In Minneapolis, police shoot a Black man. According to investigators, there is no video evidence.
The family of a 32-year-old Black Minneapolis man is demanding transparency in the investigation into his death, which occurred Thursday while he was being arrested by members of a US Marshals Service task force.
The death of a man identified by family as Winston Boogie Smith Jr. has reintroduced a familiar situation to Minneapolis just days after the anniversary of George Floyd's murder: Members of the community who are distrustful of law enforcement are confronting officials and demanding answers in the aftermath of a Black man's death at the hands of police.
A judge has ruled that the trial of an ex-police officer who fatally shot Black motorist Daunte Wright may proceed.
The US Marshals and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which is investigating the shooting, said Smith was wanted on a felony firearms violation when the Fugitive Task Force of the US Marshals learned of his whereabouts Thursday.
When task force members attempted to arrest Smith, he was parked in a car on top of a parking garage in the city's Uptown neighborhood. Smith refused to comply and "produced a handgun, resulting in task force members firing on the subject," according to a statement from the US Marshals. According to task force members, they provided medical assistance, but Smith died at the scene.
According to the BCA, evidence indicated that Smith fired a weapon from inside his car, and a handgun and cartridges were recovered from the vehicle's driver's side. The bureau reported that a 27-year-old woman who was in the car with Smith sustained injuries from broken glass and was treated and released.
His family criticized law enforcement's portrayal of Smith, claiming that while he was attempting to "turn over a new leaf," police were "tarnish[ing] his character" with his past.
“They're using his past to undermine what he was attempting to accomplish in the present,” Smith's sister Tiesha Floyd said at a Friday news conference.
Smith was described by family and friends as a father of three who enjoyed music and writing comedy sketches. Smith's longtime girlfriend, Shelly Hopkins, described him to the Associated Press as a spiritual man who was most concerned with making people happy and being there for his children. Hopkins told the news organization that while Smith had legal issues, police "tried to build a case against him that didn't exist."
According to the BCA's statement, there is no video evidence of how the fatal shooting occurred, but Smith's family members and local activists have vehemently denied that claim.
“At the moment, the United States Marshal Service does not permit the use of body cameras by officers assigned to the North Star Fugitive Task Force,” the BCA stated in a statement. “There is no footage of the incident on the squad camera.”
Toshira Garraway, a Minneapolis community activist and founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, stated during Friday's news conference that she rejects the BCA's explanation.
“We have lost faith in simply believing the police narratives. They've relinquished their right to simply tell us a story," Garraway stated. “We require facts, and facts include any video footage. And we refuse to believe that no one has video footage from yesterday's appearance of all those departments.”
Generally, US Marshals do not wear body cameras, and members of local law enforcement deputized to serve on the agency's task forces are not permitted to wear their cameras while assisting the marshals. The Justice Department issued new guidance in October 2020 allowing deputized officers to wear body cameras during arrests and searches involving a warrant.
According to a Justice Department spokesperson, the US Marshals Service began phasing in the policy allowing task force officers to wear body cameras in February and it "continues to be implemented in the District of Minnesota."
The Justice Department will permit local police officers to wear body cameras while serving on federal task forces.
In the deaths of George Floyd and Wright, video footage captured by police body cameras or eyewitnesses played a critical role in raising public awareness and perception of the incidents. The footage confirmed community members and activists' skepticism of police narratives, particularly in the case of George Floyd's murder: Initially, police stated that he died "as a result of a medical incident during a police interaction," and included unverified details about Floyd allegedly committing forgery and being "under the influence."
Officer Derek Chauvin pinned his knee on George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, while an already-subdued Floyd cried out in pain and claimed he couldn't breathe.
Garraway stated that the community and family deserve the truth and transparency regarding Smith's death.
“Whether he was correct or incorrect, let the truth be known,” Garraway said. “Distribute the videos.”
Smith's assassination occurs as the relationship between law enforcement and community members remains strained in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder and, more recently, the April assassination of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in suburban Brooklyn Center. According to police, Kim Potter, a White officer, mistook her firearm for a stun gun.
Protests over Smith's death continued Friday evening and into early Saturday morning in the city's Uptown neighborhood. For an early evening candlelight vigil, mourners gathered near the parking garage where Smith was shot. According to the Star Tribune, protesters blocked traffic at the busy intersection of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue during rush hour and then blocked it again with makeshift barricades after police cleared the street.
After the vigil's crowd dispersed, several protesters clashed with police, hurling insults at officers and setting dumpsters on fire; according to Minneapolis Public Radio, about a dozen businesses near the shooting site were vandalized or looted overnight. According to a county sheriff's office spokesman, the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol arrested 26 people who were later booked into the Hennepin County Jail.
The city began removing the barriers surrounding the intersection where George Floyd was killed this week — the area had been designated a memorial and had been closed to traffic for more than a year. Protesters swiftly erected new barricades.