monday to charge the officers involved in the incident — Officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly.

Darlynn Blevins, Thurman Blevins’ sister speaks at a protest.
Darlynn Blevins, Thurman Blevins' sister speaks at a protest outside the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Blevins' family members said he wasn't a danger while he was running away. His sister, Darlynn Blevins, said her brother "ran for his life" because he was scared and the officer "emptied his clip into my brother's back."

Sydnee Brown, Blevins' cousin, said Thurman Blevins "was not an evil man walking the earth."

The protesters also shouted that Freeman "needs to go."  

After the rally at the Hennepin County Government Center, the protesters marched along the light rail tracks, shutting down service for nearly an hour as workers were leaving downtown and Minnesota Twins fans were trying to get to a game.

Protesters join hands in prayer.
Protesters join hands in prayer while holding a poster commemorating Thurman Blevins.
Evan Frost | MPR News

"A lot of people like to justify what happens on legal basis but there's a distinction between law and ethics," NAACP President Leslie Badue said. "Just because something is legal it does not mean it's morally right. And what I'm asking for us is to have our morals guide our laws, not our laws to guide our morals."

The officers were responding to a 911 call of a man firing a gun into the air. Freeman said the officers' actions were justified because Blevins was armed, disregarded police instructions and pointed a gun at them.

"When Mr. Blevins fled from the officers with a loaded handgun, refused to follow their commands for him to stop and show his hands and then took the gun out of his pocket and turned toward the officers, Mr. Blevins represented a danger to the lives of Officer Schmidt and Officer Kelly," Freeman said in a statement, noting that Minnesota law allows officers to use deadly force in such circumstances.

Police body cam video released Sunday by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey shows Schmidt and Kelly in their squad, driving and looking for a man in a tank top who was reported to be shooting a handgun in the air.

Protestors move along 5th Street in downtown Minneapolis
Protesters move along Fifth Street in downtown Minneapolis, blocking the light rail there.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

They appear to spot a man matching the description. One officer says he sees a gun and both begin pursuing Blevins on foot, down the street and into an alley.

"Stop or I'll shoot," one officer yells as he pursues Blevins. Blevins at one point appears to respond, "Why?"

When an officer yells at Blevins that he sees Blevins has a gun, Blevins appears to reply, "I don't." He continues to run as Schmidt orders him to drop his gun.

An enhanced video released by the city appears to show a gun in Blevins' hand when officers open fire. After Blevins has been shot, the footage shows officers kick what appears to be a gun away from his body. About 40 seconds elapse between the time the officers report seeing a gun, and when the shots are fired.