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Woman never saw gun on man shot dead in Minneapolis by task force, lawyers say

MINNEAPOLIS – The woman who was in a vehicle when members of a US Marshals Service federal task force shot the driver last week said she had never seen a weapon on the man or in the vehicle, his lawyers said Thursday.

The statement from the woman’s lawyers contradicts claims by investigators that Winston Boogie Smith Jr., who was black, showed a handgun before task force officers opened fire on June 3 in a ramp of parking in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. Authorities also said there was evidence that Smith fired his gun, claiming that a used handgun and cartridge cases were found inside the vehicle.

The woman’s lawyers, Christopher Nguyen and Racey Rodne, say their client “had never seen a gun on Winston Smith before the shooting and that she had never seen a gun inside the vehicle , At no moment”.

Lawyers did not disclose the name of the woman, who was having lunch with Smith. They called on the public to respect her privacy and her “desire to heal as she recovers from this deep trauma.” They did not specify the nature of the physical injuries she suffered; Authorities said the woman was injured by shattered glass as a result of the shooting.

The woman did not appear at a press conference with her lawyers. They did not expand on his experience or answer questions.

Smith, 32, of St. Paul, was killed as authorities tried to arrest him for a weapons violation. The US Marshals Service said he was wanted for allegedly being a criminal in possession of a firearm and that Smith, who was in a parked vehicle, did not comply and “produced a gun. fist, which prompted the members of the working group to shoot the subject.

Candles and flowers are held during a vigil for Winston Boogie Smith Jr. in early June 5, 2021. Authorities say Smith, wanted for weapons violation, fired a gun from inside his home. vehicle before being shot down by members of a federal task force as they attempted to stop it.Christian Monterrosa / AP file

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said evidence indicates Smith fired his gun – a handgun and used cartridge cases were found inside the car. When asked to respond to the woman’s contradictory account that she had not seen a gun, Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon said the BCA was upholding its statement earlier.

Smith’s shooting took place in a city that’s on edge since George Floyd’s death a little over a year ago, and the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by an officer at the nearby Brooklyn Center in April. .

Smith’s shooting sparked days of protests in the Uptown neighborhood as his family and community members demanded transparency. Authorities said there was no body camera or team camera from the shooting. In addition, the two task force members who shot Smith – a Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputy and a Hennepin County Sheriff’s Assistant – were working undercover, so authorities said state law to them. forbade disclosure of their names.

Nguyen and Rodne said they hope law enforcement pledges to work towards greater transparency and accountability since Floyd’s death “will be confirmed by their actions as we work to shed light on the reasons Winston Smith lost his life last Thursday during a Lunch Date. “

Jeff Storms, an attorney for Smith’s family, said the government has now heard “the people’s testimony” and the people deserve to hear the government’s evidence in this case.

“There is a lack of transparency due to the lack of body cameras. We are now asking the government to come forward and show us what it has to support this narrative it has created … now contradicted here today.

The BCA said Thursday it would release all public data when the investigation is closed. Until then, the agency said, state law prohibits it from disclosing evidence or discussing an open and active investigation. Once the BCA has completed its work, it will forward its findings to a prosecutor for review.

The lack of body camera footage of the shooting has raised questions in Minnesota, as Smith’s family members and activists continue to demand transparency. Activists on Thursday also called for the removal of Minnesota officers from federal task forces, and they said the BCA should not investigate, alleging a conflict of interest exists when police investigate police.

Angela Rose Myers, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, was among those demanding transparency and accountability.

“Just because a video of Winston Smith’s murder didn’t go viral doesn’t mean his life doesn’t matter,” she said.

Local officials say task force deputies received body cameras, but the US Marshals Service told them they could not use them, despite a change in Department of Justice policy in October that would have allowed their usage. The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office said they would not participate in the task force until cameras were cleared.

This week, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco ordered Justice Department law enforcement officers to wear body cameras when making planned arrests or search warrants . The directive directs heads of the Marshals Service, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to develop body-worn camera policies within 30 days.

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