BCA Reviews Police Involvement in Death of Khalil Azad

Photo of Ayisha Johnson (left) and Jamal Johnson (right) in front of Hennepin County Government Center during walkout demonstration on March 6, courtesy of Andi Epperly

Olivia Allery, news editor

Last week on March 4, the Robbinsdale Police Department asked the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to conduct an independent review of the death of 24-year-old Khalil Ahmad Azad. According to police reports Azad had run from a traffic stop, leaving two passengers behind, after hitting a tree at around 1:27 a.m. on July 3, 2022. Officers pursued Azad and searched for him with K-9 units and a patrol helicopter around Crystal Lake. His body was later found floating in the lake two days after the stop. Azad’s death was ruled as an accidental fresh water drowning by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner back in September. Now, as pictures from Azad’s autopsy have begun circulating around social media, many are disagreeing with the examiner’s ruling and suspect Azad’s death to be a murder by Robbinsdale officers. 

The graphic autopsy images have shown that Azad sustained visual K-9 bite marks to his face and severe head trauma, so much so that the left side of his head was caved in. According to CBS News, many are comparing the images of Azad to the beatings of Emmett Till, Rodney King, and Tyre Nichols.

Azad’s family and community activists have already started calling for answers for what happened to Azad. On March 6, hundreds of high school students from dozens of schools walked out of class and marched on U.S. Bank Stadium, demanding for a full release of the body cam footage and an investigation to the agencies involved. According to CBS News, Azad’s family was also present at the rally and shared their thoughts moving forward. “We can see from the pictures that something needs to be done, and this shouldn’t keep happening,” says Azad’s sister, Ayisha Johnson. Azad’s family is also demanding an independent autopsy be done for Azad, to confirm his actual cause of death. 

The RPD has assured the public that the body cam footage from the officers on scene show that they did not make any contact with Azad during the stop. Following the walk-out demonstration, on the RPD publicly released this body cam footage, on March 7, which confirmed that the officers on scene did not make any contact with Azad, just the two passengers. 

Azad’s family were able to view the RPD footage before it was officially released to the public but are seeking more transparency from all involved parties. In an official statement made by the family, as reported by Fox 9 News, “We want full transparency about the agencies who were called to secure the perimeter. We have yet to see body camera footage from New Hope, and Crystal officers who also secured the perimeter of Crystal Lake.” Local organizations such as Black Lives Matter Minnesota, Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence and Minnesota Teen Activists are supporting Azad’s family in their request for transparency. 

The release of RPD’s footage has assured its confidence that no foul play was involved. Even with the footage release, the BCA is still proceeding with its independent review and is expecting to have results in the coming week. As of March 9, nothing has yet been reported on whether the New Hope or Crystal police departments will release their footage of the incident.