A woman who was with Winston Smith, a black man who was shot dead by two deputy sheriff’s in Minneapolis earlier this month, said through her lawyers that she had never seen Smith show a gun, according to the narrative Law enforcement authorities disagree about the shooting.
“She never saw a gun at Winston Smith, and she never saw a gun in the vehicle,” Racey Rodne, an attorney for the woman, said during a news conference Thursday.
The woman’s report contradicts claims made by law enforcement and investigators that Smith showed a pistol before officers opened fire. State investigators also said a handgun and spent cartridge were found in the car, suggesting Smith fired his gun.
Officials from six law enforcement agencies, including the Hennepin and Ramsey Counties Sheriff’s Offices, were part of a US Marshals Service task force that attempted to arrest Smith on June 3 for illegal gun possession.
State investigators have said the names of the two Hennepin and Ramsey Counties MPs who shot 32-year-old Winston Smith in an attempted arrest on June 3 will not be released because they were working undercover.
State investigator:Undercover MPs who fatally shot a black man in Minneapolis are not identified
“I will protect my brother’s name”:Family of Minneapolis man killed by MPs demands accountability
The shooting of Smith sparked yet another wave of protests in a city tense since the murder of George Floyd, a black man pinned by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin last year. Protests also followed the fatal police shooting of black driver Daunte Wright in the nearby suburb of Brooklyn Center in April.
The lawyers did not reveal the name of the woman who had lunch with Smith and asked the public to respect her privacy while she recovers from “this profound trauma.” The US marshals said the woman was injured by broken glass, but her lawyers did not comment on her physical injuries.
“We are hopeful of commitment to progress, transparency and accountability by the BCA and other law enforcement agencies since the assassination of George Floyd are confirmed by their actions as we work to shed light on why Winston Smith last lost his life on a Thursday Lunch, “said Christopher Nguyen, one of the attorneys.
The Bureau of Criminal Appreciation, which is leading the investigation, said no video footage of the shooting was known and urged all viewers to report. The US Marshals Service does not allow body cameras for officers on this task force.
Activists and Smith’s family have raised concerns about the lack of footage as they demanded transparency and accountability.
High profile civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Jeff Storms, who represented Floyd’s family, said they are now representing Smith’s family. At the press conference, Storms voiced concerns about “a lack of transparency due to the lack of body cameras”.
“We are now asking the government to come forward and show us what it must have to support this created narrative that … has been contradicted here today,” he said.
Nekima Levy Armstrong, civil rights activist and founder of the Racial Justice Network, described it as “unacceptable” that the US marshals still do not need police body cameras. She urged the city to stop allowing its officials to participate in federal working groups that do not require body cameras, particularly U.S. marshals working groups.
“We don’t believe the lies,” she said. “We don’t believe in the wrong law enforcement accounts. We do not believe in the false stories that have been spread by our local media. And we’re not going to be complicit in covering up the murder of a father, “a comedian, a hip-hop artist, a son, a brother and a friend.”
Angela Rose Myers, president of the NAACP in Minneapolis, said police had “covered up their crimes and used the BCA for them” in the past.
“Just because a video of Winston Smith’s murder didn’t go viral doesn’t mean his life didn’t matter,” she added.
Meanwhile, Smith’s family honored his memory at a funeral on Saturday.
“He really was a ray of sunshine – the kindest, cutest and most cheerful person,” said Tieshia Floyd, Smith’s sister, according to WCCO-TV at the gathering.
His obituary on the funeral page said Smith loved spending time with friends and family, including his two daughters and son.
“Winston was energetic, full of life, always a prankster and very funny,” says the obituary. “He had a heart of gold and would help anyone in need.”
At a press conference earlier this month, Smith’s loved ones remembered him as the loving father of his three children and as a comedian who wrote comedy sketches for social media. Floyd advocated transparency and defended her brother’s character and story.
“My brother was nice,” she said. “No, it wasn’t perfect. None of us are. He tried to open a new page, but they took that away from him. “
“I love my brother and I just don’t want the world to judge him for what’s out there,” she added. “I will protect my brother’s name until justice is done.”
Contribution: The Associated Press
Contact News Reporter Christine Fernando now at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.