Members of a U.S. Marshals Service task force will not be indicted for the fatal shooting of Winston Smith Jr., a Black man who was killed while authorities were trying to detain him as he sat in his vehicle over the summer.
On Monday (Oct. 11), the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced the news. Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan, the Minnesota prosecutor who reviewed the case, said the task force members were justified in their use of deadly force when they shot and killed Smith on June 3. After an investigation, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Smith fired his gun as authorities pursued the arrest.
A handgun and spent cartridge were found outside of Smith’s SUV. The U.S. Marshals Service said he did not follow their commands and “produced a handgun resulting in task force members firing upon the subject.”
Norhan Askar, a woman who was in the SUV with Smith at the time of the shooting, told her attorneys that the officers were not in uniform and did not properly identify themselves when they approached the vehicle with their weapons drawn. Askar also said that she never saw a gun on Smith or in his car and he was shot after he raised his cellphone to begin filming the encounter.
According to authorities, there is no video of the shooting. Smith’s relatives and activists in the area demanded transparency by the lack of body camera footage. The deputies on the task force were reportedly assigned body cams, but were told by the U.S. Marshals Service that they couldn’t use them — despite an Oct. 2020 Justice Department policy that would have permitted law enforcement and task forces to “activate a body-worn camera while serving arrest warrants, or during other planned arrest operations, and during the execution of search warrants.”