The friends and family of a father of three killed by Minnesota sheriff’s deputies Thursday are calling for the release of all footage of the moments that led up to his death. But authorities say there is none to back up their version of events.
Two sheriff’s deputies, one from Hennepin County and one from Ramsey County, shot and killed a man friends and family identified as 32-year-old Winston Boogie Smith in a parking garage in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. The deputies had been working with U.S. Marshals to arrest Smith for felony firearm possession. Authorities have not released an official identification of the victim.
Officials from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension say the man did not comply with officers’ directions and “produced a handgun, resulting in task force members firing upon the subject.”
No video of the incident exists to bring transparency to the situation for a public that is already on edge after a string of Black men died at the hands of police officers in recent months.
U.S. Marshals, who led the attempted arrest of the suspect and first approached him, do not wear body cameras, and there is no squad car footage of the incident, according to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Smith’s family has demanded that surveillance footage from the parking garage and nearby businesses be released.
“I want body camera footage. There’s a camera on the fifth floor of the parking ramp, we want to see that footage of what actually happened,” Smith’s brother, Kidale, told reporters on Friday.
He said bullet holes were visible in the back of the car after his brother's death, which he believes indicated that police never gave Smith a chance to exit the car. He also questioned why law enforcement sources were quoted immediately after the shooting describing Smith as a murder suspect, a claim that quickly fell apart.
“What he did not do is murder anybody, so that was a flat-out lie,” he said.
Friends said Smith was wanted on a warrant but had not been given a chance to turn himself in. The local group Communities United Against Police Brutality has planned a Friday night protest in conjunction with Smith’s friends and family.
Court records show Smith had a slew of prior arrests and convictions, mostly on misdemeanor drug possession charges and traffic violations. He was barred from possessing a firearm after pleading guilty to felony charges of first-degree aggravated battery in connection with a 2017 incident involving an ex-girlfriend.
Waylon Hughes, a friend of Smith, said he believed police had “obviously gunned him down wrongly and they’re trying to cover it up.”
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s statement said, “the man fired his weapon from inside the vehicle.”
A 27-year-old woman who had been in the car with Smith was taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries from broken glass. It did not appear that she had been shot. The two had reportedly been on a date together.
Smith had gained a local following as a comedian posting sketches online, including one where he played a DoorDash driver sampling all the dishes he was tasked with delivering.
Protesters marched Thursday night in response to Smith’s death, with some vandalizing businesses, setting small fires, and stealing merchandise. Nine people were arrested in the unrest, according to the Minneapolis Police Department.
Shelly Hopkins, who had been in a longtime relationship with Smith, told the Associated Press she immediately wondered if the man killed was the same one she had dated. “We have a very big spiritual connection, and my intuition kicked in and I just had a feeling,” Hopkins said. “I knew something wasn’t right... I didn’t want to believe it.”
Just days before Smith was killed, the city commemorated the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man killed at the hands of white former police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was convicted of murder in the case. Another Black man, Daunte Wright, was killed in the nearby town of Brooklyn Center after a traffic stop in April. The officer who shot him, Kim Potter, has been charged with manslaughter.