MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota prosecutor tasked with reviewing the deadly law enforcement shooting of Winston Smith Jr. on the roof of a Minneapolis parking garage in June is not going to file charges against any of the law enforcement officers involved in the case.
A Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy and a Hennepin County sheriff’s deputy working as part of a U.S. Marshals Task Force shot and killed Smith, 32, on June 3 while trying to arrest him on a warrant for being a felon in possession of a firearm, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s preliminary investigation found.
In a letter to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Crow Wing County Attorney Donald Ryan said the U.S. Marshals Task Force’s use of deadly force was justified in Smith’s death. Ryan was asked to take the case because the task force members included members from counties near the Twin Cities metro, which would have been a conflict of interest for those county attorneys.
Ryan said the task force was "properly exercising its lawful authority to apprehend Winston Smith on the Ramsey County felony warrant." He said the task force was "readily identifiable" when informing Smith that he was under arrest and ordering him to comply with their commands, but Smith failed to comply.
As members of the task force were trying to get into his SUV, Smith drew his handgun and fired at them, according to Ryan, and two of the members used deadly force in response.
"Though I am unable to determine who fired first, it is irrelevant in this case," Ryan wrote in the letter explaining the charging decision. "Once an individual initiates a deadly confrontation, a law enforcement officer does not have to be shot/shot at before reacting."
Ryan said the reaction of the two task force members was "reasonable and justified" and that their conduct was "clearly in response to an apparent threat of death or great bodily harm."
Smith’s death sparked several weeks of protesting at the Uptown intersection where he was killed.