Attorneys: Woman never saw a gun on man shot by task force in Uptown | KSTP.com

Attorneys: Woman never saw a gun on man shot by task force in Uptown

Attorney Jeff Storms speaks during a press conference Thursday afternoon regarding the fatal shooting of Winston Smith. Photo: KSTP. Attorney Jeff Storms speaks during a press conference Thursday afternoon regarding the fatal shooting of Winston Smith.

KSTP
Created: June 10, 2021 04:50 PM

The woman who was in a vehicle when members of a federal U.S. Marshals Service task force fatally shot the driver last week said she never saw a gun on the man or in the vehicle, her attorneys said Thursday.

The statement from the woman's attorneys disputes investigators' claims that Winston Boogie Smith Jr., who was Black, displayed a handgun before officers on the task force opened fire on June 3 in a parking ramp in Minneapolis's Uptown neighborhood. Authorities have also said evidence indicated Smith fired his gun, saying a handgun and spent cartridge cases were found inside the vehicle.

The woman's attorneys, Christopher Nguyen and Racey Rodne, said their client “never saw a gun on Winston Smith leading up to the shooting and she never saw a gun inside the vehicle — at any time.”

The attorneys did not release the name of the woman, asking the public to respect her privacy and her “desire to heal as she is recovering from this profound trauma.” They did not elaborate on the nature of any physical injuries she received; authorities said the woman had suffered injuries from broken glass as a result of the shooting.

Smith, 32, of St. Paul, was killed as authorities were trying to arrest him on a weapons violation. The U.S. Marshals Service said he was wanted for allegedly being a felon in possession of a firearm and that Smith, who was in a parked vehicle, didn’t comply and “produced a handgun resulting in task force members firing upon the subject.”

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has said evidence indicates Smith fired his gun — a handgun and spent cartridge cases were found inside the car. The Hennepin County medical examiner said Smith died of multiple gunshot wounds.

The BCA, in a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Thursday, said it stands by that previous statement that evidence indicates Smith fired his weapon inside the vehicle, and a handgun and spent cartridge cases were recovered from inside the driver's compartment.

The shooting of Smith happened in a city that has been on edge since the death of George Floyd just over a year ago, and the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by an officer in nearby Brooklyn Center in April.

Smith's shootings sparked days of protests in the Uptown neighborhood as his family members and community members have demanded transparency. Authorities have said there is no body camera or squad camera footage of the shooting. In addition, the two task force members who fired at Smith — one sheriff's deputy from Ramsey County and one from Hennepin County — were working undercover so authorities say state law bars them from releasing their names.

Nguyen and Rodne said in their statement: “We are hopeful claims of commitment to progress in 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.”

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.

Local officials say the deputies were assigned body cameras, but were told by the U.S. Marshals Service that they could not use them, despite an October change in Justice Department policy that would have allowed them to be used. The issue led the Ramsey County sheriff to pull his deputies off the task force until body cameras are authorized.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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