Robbinsdale Police Video Shows No Contact with Khalil Azad
After calls for transparency, the Robbinsdale Police Department has released more than five hours of squad and body camera footage from three officers involved in the pursuit of Khalil Azad before his death last summer.
Khalil Azad’s body was found in Crystal Lake, two days after police tried to pull him over for suspected drunken driving.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner concluded that he accidentally drowned, but family members and activists don’t believe that’s what happened.
In the early morning hours of July 3, Robbinsdale Police chased an SUV south on County Road 81 for suspicion of drunken driving.
“We got a vehicle that’s fleeing from me, and it looks like it’s going to crash here,” said Officer Tony Heifort in the video.
In the video, the white SUV veers off the road, briefly drives in the wrong direction, and crashes into a tree.
When officers make their way to the scene, they direct the two passengers of the vehicle to their squad cars.
Officer Heifort questions a young lady who claimed to own the vehicle.
“Who was the individual that was driving?” asked Heifort.
“That was a guy that I met, like, literally tonight,” the woman said.
Meanwhile, Officer Joshua Heasley questioned a male passenger.
“He’s got a gun here, I’m gonna take it out. He’s got a permit. You got a permit to carry?” Officer Heasley said.
“Yes sir. It’s in my wallet,” said the man.
“He does have a firearm on him,” Heasley said, speaking into his radio.
“Who was the driver?” Heasley asked the man.
“Uh, I don’t know,” said the man.
“You don’t know? Okay,” replied Heasley.
The officers then spend some time searching the vehicle. One officer said there was “a little bit of weed in the car.”
Meanwhile, Officer Heifort continues questioning the woman.
“Where were you guys headed to, that he was driving the way he was driving. Westbound 42nd, then he took the connector road that ran parallel with Highway 100, then he got on [County Road] 81, then he did the U-turn,” Heifort asked.
“Honestly, I don’t even know… I didn’t even know what he was doing. We literally were gonna smoke whatever blunt he had on him,” said the woman.
Additional law enforcement eventually show up to help search the surrounding area for the driver who fled.
“Police canine show me your hands,” yelled an officer in the Heasley body cam footage to nobody in particular. “You’re under arrest. Give yourself up now or I’ll send the dog.”
However, at no point in the videos do the officers ever find, or come into contact with, Khalil Azad.
“Yeah I’m guessing he’s long gone at this point,” Officer Heasley said to another officer
Family members, meanwhile, say the body cam footage raises more questions about what’s in the official police report.
The family, and Black Lives Matter Minnesota, are asking for body cam footage from all of the responding agencies to be released.
Robbinsdale City Council Responds
Hours after the video was released, Robbinsdale City Council members spoke about the public outcry involving Khalil Azad’s death. Council members said they have heard from the public about transparency in the Azad case.
“I do support the family getting all the information they need to answer the questions that they have around the death of their loved one,” said Sheila Webb, who represents Robbinsdale’s Ward 2. “I think it’s important that they get all the camera footage and all written reports from any and everybody on scene.”
“What I do know from personal experience with grief and loss, that natural inclination to seek understanding,” said Mia Parisian, who represents Ward 3. “So I do commend the city and our police department for sharing the information as quickly as they have.”
“The more that there is, the more that we can share and the more transparent we can become and more the trust we gain for everybody when you can find out the facts,” said Robbinsdale Mayor Bill Blonigan.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has also announced they will accept the Robbinsdale police request and conduct an independent investigation.
Related: Medical Examiner: Man Found in Robbinsdale’s Crystal Lake Accidentally Drowned