A law enforcement shooting of a Black man in Minneapolis -- the third such high profile shooting in the area within a little more than a year -- is bringing criticism and demands for answers about what happened because there is no bodycam video of the incident.
CBS Minnesota reports Winston Smith, 32, who was wanted on a felony firearms violation, was confronted June 3 by several law enforcement agents at the top of a parking ramp. Officials said that he refused to surrender and pulled out a firearm. Deputies from Hennepin County and Ramsey County, working as part of a U.S. Marshals Task Force, responded by opening fire, killing him. Investigators found a firearm in Smith’s car with a spent cartridge, which indicates he had fired the weapon.
But body and squad camera footage does not exist because of a policy that prohibits local agents from wearing body cams while they are assigned to the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force. That policy was changed in 2020, but has not yet been implemented in Minnesota.
Still, activists are demanding accountability and transparency from law enforcement agencies because information surrounding the shooting, they say has been falsified and believe the head of the U.S. Marshals Service in Minnesota, Ramona Dohman, should step down.
“What is regrettably a reality is that the killing of Winston Smith has actually proven to us that the system in this state is fundamentally flawed and the federal oversight is also fundamentally flawed,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council of American Islamic Relations Minnesota. (CAIR-MN), at a press conference. “After the killing of Winston Smith, we have received false information from the police and law enforcement.
“In addition to that we have now learned that they chose not to wear body cameras, when we know the concept of wearing body cameras is not only acceptable practice, but it’s been the most recommended practice in making sure there is transparency and accountability,” Hussein added.
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But there seems to be confusion over who is and who isn’t allowed to wear body cameras. According to USA Today, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said he got an addendum from the U.S. Marshals that he thought would allow body camera use. But he was told later by Dohman that it would be some time before the measure approving the camera usage could be approved. Fletcher has since barred his deputies from participating in U.S. Marshals Task Force duties until the cameras are authorized.
Meanwhile, demonstrators have been marching in the Minneapolis area since the day of the shooting, and have protested at Dohman’s house.
Monique Cullars-Doty, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Minnesota, told USA Today that the shooting was “completely reckless” and that failure to use body cameras was “an intentional lack of transparency and an intentional lack of accountability."
Minneapolis has seen consistent protests over police violence involving Black people since the shooting of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, which spurred global demonstrations. Derek Chauvin, the policeman who was convicted in his death, is scheduled to be sentenced June 25.
Just 12 days before Chauvin was convicted, Daunte Wright, 20, was shot and killed by Brooklyn Center, Minn, policewoman Kim Potter, who said she mistakenly pulled her service weapon instead of her taser. She was charged with second-degree manslaughter.
These cases also harken back to the shooting of Philando Castile, the Falcon Heights, Minn., man shot dead by St. Anthony policeman Jeronimo Yanez. The officer was found not guilty in that killing.
Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
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