St. Paul police release video showing officer fatally shooting man

A screenshot of a police body camera video shows a muzzle flash
St. Paul police released this image Thursday they say shows Howard Johnson firing at an officer Monday. The officer shot and killed Johnson. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating.
Courtesy of St. Paul Police Department

Updated 4:38 p.m.

St. Paul police on Thursday released edited body camera videos and images showing views of Monday’s night’s gunfire between Howard Peter Johnson and the police before an officer shot and killed him.

St. Paul Police Sgt. Cody Blanshan and another officer were in their squad car helping to establish a perimeter near Earl Street and Hudson Road in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood as part of a response to a domestic assault report, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Johnson, 24, the subject of the call, allegedly tried to carjack a woman's vehicle at gunpoint outside a business on Hudson Road, the BCA said.

Portions of the video and still images released Thursday afternoon by police show Blanshan spotting Johnson on the street and then confronting him.

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"He's right there,” the officer can be heard saying into his radio before driving toward him. “He's walking eastbound Hudson. He's got the gun in his right hand. He's pointing at a car. He's trying to carjack now,” he says as he accelerates the squad.

Audio of a car accelerating and other noises can be heard.

Blanshan yells “Don’t do it” after he stops the squad and opens the door. Two seconds later, the sound of multiple gunshots can be heard. Johnson falls.

Warning: The video contains graphic content

Still pictures from the body camera video provided by the police department show Johnson appearing to point and fire a handgun at the officer while heading away from him. Another still image shows Johnson lifeless on the ground with a handgun by him.

The BCA is leading the investigation, a common practice in Minnesota police shootings. Video and images released Thursday by St. Paul police don’t include any local surveillance video or other images not controlled by the St. Paul police.

Following the video release Thursday, Mayor Melvin Carter offered condolences to Johnson’s family and urged the public to be patient as BCA investigators do their work.

Asked whether the video indicates the officer was justified in shooting Johnson, Axel Henry, the city’s police chief, said that he didn’t want to make judgments on a case he’s not personally involved with but that “the video speaks for itself.”

Two men stand next to each other
St. Paul Police Chief Axel Henry (left) and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter answer questions Thursday after the police killing of Howard Johnson in St. Paul.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

The BCA on Wednesday said the footage "appears to show an exchange of gunfire" between Johnson and Blanshan. Investigators allegedly recovered a .45 caliber Glock handgun and three of its cartridge casings, as well as Blanshan's 9mm weapon and 10 of its casings.

Blanshan, who’s been a law enforcement officer for a decade, is on administrative leave while the investigation is underway.

The St. Paul video release does not include video from Blanshan’s partner. Henry said he thought video from the other officer’s camera would be released eventually but that it “doesn’t show anything as substantive as we released today.”

Johnson’s family had been pressing for the release of video since Monday’s shooting.

Before seeing it, “the family was ready to accept the police narrative about what happened. But after viewing the video, they're not willing to do that,” Trahern Crews, a Black Lives Matter activist who said he was with Johnson’s family members as they watched the body camera video, told MPR News.

Crews said that no protests were planned Thursday but would likely happen Saturday.

MPR News reporters Matt Sepic and Sarah Thamer contributed to this report.