If George Floyd’s murder wasn’t recorded by a bystander and shown to the world, there is little doubt that Derek Chauvin would be free today and that he and the other three officers charged in Floyd’s death would still be policing the streets of Minneapolis. It’s also a fact that sometimes cops lie in their reports with the expectation that they will be taken at face value by virtue of them being cops.
So it’s no surprise that members of the Minneapolis community and the family of 32-year-old Winston Boogie Smith Jr.—a Black man who was fatally shot in the city Thursday by members of a U.S. Marshals Service task force—aren’t buying the authorities’ narrative that it was a clean shoot citing the fact that the marshals weren’t wearing body cameras and investigators said there is no video evidence available to determine what led up to the shooting. Not only were the task force members not wearing body-cams, but they aren’t allowed to wear them.
The Washington Post reports that U.S. Marshals and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which is investigating the shooting, said that Smith had a warrant for a felony firearms violation. The task force aptly known as the North Star Fugitive Task Force (*face-palm* Jesus, Mary and slave patrols) said that Smith didn’t comply with their orders and that he “produced a handgun resulting in task force members firing upon the subject.”
The BCA said in a statement that there was evidence that indicated that Smith fired a gun from inside his car, so it’s entirely plausible that this was a justified shoot. The problem is, we may never know definitively how things unfolded because of another tidbit in the BCA’s report.
“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 bureau said. “There is no squad camera footage of the incident.”
Listen: I’ve never had a job in law enforcement, so I’m clearly not an authority on the matter, but I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering why the hell any law enforcement department would disallow officers to wear a body-cam unless they know damn well how much easier it is to cover one’s ass when a lack of video evidence makes taking artistic liberty in an official report more convenient.
I’m not even saying the U.S. Marshalls are lying—I’m saying there are multiple sides to every story, that one person is no longer alive to give his side and that video footage would have been able to provide more reliable truth than anyone involved could provide without said footage.
Suffice it to say, the community and family members of Smith aren’t going along with it.
From the Post:
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.”
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.”
According to the Star Tribune, protests and vigils on behalf of Smith continued through Friday and leading into Saturday morning. In some instances, things grew contentious between protesters and police.
From the Tribune:
Activists blocked traffic at busy Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue during the Friday evening rush hour. Minneapolis police officers on bikes moved in to try to take control of the busy intersection, but protesters later blocked Lake Street again with a makeshift barricade of motorcycles, bike racks and dumpsters. There were some standoffs between protesters and officers throughout the night.
Until every law enforcement agency in America learns that transparency is key in regards to police-involved deaths of Black people, they can expect to see civil unrest. Law enforcement in America has earned that distrust.
If the people aren’t satisfied that justice is being done then “no justice, no peace” often becomes the default, just as law enforcement tends to consider the reports of officers to be the defacto “truth.”