Crow Wing County District Attorney Examines Winston Smith’s Death Following Law Enforcement Gunfire
Attorney for Crow Wing County in central Minnesota reviews evidence and makes a prosecution decision in the fatal shooting of Winston “Boogie” Smith Jr. at a parking ramp in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis by members of a federal law enforcement task force.
Donald Ryan, who has held the position for 27 years, said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman looked 125 miles northwest of Brainerd’s office to find an attorney who had no conflict of interest. ‘interests. MPs from three metropolitan counties were part of the US Marshals Service task force, whose members shot Smith on June 3 as he tried to serve an arrest warrant against him. Ryan said he would review the evidence himself and hopes to have a decision by mid-October.
“I know that [Freeman] checked with a lot of great counties around there, ”he said. “It seems like everyone in the Twin Cities has a conflict. “
Besides the distance to the metro area, Ryan said he suspected Freeman “just calling because of my experience.”
Jeff Storms, a civilian attorney representing the Smith family, said he knew Crow Wing County would make the decision to indict.
Ryan said he understands that criminal investigations of officers who kill civilians on duty have often led to sometimes violent civil unrest in recent years, but he said such external forces will not affect his work.
“I have a case, I will look at the evidence and I will make the decision that the evidence calls for,” he said.
Since his election in 1994, Ryan said, he has had “a few” police lethal force cases to consider for possible charges and does not think he has decided to charge an officer with a felony. “If I had done it, I would have remembered,” he said.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which investigated the shooting, said it reported its findings to the Crow Wing County District Attorney’s office in late July.
While Smith was killed in Hennepin County, several Metro County attorneys referred such cases to other agencies for review to avoid a conflict of interest when their local police departments are involved in the deaths. .
Preliminary investigation shows it was a Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputy and Ramsey County Deputy who shot Smith while he was under the direction of the US Marshals Service’s Northstar Violent Offender Task Force, which was trying to arrest him on a warrant for being a felon in possession of a gun. The officers who fired have not been publicly identified and likely will not be due to their undercover status, under federal and state law.
Smith was shot dead while in an SUV atop a parking ramp in the 1400 block of W. Lake Street across from Stella’s Fish Cafe, where he had just had dinner.
The BCA did not say who fired first, but the agency previously issued a press release indicating that Smith fired a gun from inside the vehicle he was sitting in when he was beaten down.
Lawyers for the woman who was in the car with Smith said she had never seen him with a gun. There is no body camera or on-board patrol car camera from the incident as none were used. Additionally, the ramp operator said his cameras are only aimed at entrances, exits and stairwells.
A search warrant affidavit filed by investigators indicated that several police firearm cartridge cases were recovered from the scene and that a pistol and corresponding cartridge cases were found inside the police vehicle. Smith.
Several nights of public protest followed the death of Smith, who began to build a small local audience for his comedy sketches online on Instagram.
Smith, who was black, also spoke openly about police brutality, particularly after the murder of George Floyd by sacked Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482
Chao Xiong • 612-673-4391