Updated: 9:32 p.m.
More than two years after sheriff’s deputies fatally shot Winston Smith in Minneapolis, cell phone video of the incident has apparently surfaced. Those who’ve viewed it say that it shows Smith pointing a gun at officers and exchanging gunfire with them.
Smith captured video of his final moments while attempting to livestream the confrontation, according to sources who spoke with MPR News on the condition that they not be named. The BCA was unable to crack the encryption on Smith’s phone, but digital forensics experts from outside the agency were.
MPR News has not viewed the 35-second clip, and it hasn’t been released publicly. But those who have watched it say Smith can be seen pulling a handgun out of his car’s center console and pointing it at deputies before he and the officers exchange gunfire, with Smith firing about a dozen rounds. None of the officers was injured.
The video’s existence was first reported by the Star Tribune.
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The 32-year-old had just wrapped up a lunch date at Stella’s Fish Cafe in Uptown Minneapolis on June 3, 2021. Smith and his companion Norhan Askar walked across Lake Street and went to the top of the five-story garage where Smith had parked his car.
Deputies from the Hennepin and Ramsey County sheriff’s offices — working as part of a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force — spotted a social media post Smith made from the restaurant.
They tracked Smith to the parking ramp and tried to arrest him on a warrant for missing a sentencing hearing in a gun case, boxing his vehicle between theirs.
What happened next has been in dispute since that day. Because the deputies were working for the feds, they were operating under Justice Department rules in place at the time that did not allow them to wear body cameras.
Smith’s family members have maintained that he would never fire at officers. And Askar has said she never saw Smith with a gun.
But a prosecutor who reviewed the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension case file concluded four months later that Smith had threatened the deputies' lives, and their use of deadly force was justified under Minnesota law.
Crow Wing County Attorney Donald Ryan said in 2021 that investigators found a gun in Smith’s car and that evidence indicated shots were fired from inside the vehicle.
The incident happened while Minneapolis was still on edge from the police murder of George Floyd the year before and the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin. Both Floyd and Smith were Black.
It prompted ongoing protests, some of which devolved into rioting and looting. One protester — 31-year-old Deona Marie Erickson — was killed when a drunk driver crashed his SUV into a group of demonstrators at high speed.
It’s unclear if the video that Winston Smith recorded of his final moments will become public any time soon. In a statement to MPR News Thursday, the BCA said it gave Smith’s phone to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in late 2021.
The BCA says if the video includes evidence that would impact the investigation, the BCA “welcomes the opportunity to review it.”
Attorneys for both Askar and the Smith family have not yet responded to messages from MPR News.