The brother of Khalil Ahmed Azad, Jamal Johnson, marches alongside dozens of Minnesota students demanding transparency in his brother's death. (Elijah Todd-Walden/BLCK Press)
More than 200 students walked out of schools Monday afternoon and marched from US Bank Stadium to the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis to demand transparency and accountability for the death of Khalil Ahmed Azad.
According to Robbinsdale police Azad was suspected of driving under the influence early in the morning on July 3. Police attempted to pull him over but say that he resisted arrest, eventually driving his car into a tree and then fleeing on foot. Police say they stopped the search after 30 minutes, having expended all possible resources to find Azad, including a K-9 unit and a state patrol helicopter. Two days later Azad’s body was found in Crystal Lake.
In September the Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled Azad’s cause of death was drowning, but recently released photos of his body have sparked outrage, as it appears he was badly beaten and disfigured.
“I just know that, looking at those pictures, that something needs to be done. This just keeps happening,” Khalil’s sister, Ayisha Johnson, said tearfully. “He … had a daughter on the way, two months after his death. That’s all he cared about, is his baby.”
Azad’s brother, Jamal Johnson and mother, Fatimeh Todd, were also present at the student protest. Both his brother and sister said Khalid’s death has been difficult to grasp, and that his soon-to-be-born daughter will now have to grow up without a father.
Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families, said that the death of Azad is highly suspicious, and that she believes the police department is covering up Azad’s death the same way she believes St. Paul police officers covered up Justin Teigen’s death in 2009. Teigen is the father of Garroway’s child.
Robbinsdale Police insist that they had no contact with Azad.
The students say they are demanding an independent investigation into Azad’s death, the release of all body camera, traffic light, and helicopter footage taken at the site of the accident, an investigation into the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, and an independent autopsy of Azad’s body.
“We know that some of that damage was from the [water] damage, right? But we’ve also seen other parts of the body that we believe [came from] police brutality and from canines,” MN Teen Activists Executive Director Jerome Richardson said. “Today, we stand in solidarity with [Azad’s] family, and we will continue to go hard to get full transparency from Hennepin County as well as all other agencies involved.”
Robbinsdale police have requested an investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Affairs into Azad’s death. The BCA is currently reviewing the request.