Use of force expert: Thurman Blevins shooting 'one of the most justified shootings I've ever seen'

If you thought body camera footage would eliminate all the controversy surrounding police shootings, the killing of Thurman Blevins shows that's not the case. There’s a wide gap in how some see that video, and much of that comes down to how police officers are trained.

Just 40 seconds pass between the moment the officers jump out of the squad car to when they open fire. Joe Dutton, a former cop and use of force expert, said the reason it happened so fast is because officers are trained to take control of the scene as quickly as possible.

“If you can’t shoot an individual in that situation right then, officers will never shoot anyone again. It’s one of the most justified shootings I’ve ever seen,” Dutton said. “He’s giving him opportunity after opportunity to comply. All he had to do was comply and put up his hand and laid him out prone. He never complied.”

When they go down the alley, a stabilized version of the video shows the gun. Dutton believes the officers clearly thought Thurman Blevins was preparing to open fire.  

“He can see things more clearly than on camera; he’s right there, he can see the gun,” Dutton said.

For some on the north side, what the video doesn’t show is context and history. 

Jaton White said that for all the talk about de-escalation, she doesn’t see any attempt.

“He should’ve put his hands up, but nowadays a lot of men believe they’ll be killed anyway,” she said. “If I had a bottle of gin and a gun, it’s not on my mind. I’m going to live my life in 2018."

White said she thinks a softer approach might’ve worked out better. Others wonder how the scene would play out in another neighborhood, with a different skin color. 

“You notice they go from zero to 60 because there’s a gun, but there is no concrete evidence he doesn’t have a permit to carry," said Korey Dean. “Unfortunately in America, black men don’t get a chance to explain whether they have a permit or not.”

It’s the disconnect we see every time, whether it’s Philando Castile or Jamar Clark. The community expects one outcome, and police training dictates another outcome.

Rather than resolving the issue, the body camera footage may just make the divide all the more clear.   

“I don’t know what people’s expectations are. I don’t care what color you are. You do what Mr. Blevins did, you will get shot every time,” Dutton said.