Conversations around race and racial justice

Robbinsdale police requests BCA review on circumstances around Khalil Azad’s death

Family and activists dispute police narrative on events last July

Updated: March 6, 3:04 p.m. | Posted: March 5, 9:48 a.m.

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

Man with dreads wearing a hooded sweatshirt
Khalil Azad
Courtesy of BLM Minnesota

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 BCA 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,” reads the release from the department.

24-year-old Khalil Ahmad Azad 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 is the art of the cover up in the BLM 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.

Correction (March 6, 2023): This story has been revised to correct the timing of the expected release of the body camera video in the case. The story also is updated with Khalil Azad’s correct age.