“She never saw a gun on Winston Smith, and she never saw a gun inside the vehicle at any time,” said Racey Rodne an attorney for the woman who was a passenger in the car and witnessed the shooting of Smith. He was shot by Hennepin County and Ramsey County sheriffs on June 3 in the Uptown area of Minneapolis.
“We are hopeful claims of commitment to progress, and transparency and accountability by the BCA and other law enforcement agencies since the murder of George Floyd will be borne out through their actions as we work to shine a light on why Winston Smith lost his life last Thursday while on a lunch date,” said Christopher Nguyen who is also representing the passenger whose name has not been revealed.
However, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is standing by its earlier account. In a statement, the BCA wrote that the evidence “indicates that [Smith] fired his weapon from inside the vehicle.” The BCA investigators also reported initially that they recovered a handgun and spent cartridges from “inside the driver’s compartment.”
Smith’s family is being represented by the office of civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Jeff Storms who is a part of the Crump legal team said at the press conference that the absence of body camera or dash camera footage reveals that “there is a lack of transparency.”
“The government has now just heard the people’s evidence,” said Storms. “We now ask for the government to come forward and show us what they have to support this narrative that they created which … was now contradicted here today.”
“In 2021, they are still hunting down and tracking down Black people,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, civil rights attorney and activist. She stated that the killing of Smith was a continuation of the role that U.S. Marshals played in hunting down fugitive slaves.
Levy Armstrong said the BCA is not an impartial agency and should not be conducting the investigation into the shooting because they have had agents deputized to serve on the Marshals Task Force. She said their involvement represents “an inherent, glaring conflict of interest.”
Levy Armstrong’s organization, the Racial Justice Network, submitted a letter to Gov. Tim Walz requesting him to call for a federal investigation into the shooting of Smith.
“We don’t believe the lies. We don’t believe the false narratives of the police,” said Levy Armstrong, accusing the U.S. Marshals Service of participating in a cover-up.
There was no justification for killing Winston Smith, which is why, afterward, they tried to slander his name,” said Angela Rose Myers, president of the Minneapolis NAACP. “The police have a history of covering up their crimes and use the BCA to do it. Just because a video didn’t go viral of his murder doesn’t mean his life didn’t matter. The police have no justification, no legal right no moral right, and no Godly right to keep taking our lives.” She added that it’s time that folks start believing Black people.
“After Daunte Wright was killed, we were screaming for police to be held accountable,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-MN. The only weapon in that car was a Black man. We are tired of the lies that law enforcement continues to perpetuate when they kill Black people.”
Local police violence activist Toussaint Morrison described the shooting as a result of an “open season on Black men.” He accused some in law enforcement of being undercover Klansmen who are using their authority as police as cover to kill and victimize Black people.
“The cops can’t investigate cops,” Morrison said.
Other speakers also called for an independent investigation into Smith’s killing and called on President Joe Biden to establish one.
Speakers also noted that the Star Tribune in its initial article about the shooting said that Smith was a murder suspect. That turned out to be false and the Star Tribune issued a formal apology on Thursday for the error. “The days of drive-by journalism is over,” said Hussein.
Adding to the mystery and suspicion surrounding the shooting was the discovery that none of the officers on the Task Force were wearing body cameras. In the wake of the shooting, the Hennepin and Ramsey County sheriff departments have decided they would no longer participate in U.S. Marshal Task Forces until body cameras are allowed.
Mona Doman has remained silent, and to date, the U.S. Marshals Service has not held a press conference to further explain exactly what happened on June 3.
The U.S. Attorney’s office earlier this week ordered U.S. Justice Department law enforcement officers to begin wearing body cameras when making arrests or serving warrants.
A funeral will be held for Winston Boogie Smith on Saturday, June 12 at 11 am at Shiloh Temple, 1201 West Broadway Avenue, Minneapolis. The visitation begins at 10 am.
Mel Reeves was the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder until he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had a long and storied history working at the MSR.
Find more about Reeve’s life and legacy here: spokesman-recorder.com/category/remembering-mel-reeves.