Updated: June 24, 2021 10:11 PM
Created: June 24, 2021 09:41 PM
The acting U.S. attorney for Minnesota says there was a 'miscommunication' as to why no agents on a federal task force were wearing body cameras during the shooting death of Winston Smith Jr.
On June 3, Smith was killed after two sheriff's deputies, one from Ramsey County and Hennepin County, shot him during an attempted warrant arrest regarding a suspected firearms violation. The deputies were part of the North Star Fugitive Task Force – made up of federal, state and local law enforcement agents.
Days after the shooting, near the location of the incident, protesters called for more transparency on the streets of Uptown Minneapolis. As investigators started to release information, we learned there were no body-worn cameras on any of the agents.
Minnesota's Acting U.S. Attorney Anders Folk, whose office works closely with the U.S. Marshals Service, says there was a Department of Justice policy in place since October 2020 that would've allowed local agents to wear them.
"Clearly, the policy in Minnesota hadn't been implemented," Folk said. "There may have been a miscommunication in terms of the federal and state understandings of what needed to happen."
When pressed on the miscommunication, he mentioned the body camera policy that would've allowed the local agents to wear them was in the process of being implemented.
"What I've heard from our local partners, and what they've said publicly, is that they had a particular understanding of what they were permitted to do and not permitted to do," Folk added. "That was their understanding, perhaps there was a miscommunication and, if that's the case, we're obviously committed to fixing that."
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, whose deputy was one of the two who shot and killed Smith, said his office was denied use of body-worn cameras while working with the federal task force as recently as May 25, 2021, during an Operation Safety Net meeting.
"Federal representatives told us they were still not allowed to utilize body cameras on federal task forces in Minnesota and again said they were 'working on the problem,'" Fletcher wrote in a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
Since the June 3 shooting death of Smith, sheriff's offices in Ramsey, Hennepin and Anoka counties have pulled out of the partnership with the U.S. Marshals Service and the North Star Fugitive Task Force.
Four days after the shooting, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco released a memo that called on federal law enforcement agencies – including the U.S. Marshal Service – to develop and submit a body camera policy to the Department of Justice by July 7.
"For the first time in the department's history, this is kind of going to be the new normal," Folk said about the DOJ's new policy that will allow federal, state and local agents to wear body cameras.
As for when cameras will be on agents, Folk didn't have a specific date. But, in Fletcher's statement, he said the Marshals Service noted it could take a while.
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