Minneapolis activists call for sacking of U.S. marshal for borough of Minnesota and an investigation into the fatal shooting of Winston Smith Jr., which sparked several days of protests and a renewed scrutiny of the body camera policy for federal agents.
Local activist groups asked Ramona Dohman to step down from his post as head of the US Marshals Service in the state and protested outside her home on Tuesday. Dohman, a 37-year veteran of law enforcement, was named by President Donald Trump and sworn in in June 2019.
“The system in this state is fundamentally flawed, and federal oversight is also fundamentally flawed,” Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a news conference Tuesday. “We need transparency and accountability”.
Smith, a 32-year-old black father of three, was shot dead when agents from a US Marshals Service task force tried to arrest him last week on a warrant for illegal possession of a firearm, according to a statement from the agency. Smith, who was parked in a car, “failed to comply with the officers’ commands” and “produced a gun resulting in task force members firing on the subject,” the statement said.
Two sheriff’s officers, one from Hennepin County and one from Ramsey County, shot Smith, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is conducting the investigation. State investigators said a gun and spent cartridge found inside the car indicate that Smith also fired his gun.
Protesters protested in Minneapolis almost every day after Smith was killed. The city has been in tension since the murder of George Floyd last year by a former Minneapolis police officer and the deadly police shooting of black motorist Daunte Wright in nearby Brooklyn Center in April, both of which sparked mass protests. .
Monique Cullars-Doty, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Minnesota, called the task force’s actions “completely reckless” and said the non-use of body cameras was “an intentional lack of transparency and an intentional lack of accountability” .
More: Two sheriff officers shot dead a man during arrest attempt, sparking a new wave of riots in Minneapolis
Why are there no body camera shots?
No footage of the incident was released. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said there is no camera footage of the shooting team and that the U.S. Marshal Service does not allow body cameras for this task force’s officers.
The US Marshals Service said, however, that while the deputy marshals still don’t wear body cameras, the Justice Department allows officers from the state, local and tribal task force to do so. In October, the Justice Department approved the use of body cameras for officers serving on federal task forces.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office released a body camera to one of the officers involved in the shooting, but sheriff officials were told it could not be used while the deputy was working on task force operations, according to a spokesperson for the department.
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Meanwhile, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced on Monday that federal agents will be required to wear body cameras when carrying out pre-planned search warrants or arrests. He also ordered the footage to be released in a timely manner in the event of “serious personal injury or death”.
The US Marshals Service, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives will have 30 days to draft policies that meet the new requirements, Monaco said in a statement.
But there is still confusion over the process for local task force officers and the time it takes to allow them to actually be worn in the field.
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said in a statement Monday that the day after Smith’s death, he received an appendix from the Marshal’s office that he believed would allow the use of body cameras.
Fletcher said he was later told by Dohman that “it may take some time for this to be approved” and MPs have not yet been allowed to use body cameras.
A spokesperson for Dohman’s office said he would not comment and directed all questions to US Marshals headquarters.
On Monday, Fletcher banned his deputies from participating in the US North Star fugitive task force, the same task force involved in Smith’s shooting, “until body cameras are effectively cleared.”
In neighboring jurisdictions, Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart and Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson have followed suit and announced that they will suspend their deputies’ work with the task force.
Other local police departments have previously refused to join task forces due to the body camera problem.
The Minneapolis Police Department does not participate in any task forces where officers are not allowed to use body cameras, spokesman John Elder said.
St. Paul police officers stopped participating in the fugitive task force in 2019 because Police Chief Todd Axtell was unwilling to “give up that necessary transparency tool.”
More: The body cams did not live up to their promises to report police misconduct. One reason: the police decide what to release.
Body cameras are supposed to allow the public to see what happened when someone was killed by the police. This doesn’t always happen because police departments often decide what the public sees and when, experts told USA TODAY.
For those who “thought body-worn cameras should catch bad officers and demonstrate misconduct, I think they were largely disappointed,” said Scott Greenwood, a leading constitutional rights attorney.
Although marshals and task force members are more likely to use their guns, they are harder to hold accountable than average cops if something goes wrong, according to an investigation by The Marshall Project and USA TODAY Network.
Local district attorneys do not have the legal power to prosecute federal agents, including police officers who serve as members of the task force, and the Justice Department can protect them from litigation.
Teddy Tschann, spokesman for Gov. Tim Walz told the Star Tribune that the governor’s office contacted the White House and Department of Justice about Smith’s death “and urged the federal government to provide Minnesota residents with as much information as possible.”
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Contributors: Christine Fernando, Tami Abdollah and Uriel J. Garcia, USA TODAY; Simone Weichselbaum and Sachi McClendon, The Marshall Project; The Associated Press
Disclaimer: The mail A black man was shot dead by lawmakers in Minneapolis. Authorities say there are no bodycam videos. Activists call him “reckless”. was first published by USE TODAYwe rssfeeds.usatoday.com.