The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in St. Paul, July 25, 2012. Credit: .Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News (file photo)

This story comes to you from MPR News through a partnership with Sahan Journal.

The Robbinsdale Police Department will release body camera footage early next week of the last known moments of a young Black man’s life to address mounting community concerns around his death. 

It has also requested the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension conduct an independent review of the case, according to a press release late Friday. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said it is reviewing the request. 

“Although a thorough investigation was completed last year, in an effort of transparency we support an independent agency to review all relative evidence, reports and information regarding this incident,” read the release from the department. 

Khalil Ahmad Azad, 26, was found dead in Crystal Lake in July, two days after Robbinsdale police attempted to pull him over for a traffic stop.  

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. 

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 on scene.  

In October, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office declared the cause of death as “freshwater drowning.” 

Family members questioned the determination after seeing graphic photos in the autopsy report which they say shows signs of Azad being beaten and bitten by dogs. They held a press conference last Monday to demand an independent investigation and the release of body camera footage. 

The autopsy images have been circulating on social media, drawing strong reactions. 

Trahern Crews, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Minnesota, likened the response to the deaths of Emmett Till and Rodney King. 

“We can’t always just go with what the police tell us or even what the medical examiner tells us a lot of times. You have to go and get an independent autopsy and do the investigation yourself to get down to the real facts,” Crews said. “So what we call it as the art of the cover up in the Black Lives Matter movement.” 

Crews said Azad was known as a proficient swimmer, so the medical examiner’s determination led to more questions for the family. 

More rallies and protests are planned for the upcoming week.

Feven Gerezgiher is a reporter and producer for MPR News. At MPR News, she works with a team focused on reporting with and for young adults. She started her journalism career in community radio, covering...