Protest of killing of St. Paul man draws others touched by similar tragedies

Family stand outside the home where William James Hughes was shot.
Family of William Hughes stand outside the fence Tuesday to the home where William was shot and killed by police on August 5, 2018.
Chris Juhn for MPR News

Around 100 people gathered Tuesday outside the St. Paul Police Department's Western District building demanding charges be brought against the two police officers who shot and killed William "Billy" Hughes, 43, early Sunday.

For some, it was a painful reminder of personal tragedy that has affected other Native American families.

Paulette Quinn's son, Philip, was killed by St. Paul Police almost three years ago. He was holding a screwdriver, and Quinn says, in a mental health crisis, when shot by an officer. A grand jury declined to recommend criminal charges.

Protesters walk down University Avenue.
Protesters walk down University Avenue where they were protesting the police killing of Hughes.
Chris Juhn for MPR News

"It's tragic and we have to live on. A lot of us don't make it," Quinn said. "We get so depressed, we're suicidal. We just have to live on with the tragedy of what the cops have done."

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Quinn didn't know Hughes, but said they are distant cousins. Hughes was a member of the White Earth Nation.

Speakers at the rally for Hughes made demands of the St. Paul Police Department and Ramsey County Attorney's office, for release of body camera footage, as well as the 911 call, and that the officers be prosecuted.

Just a few feet away stood Gabriel Black Elk. He says he came out to support Hughes' family and "on behalf of my brother."

Black Elk said his brother Paul Castaway was killed by Denver police in July of 2015.

"We know exactly what they're dealing with, so we're here to try to ease that up a little bit," Black Elk said.

Both Mayor Melvin Carter and St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell say body cam video will be released in the coming days, after the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has completed key witness interviews and the family has been able to view the footage in private.