Why did the police have to kill Travis Jordan, Part Two


On Thursday, Jan. 3, County Attorney Mike Freeman released this statement:

“Two Minneapolis police officers will not be charged in the fatal shooting of Travis Jordan, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Thursday.”

Officers Ryan Keyes and Neal Walsh fired a total of eight shots at the 36-year-old Jordan, killing him. At the time, he was moving toward Officer Walsh with a 13.5-inch Chefmate knife with an 8-and-a-quarter-inch blade and refused repeated orders not to move and to drop the knife.

“I express my heartfelt condolences to Mr. Jordan’s family and to his girlfriend over his tragic death,” Freeman said. “However, in reviewing all of the evidence gathered by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, including video from the officers’ body cameras, it was clear, at that moment, Mr. Jordan presented a real danger to the officers. Under Minnesota law, they were justified in using deadly force.”

According to the eight-page report of the county attorney, based on the BCA’s investigation, Jordan’s girlfriend called Minneapolis police at 1:58 p.m. on Nov. 9. She told the dispatcher that he was threatening to commit suicide at his home at 3731 Morgan Ave. N. She had spoken to him by phone about 15 minutes earlier and he said he wanted to die. When she told Jordan she was going to call police, he said he would talk to them when they arrived.

Keyes and Walsh, in squad 410, were sent to the house. When they arrived, Walsh knocked on the door on the outside of the enclosed front porch numerous times but received no response. He noticed a neighbor clearing snow from his car and went to ask him about the people who lived in the house.

Officer Keyes, meanwhile, walked around toward the back of the house and saw Jordan in the kitchen. He tapped on the window screen and motioned for Jordan to meet him at the front door. When he did not come to the front door, the officer again went back toward the rear of the house.

This time, Keyes could see Jordan standing in an adjacent room talking on a smartphone with headphones. He likely was talking to his girlfriend, because she called 911 again at 2:11 p.m. to say she just talked to Jordan, who told her the police were there, that he had knives and that he “was going to go down today.”

To get his attention, Keyes shined his flashlight into the house. Jordan walked toward the window and made an obscene gesture to the officer. Keyes gestured for him to come closer and Jordan opened the window and said “F—k you,” and slammed the window shut. Officer Walsh had walked away from the neighbor and was close enough to hear Jordan yell the expletive several times at Keyes and then slam the window. Both officers said Jordan was slurring his words and Walsh said he appeared angry.

Both officers went back to the front of the house. Officer Walsh called their sergeant on the phone and was told not to attempt a forced entry. Officer Keyes stood in a spot near a front corner of the porch where he thought Jordan could not see him. He could hear Jordan yelling inside. He also noticed that the door from the porch into the house was ajar.

Keyes heard Jordan say “let’s do this,” and he asked him what he wanted to do. Jordan came out of the house onto the porch, yelling and carrying the knife in his right hand. Keyes drew his gun, warned his partner that Jordan had a knife and shouted to Jordan to drop the knife.

Within seconds, Jordan pulled open the outside door so that he was now standing in the outer doorway. Keyes tried to back up and get behind a tree. Walsh also was backing up and both were telling him to drop the knife, while Jordan kept repeating, “Let’s do this.”

Both officers kept telling Jordan to drop the knife and Walsh told him not to come outside. Jordan ignored all the commands and kept walking toward Walsh, who kept retreating and told Jordan several times, “I don’t want to do this.” When Walsh reached the street curb, he said Jordan took a “super aggressive step” toward the officer and both officers fired their weapons. Keyes fired once and missed and Walsh fired seven times. At least three of Walsh’s bullets struck Jordan. The shots were fired at 2:12 p.m.

The two officers immediately handcuffed Jordan for their safety and began providing first aid and they were quickly joined by a third officer. Paramedics arrived and took him to North Memorial Medical Center where he died.

Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators executed a search warrant of the house. In the second floor bedroom where Jordan was staying they found a notebook. On the top page was written, “Paul I’m so sorry this happened at your house.” Paul is the home owner.

The BCA Crime Lab took measurements at the scene and determined that when Jordan was in the outside doorway, he was 22 feet from Officer Walsh. When the officer fired his first shot, the two men were separated by only 12 feet.

Freeman and senior prosecutors reviewed the case. State law and U.S. Supreme Court decisions require a prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the deadly force was not justified in order to criminally charge the police officer. Minnesota law says a police officer may use deadly force in order “to protect the peace officer or another from apparent death or great bodily harm.”

The evidence shows that at the time he was shot, Mr. Jordan was wielding a large knife, refused numerous commands to drop the knife, refused commands not to come out of the house or approach the officers and, instead, presented the officers with a deadly threat.

“Officers Walsh and Keyes’ use of deadly force was objectively reasonable in the face of the danger of death or great bodily harm and no criminal charges could or should be made,” Freeman concluded.

Clearly, the MPD is not competent to deal with people experiencing a mental health crisis. Their practice is to bring overwhelming force into a situation and force an offender into submission. That is exactly the wrong thing to do when dealing with people who are desperate. Travis Jordan was marginally employed and suicidal when the police banged on his door and seemed to threaten him. Thurman Blevins was marginally employed, drunk and disorderly when the police jumped out of their car with guns drawn and chased after him. Jamar Clark was marginally employed, drunk and stoned when the police jumped him from behind and sat on him. Terrance Franklin was marginally employed and stoned when the police chased him, found him in a basement, set attack dogs on him, beat him with a flashlight and threw him into the path of a machine gun.

Young men who are marginally employed, particularly young men of color, will become desperate, and they may become suicidal. Jordan, Blevins, Clark and Franklin may have said to themselves, “This life is going nowhere. I’m going to cop-out”—and committed suicide by cop. And a lot of white cops (especially from the 4th Precinct) seemed happy to cooperate.

But that cooperation is illegal under Minnesota Statute 609.215, SUICIDE: “Subdivision 1. Aiding suicide. Whoever intentionally advises, encourages, or assists another in taking the other’s own life may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both.”

“But that can’t apply to police officers,” you might think. But if you read further into the Statute: “Subd. 4. Injunctive relief: A cause of action for injunctive relief may be maintained against any person who is reasonably believed to be about to violate or who is in the course of violating this section by any person who is: (4) a person authorized to prosecute or enforce the laws of this state.”

In other words, if we can reasonably believe police officers from the 4th Precinct (who are authorized to enforce the laws of this state) will assist minority young men in committing suicide, then a district court should issue an injunction barring these officers from violently confronting suicidal young men. They need to stand down, walk slowly backwards, put their guns away and call for backup, and backup should include vocational guidance counselors and mental health professionals.

If Walsh and Keyes would have backed down, got in their car, rolled up the windows and called for professionals who know how to deal with this situation, Travis Jordan would probably be alive today.

It is our responsibility to solve this problem today before the police kill the next Travis Jordan or Thurman Blevins or Jamar Clark or Terrance Franklin tomorrow.

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