Hundreds of students walk out in Twin Cities to demand investigation of Khalil Azad’s death

A young woman raises her fist and holds a poster
Jamal Johnson (left) and Ayisha Johnson (center), siblings of Khalil Azad, march through downtown Minneapolis on Monday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Members of Khalil Azad’s family along with students, led by the Minnesota Teen Activists group, gathered in a crowd outside U.S. Bank Stadium Monday before marching to the Hennepin Government Center. 

Students chanted Azad’s name and carried signs reading “No Justice No Peace” and “Justice for Khalil Azad.”

A young woman is comforted as she tears up
Ayisha Johnson, sister of Khalil Azad, is comforted by Minnesota Teen Activists director Jerome Richardson at a press conference and walkout in Minneapolis on Monday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

“Me and Khalil were very close at a young age and we were basically best friends. He basically had a beautiful smile,” said Ayisha Johnson, Azad’s sister, who said Azad left behind a young daughter. 

The 24-year-old was found dead in Crystal Lake in July 2022, two days after Robbinsdale police attempted to pull him over for a traffic stop. 

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The family has questioned the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s determination from October that Azad died due to “freshwater drowning.”

Students march through a downtown street
Students chant and hold signs as they march through downtown Minneapolis during a walkout honoring Khalil Azad on Monday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

“We all know looking at those (autopsy) pictures that there’s something that needs to be done,” Johnson added. 

Officials reported Azad fled the scene after hitting a tree around 1:27 a.m. on July 3, 2022. K-9 units with the Plymouth Police Department searched for Azad for about 30 minutes, accompanied by a state patrol helicopter.

A woman speaks into a mic
Khalil Azad’s mother, Fatomeh Azad, speaks at a press conference and walkout in Minneapolis on Monday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Police said they did not find him until July 5, when they were dispatched to reports of an unknown body in Crystal Lake. Police determined the man, later identified as Azad, to be deceased at the scene.  

Azad’s family members have questioned the determination after seeing graphic photos in the autopsy report. Late last month they held a news conference to demand an independent investigation and the release of body camera footage. 

Members of the Minnesota Teen Activists group have taken up concerns from the family. 

“We’re happy to be here with many students and many more who are on the way,” said Jerome Richardson, executive director of Minnesota Teen Activists. “(We are here) to demand justice for Khalil Amad Azad … demanding justice and answers as to what happened to Khalil Amad Azad on July 3rd, 2022.” 

A young Black man holds a sign and looks into the camera
Roosevelt High School senior Jamal Tyus holds a sign at a walkout in Minneapolis on Monday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Students said they want law enforcement to release all video from the police chase, including body camera, dash camera, traffic light and helicopter footage. 

They’re also asking for an independent investigation into all agencies involved. And they’re calling for an independent investigation into the policies and practices of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office. 

Nadia Abraham, a senior a Coon Rapids high school, said she didn’t want to be at a walkout but had decided to attend anyway. 

A young Black woman yells a protest chant
Coon Rapids High School senior and student activist Nadia Abraham chants during a walkout honoring Khalil Azad in Minneapolis on Monday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

“I’m tired of being out here. I’m tired of doing the same thing over and over,” Abraham said. “Our voices are important, but it feels like we’re not being listened to.”

Last week the Robbinsdale Police Department said it would soon release body camera footage about the last known moments of Azad’s life. 

It has also requested the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension conduct an independent review of the case. The BCA said it is reviewing the request.

Students hold signs
Student protesters hold signs to honor Khalil Azad at a press conference and walkout in Minneapolis on Monday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News