A US Marshals Service Task Force member who fatally shot Winston Smith Jr., a black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last summer, will not face criminal charges, the prosecutor said Monday.
Crow Wing County Attorney Dan Ryan said Task Force members were justified in using lethal force when they shot at Smith on June 3 because Smith shot him deadly.
“While I cannot determine who was shot first, it is irrelevant in this case,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman wrote in a letter Wednesday, according to the Star Tribune. “Once a person initiates a fatal force confrontation, the law enforcement officer does not have to wait to be shot / fired before responding.”
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While Smith, 32, of St. Paul, was in a parked SUV, he was shot by two Task Force members, who tried to arrest him, accusing him of possessing a firearm. At the time, the U.S. Marshals Service said it did not follow through and “produced a firearm as a result of the firing of Task Force members.”
Ryan said Smith was arrested when Task Force members identified him as law enforcement and ordered him out of the vehicle. He also used sirens when he boxed in his SUV, wore clearly marked tactical clothing, and issued several orders for Smith’s hands to be seen.
Ryan said Smith was doing something with his phone and didn’t follow up “for several minutes.” Smith then dropped his phone and leaned into the back seat – before the task force members shouted “don’t do” and “gun, gun, gun.”
Two Task Force members fired their weapons at Smith and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office says he was shot multiple times.
Ryan said the actions of the two Task Force members were “reasonable and justifiable.”
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“His behavior was clearly a response to the threat of death or great bodily harm.” As Ryan wrote, Star Tribune.
The fatal shooting came less than a year after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and months after an officer fatally shot Daunt Wright at a nearby Brooklyn center.
Smith’s death also sparked protests and there was no video of the shootings, officials said.
The lack of body camera footage raised questions as the Smith family and activists demanded transparency.