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Police release video from shooting of Howard Johnson

The release comes a day after Johnson's family urged St. Paul Police to be transparent and release all videos from the night of the shooting.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Editor's note: The video above first aired on KARE 11 on Dec. 7, 2022.

The St. Paul Police Department has released an edited compilation of body-worn camera video and dash cam video from the night 24-year-old Howard Johnson was shot and killed in the city's Dayton's Bluff neighborhood.

Johnson's family viewed the footage released by police before it was made public. Kenneth Manning, Johnson's stepfather, told KARE 11 that the video "left a lot more questions than answers." He added that the family wants to see more footage and doesn't feel like they have any sort of closure at this point.

The 2-minute and 45-second compilation of videos and still images from body-worn cameras and police squad dashcam videos is posted on the SPPD's YouTube page.

The video contains graphic content that some might find offensive or difficult to watch. Viewer discretion is advised.

To view the video on YouTube, click here.

The first portion of the video is footage from Sgt. Cody Blanshan's body-worn camera. On Wednesday, Dec. 7, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension identified Sgt. Blanshan, a 10-year law enforcement veteran, as the officer who shot Johnson. The BCA said Blanshan is currently on standard administrative leave.

In the video, an officer is heard saying while inside a squad car, "he's right there. He's got the gun in his right hand," before saying, "he's pointing it at a car he's trying to carjack right now."

The squad car then drives forward and appears to hit Johnson. The video shows Blanshan open the driver's side door, at which point a man's voice says "don't do it, don't do it." Blanshan is then seen firing multiple shots at Johnson, who falls to the ground.

In the edited video, SPPD also included still images from Sgt. Blanshan's bodyworn camera which the department claims shows Johnson pointing a handgun; and another still image that SPPD claims shows a muzzle flash. In a third image, the SPPD video outlines what the department says is a gun on the ground next to Johnson after he was shot.

The Minnesota BCA, which is investigating the case, described the video as showing "an exchange of gunfire" between Johnson and Blanshan.

The video release comes a day after Johnson's family urged the department to be transparent in their investigation and make all videos from the night of the shooting public.

"I want justice for my child. I want justice for all the Black men that have been killed by police," Monique Johnson, Howard Johnson's mother, said at a press conference on Wednesday. "That is my child. I deserve to know what happened to him."

On Thursday, Johnson said that she had viewed the video released by police but demanded the release of more footage. 

"I want to know what happened from the beginning, to the end. I don't want bits and pieces. I want to know the truth," she said. "I want to know what happened to my child. I want to know it all." 

Speaking to reporters in a press conference Thursday afternoon, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter called the incident "especially targeting, especially triggering for us here in Minnesota," 

"In St. Paul, our community-first approach starts with the conviction that the trust that flows between our officers and our neighbors is one of our most precious, most sacred, one of our most fragile public safety resources," he continued.

"Transparency is key, because that trust cannot be fostered in the dark, that's why releasing body cam footage as soon as possible is always important." Carter added. 

Recently appointed SPPD Police Chief Axel Henry said Sgt. Blanshan's vehicle was not equipped with a dash cam, but more body-warn camera footage may be released in the future. 

"We have limited resources on some of the dashcams there and we're actually, that's an expiring product that we're refreshing," said Henry.

"We also know that any police action involves emotions that touch on a larger historical context that can be very painful for our community," he added. 

Blanshan's attorney, Paul Engh, released a statement after the release of the video, saying: “Sgt. Blanshan’s use of deadly force was completely justified. He believed he was about to be killed, and he was. He has provided a thorough statement to the BCA.”

Joe Dutton, a use-of-force expert and longtime law enforcement trainer, said this is a "clear-cut case of a justifiable, deadly force shooting." He said that the carjacking prevented officers from issuing more verbal commands to Johnson.

"They weren't guaranteed that with his gun he wouldn't shoot the person he was carjacking. They had to get in there right away," Dutton said. "Once he went to carjack that car, it escalated it to the highest point. They had to stop that." 

This is a developing story. KARE 11 will provide more details as new information becomes available.

WATCH: Family of man shot by St. Paul police demands 'justice and transparency' in investigation

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