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Community activists call for more transparency, independent investigation into Winston Smith's death

Activists spoke outside of the Minnesota BCA on Monday calling on the governor to open an independent investigation.
Credit: KARE

ST PAUL, Minn. — Activists are calling for more transparency after Winston Smith was shot and killed by members of a U.S. Marshals' task force last month in Uptown Minneapolis.

In a press conference early Monday evening outside of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), community activists continued to demand answers and insisted that an independent investigation be conducted. A press release stated that Smith's family members were going to speak, but they never addressed the media.

"We demand that the governor appoint an independent investigation, because we can't believe what the BCA says," said Mel Reeves, a community activist and editor of The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, the state’s oldest continuously operated Black newspaper.

Smith was shot by two deputies in an Uptown parking ramp. Authorities have previously said they were attempting to serve an arrest warrant on Smith, who had missed a sentencing hearing where he was due to serve a four-year prison term.

Last week, the attorneys for Northan Askar, who claims to be the passenger inside the vehicle when Smith was shot and killed, provided more details of Askar's account of the shooting. In a statement through her attorneys, Askar said the law enforcement officers were not in uniform and did not identify themselves as authorities when they surrounded the SUV with their guns drawn. They also said Askar maintains her claim that she never saw Smith in possession of a gun, and added that he was lifting his phone to do a Facebook Live when deputies opened fire. Attorneys said they have yet to obtain the Facebook Live video.

RELATED: Search Warrants: BCA collected gun and 6 cartridge casings inside Winston Smith's car, 15 casings outside where police fired

According to two search warrants, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) agents collected a Smith and Wesson M&P 380 handgun from the front driver side of the SUV. They also collected six Blazer 380 Auto cartridge cases from the driver's side, center console and passenger side in the front of the vehicle.

Askar's attorneys also claimed the BCA did not conduct a gunshot residue test on Smith. A BCA spokesperson told KARE 11 in a statement that their lab doesn't do gunshot residue testing because it doesn't provide "conclusive evidence" about whether a gun was handled or fired, particularly if a gun was fired in close proximity inside of a vehicle.

There's no body-worn camera footage of the arrest and shooting because the U.S. Marshal Service didn't allow task force members to use their body cameras.

The Marshal's service announced last October that task force members from state and local law enforcement agencies could start using body cameras, but the footage would be owned and controlled by the U.S. Marshals. That policy change had yet to be implemented here in Minnesota when Smith was killed.

RELATED: What led up to Winston Smith's encounter with law enforcement?

RELATED: Fugitive task force losing local police agencies over body-worn camera policy

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