A prosecutor will not charge the officers who shot and killed a black man in Minneapolis last year because the man, who had an active arrest warrant, drew a weapon and fired at officers.
The undercover US Marshals were ‘reasonable and justified’ in their actions, according to Crow Wing County Attorney Donald Ryan. ‘Their conduct was clearly in response to an apparent threat of death or great bodily harm.’
Winston ‘Boogie’ Smith, a 32-year-old father of two, was shot inside a loaned SUV in the top floor of a parking garage around 2pm on June 3. A search of the vehicle later revealed a handgun and six fired cartridges.
His killing drew more fiery protests in Minneapolis, which was still inflamed from last year’s police killing of George Floyd, a couple of miles from where Smith was killed.
Smith was killed in Hennepin County, but the county attorney sent the case to Crow Wing County to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
A prosecutor has decided not to charge the US Marshals who shot and killed ‘Boogie’ Smith
The father of two had just left a lunch date at Stella’s in Minneapolis when he was killed in June
Authorities caught up with him at the parking lot above. Smith had an active warrant out for failing to show up to court, where he was expecting a four-year sentence on a gun charge
The identities of the officers who shot Smith are unknown.
‘Though I am unable to determine who fired first, it is irrelevant in this case,’ Ryan wrote in a letter dated October 6 but released Monday, according to the Star Tribune.
‘Once an individual initiates a deadly force confrontation, a law enforcement officer does not have to wait to be shot/shot at before reacting.’
Ryan said the US Marshals Service’s Northstar Violent Offender task force began looking for Smith after May 19, when he failed to show up in court for a sentencing.
Smith was expected to get a four-year sentence for illegal possession of a firearm, to be served concurrently with an underlying aggravated robbery case, the prosecutor wrote.
A warrant was issued May 20 and officers caught up with him on June 3 after spotting his car atop a parking garage near Stella’s Fish Café, where he had a lunch date.
‘The identity of Smith, and the connection to the vehicle, were confirmed with recent social media videos. Some of these videos, and other posts, contained content of Smith pulling a handgun out of his pants; and Smith stating that he possessed guns and drugs for sale,’ Ryan wrote.
Smith’s family expressed outrage at Ryan’s decision.
Marshals said they used Smith’s social media to help determine where he was. He had posted recent videos selling drugs and guns before his death, according to a county prosecutor
Smith had told his date, who was in the car with him when he was shot, that he did not want to go back to jail and that he was going to die, according to a letter released Monday
‘They had no reason to kill this man,’ cousin Marshawn Cheeks told the Star Tribune.
‘It’s very relevant who fired first.’
Ebony Kirkman, another cousin, told the newspaper that she wants to see the full report by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and learn the names of the officers who fired.
‘I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I’m not, and it’s going to happen again,’ Kirkman said.
Smith refused to comply with officers for more than three minutes before he was approached, Ryan wrote. During that time, officers observed him talking with a woman in the car, who appeared to be yelling at Smith and ‘crying hysterically and shaking.’
His death led to several nights of unrest over the summer in Minneapolis, which was still reeling from last year’s killing of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests
There is no body or dash cam footage of the incident.
Officers moved in to break his window and get him out, but Smith ignored them on his phone before looking at them with a look of ‘annoyance/disgust on his face,’ Ryan wrote.
The shooting began after Smith dropped his phone, twisted around and leaned over the center console to reach for something in the back seat.
‘The lead stack [Marshal] who is providing cover is heard yelling, “Don’t do it,” then “Gun, gun, gun, he’s reaching for/he’s got a gun.’
Smith’s date was seen ‘crying hysterically and shaking’ during the standoff with Marshals. Above, an investigator goes through the scene of the shooting on June 3
‘This [Marshal] then begins firing his handgun at Smith. This causes the [Marshal] attempting to break the window to drop the break tool, pull his handgun, and fire at Smith as well. Smith is seen slumping but is still moving with his hands out of view.’
‘The task force is ordered to all back.’
Smith’s date got out of the car, and was detained and moved to a squad vehicle.
Marshals began life-saving efforts until paramedics arrived and pronounced Smith dead at the scene 15 minutes later, according to Ryan’s findings.
A nearby witness said he heard officers shout ‘Put your hands up’ or ‘put your hands on the steering wheel’ for more than two minutes.
In an interview immediately after the shooting, Smith’s date said it all ‘happened really fast.’
‘Smith made comments to [her] that he did not want to go back to jail; and that, he was going to die. [She] stated Smith attempted to go live on Facebook and continued to refuse to cooperate,’ Ryan wrote.
Deona Knajdek, 31, was killed in Minneapolis on June 13 while protesting the death of ‘Boogie’ Smith when a driver plowed into a crowd of activists
The smashed was ‘going at 100 miles an hour,’ according to a cameraman at the scene
A handgun was found on the driver’s side floor between the seat and the door area. A live cartridge was in the chamber, and the magazine was empty.
Six other fired cartridges, consistent with the handgun, were found in the car.
Smith’s death sparked nights of protests in Minneapolis, Minnesota’s largest city.
Videos and images from the summer showed downtown streets in flames as firefighters tried to put out the fire and officers worked to restore peace.
One night, the spot where Smith was fatally shot had been marked with graffiti reading, ‘No trail for them’ and ‘Mpls still hates cops.’
Activist Deona Knajdek, 31, was killed while protesting Smith’s death on June 13 when a driver plowed into a crowd of activists.
The incident injured three other people.
Protesters pulled the driver, who is white, from his vehicle and began hitting him as he called for police to intervene.
The driver was ultimately taken into custody and treated for injuries at a hospital.