Activists in Minneapolis are calling for the dismissal of the Minnesota District Marshal and an investigation into the fatal shooting of Winston Smith Jr., which has sparked days of protests and a renewed review of the body camera policy for federal agents.
Local activist groups demanded Ramona Dohman resign from her post as head of the US Marshals Service in the state and demonstrated outside her home on Tuesday. Dohman, a 37-year-old law enforcement veteran, was appointed by President Donald Trump and was sworn in in June 2019.
“The system in this state is fundamentally flawed, and federal oversight is fundamentally flawed as well,” Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota US-Islamic Relations Council, said at a news conference Tuesday. “We need transparency and accountability.”
Smith, a 32-year-old black father of three, was fatally shot when officers from a US Marshals Service task force tried to arrest him last week on a warrant for illegal possession of a handgun. fire, according to a press release from the agency. Smith, who was parked in a car, “did not obey the officers’ orders” and “produced a handgun, which prompted task force members to shoot the matter,” the statement said.
Two sheriff’s deputies – one from Hennepin County and one from Ramsey County – shot Smith, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is leading the investigation. State investigators said a handgun and a used cartridge found inside the car indicate Smith fired his gun as well.
Protesters have demonstrated in Minneapolis almost daily after Smith’s death. The city has been on edge since the murder of George Floyd last year by a former Minneapolis police officer and the fatal police shootout against black motorist Daunte Wright in the nearby Brooklyn Center in April, all of which have two sparked mass protests.
Monique Cullars-Doty, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Minnesota, called the task force’s actions “completely reckless” and said not using body cameras was “an intentional lack of transparency and an intentional lack of accountability. “.
After: Two sheriff’s deputies shot dead man in attempted arrest, sparking new wave of unrest in Minneapolis
Why are there no body camera footage?
No video footage of the incident was shown. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said there was no footage captured by the team’s cameras and that the US Marshals Service did not allow body cameras for officers on this task force.
However, the US Marshals Service said that while deputy commissioners do not yet wear body cameras, the Justice Department allows agents of state, local and tribal task forces to do so. In October, the Justice Department approved the use of body cameras for officers on federal task forces.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office handed a body camera to one of the deputies involved in the shooting, but sheriff officials were told it could not be used while the deputy worked on the group’s operations of work, according to a spokesperson for the department.
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Meanwhile, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced Monday that federal agents would be required to wear body cameras when executing search warrants or planned arrests. She also ordered that they release the footage in a timely manner in the event of “serious bodily injury or death.”
The US Marshals Service, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will have 30 days to draft policies that meet the new requirements, Monaco said in a memo.
But there is still confusion about the process for local task force officers and how long it will take to get them into the field.
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said in a statement Monday that the day after Smith died, he received an addendum from the Marshals’ Office that he said would allow the use of body cameras.
Fletcher said Dohman later told him that “it might take a while to get approved” and that MPs are still not allowed to use body cameras.
A spokeswoman for Dohman’s office said she would not comment and directed all questions to US Marshals headquarters.
On Monday, Fletcher banned his deputies from participating in the US Marshals’ North Star Fugitive Task Force, the same task force involved in the Smith shooting, “until body cameras are actually permitted.”
In neighboring jurisdictions, Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart and Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson followed suit and announced they were suspending their deputies from working with the task force.
Other local police departments have previously refused to join task forces due to the body camera issue.
The Minneapolis Police Department does not participate in any task force where officers are prohibited from using their body cameras, spokesman John Elder said.
St. Paul police ceased to participate in the Fugitive Task Force in 2019 because Police Chief Todd Axtell was unwilling to “ditch this necessary transparency tool.”
After: The body cameras have not kept their promises to expose police misconduct. One reason: the police decide what to release.
Body cameras are supposed to allow the public to see what happens when a person is killed by the police. This doesn’t always happen because police departments often decide what the public sees and when, experts told USA TODAY.
For those who “thought body-worn cameras must catch bad officers and prove misconduct, I think they were largely disappointed,” said Scott Greenwood, a prominent constitutional rights lawyer.
Although marshals and task force members are more likely to use their guns, they are more difficult to hold accountable than average cops if something goes wrong, an investigation by The Marshall Project and USA TODAY Network found. .
Local prosecutors do not have the legal authority to prosecute federal agents, including police officers on the task force, and the Department of Justice can protect them from litigation.
Teddy Tschann, spokesperson for Gov. Tim Walz, told the Star Tribune that the governor’s office contacted the White House and the Justice Department about Smith’s death “and urged the federal government to provide the Minnesotans as much information as possible. “
After: US marshals act like local police, but with more violence and less accountability
Contributions: Christine Fernando, Tami Abdollah and Uriel J. Garcia, USA TODAY; Simone Weichselbaum and Sachi McClendon, The Marshall Project; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Winston Smith Jr .: No bodycam video, protesters want US marshal fired