A US prosecutor declined Monday to file criminal charges against police officers involved in the fatal shooting of an armed suspect who led them on a foot chase while yelling “don’t shoot me.”
Authorities’ release on Sunday night of officers’ body-camera footage from the June shooting in Minneapolis, involving a black suspect and white officers, raised tensions in the Midwestern city.
It is the latest case to highlight the fraught relationship between black communities and law enforcement agencies across the US.
The footage showed 31-year-old Thurman Blevins, armed with a handgun, running away from officers and yelling “please don’t shoot me” and “leave me alone.”
Blevins took the gun out of his pants pocket and turned towards the officers just before they fired 14 shots, according to the Hennepin County prosecutor’s office.
Blevins then collapsed and blood began to pool beneath his body, as an officer kicked away a handgun that had fallen to the ground.
“Mr Blevins represented a danger to the lives of (the officers),” County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a written statement.
“Their decision to use deadly force against Mr Blevins under those circumstances was authorized.”
Freeman had planned to announce his findings during a news conference, but was shouted down by activists as it appeared from his initial remarks that he was declining to prosecute.
“We came here for justice,” yelled one unidentified man. “Black people are tired of being hunted down like deer.”
The president of Minneapolis’s police union stepped into the fray, admonishing critics and alleging that Blevins had fired at officers.
“(Blevins’s gun) was fired. There was a casing recovered,” union president Bob Kroll said at a separate news conference.
“We challenge community activists who are critical of police to place themselves in the officers’ shoes. Tell us what you would have done different or better,” he said.
The shooting was the latest involving an African-American by a white police officer, a string of cases that has fueled outrage across the United States and given rise to the Black Lives Matter protest movement.
According to a database maintained by The Washington Post, 584 people have been shot and killed by on-duty US police in 2018. The database showed that 112 of those killed were black.