The U.S. Marshals and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which is investigating the shooting, said Smith had a warrant for a felony firearms violation when the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force learned of his whereabouts Thursday.
Smith was parked in a car on top of a parking garage in the city’s Uptown neighborhood when the task force members tried to arrest him. Smith did not comply and “produced a handgun resulting in task force members firing upon the subject,” the U.S. Marshals said in a statement. Task force members provided medical aid, they said, but Smith died at the scene.
A statement from the BCA said evidence indicated that Smith fired a weapon from inside his car and that a handgun and cartridges were recovered from the driver’s side of the vehicle. A 27-year-old woman who was in the car with Smith was injured by broken glass and was treated and released, the bureau said.
His family criticized law enforcers’ depiction of Smith and said that while he was trying to “turn over a new leaf,” police were “using his past to tarnish his character.”
“They’re using his past to diminish that what he was trying to do in the present,” Smith’s sister Tiesha Floyd said during a Friday news conference.
Family members and friends said Smith was a father of three who enjoyed music and writing comedy sketches. Shelly Hopkins, who was in a longtime relationship with Smith, described him to the Associated Press as a spiritual man who cared most of all about making people happy and being there for his children. Hopkins told the news outlet that Smith had legal troubles but that police “tried to make a case against him that didn’t exist.”
The BCA’s statement said there is no video evidence of how the fatal shooting unfolded, but Smith’s loved ones and local activists vehemently disputed that claim.
“The U.S. Marshal Service currently does not allow the use of body cameras for officers serving on its North Star Fugitive Task Force,” the BCA said in a statement. “There is no squad camera footage of the incident.”
Toshira Garraway, a Minneapolis community activist and founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, said during the Friday news conference that she does not believe the BCA’s explanation.
“We no longer have faith in just believing the narratives that the police give us. They have forfeited their right to just tell us a story,” Garraway said. “We need facts, and the fact is any video footage. And we refuse to believe that no one has any video footage after all those departments showed up yesterday.”
U.S. Marshals generally do not wear body cameras, and members of local law enforcement deputized to serve on the agency’s task forces were not allowed to wear their cameras while working with the marshals. In October 2020, the Justice Department issued new guidance permitting body cameras by deputized officers during arrests and searches involving a warrant.
In a statement Saturday, a spokesperson for the Justice Department said that the U.S. Marshals Service began to phase in the policy of allowing task force officers to wear body cameras in February and that it “continues to be implemented in the District of Minnesota.”
In George Floyd’s and Wright’s deaths, video recorded by police body cameras or captured by eyewitnesses played critical roles in public awareness and perception of the incidents. The footage validated community members and activists’ skepticism of law enforcement narratives, including in the case of George Floyd’s murder: Police initially said he died “after a medical incident during police interaction” and included unverified details about Floyd allegedly committing forgery and being “under the influence.”
Video from multiple angles and multiple eyewitnesses later detailed how Officer Derek Chauvin pinned his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as an already-subdued Floyd cried out in pain and said he could not breathe.
Garraway said the community deserves the truth and the family deserves transparency so they can have closure on Smith’s death.
“Whether he was right or wrong, release the truth,” Garraway said. “Release the videos.”
Smith’s killing comes as the relationship between law enforcement and members of the community remains frayed after George Floyd’s murder and more recently, the killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in suburban Brooklyn Center in April. Police said the White officer, Kim Potter, mistook her firearm for a stun gun.
In the city’s Uptown neighborhood, protests over Smith’s death continued Friday evening and into early Saturday morning. Mourners gathered near the parking garage where Smith was shot for an early evening candlelight vigil. During rush hour, protesters blocked traffic at the busy intersection of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue and blocked it again with makeshift barricades after police cleared the street, according to the Star Tribune.
Hours after the crowd from the vigil had dispersed, several protesters faced off with police, yelling insults at officers and lighting dumpsters on fire; about a dozen businesses near the site of the shooting were vandalized or looted overnight, according to Minneapolis Public Radio. The Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol combined arrested 26 people who were later booked into the Hennepin County Jail, according to a spokesman for the county sheriff’s office.