Task force members won't be charged in fatal Minneapolis shooting of Winston Smith

Task force members won't be charged in fatal Minneapolis shooting of Winston Smith
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No charges will be filed against the members of the U.S. Marshal task force who fatally shot Winston Smith in Minneapolis in early June.

In letter published by The Star Tribune on Monday, Crow Wig County Attorney Donald Ryan said that the use of force against Smith was “authorized” under Minnesota law, therefore “no criminal prosecution should be sought in this manner.”

The incident occurred on June 3, as members of a U.S. Marshals task force were looking to apprehend Smith, who was in a parked car, on a warrant for possession of a firearm by a felon.

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At the time, authorities said that Winston failed to comply with authorities and produced a handgun, causing task force members to fire in return.

Smith was pronounced dead at the scene. A female occupant in the car was treated for minor injuries resulting from glass debris.

Smith was not identified as the person in the initial statement from authorities. But family members and friends later confirmed that Smith was the suspect, a local ABC affiliate reported at the time.

Smith's death sparked protests in Minneapolis, which has reeled from several high-profile killings involving law enforcement since George Floyd was killed by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

In Monday's letter, Ryan said that the task force was readily identifiable while informing Smith that he was under arrest, and that Smith failed to comply with the task force. 

“As the [task force] was attempting to gain entrance into the vehicle, Smith initiated a deadly force confrontation with the [task force] by drawing his handgun and firing at the [task force],” Ryan wrote.

It was unclear to Ryan who fired first, but he said that was “irrelevant” because once a person initiates a “deadly force” confrontation, a law enforcement officer doesn’t have to wait to be fired upon before reacting. 

“The reaction and reasoning of the two [task force members] in this case were reasonable and justified,” Ryan said. “Their conduct was clearly in response to an apparent threat of death or great bodily harm.”