On June 3, just hours after the city of Minneapolis removed its barricades from George Floyd Square, law enforcement officers killed another Black man in Minneapolis.
His name was Winston Boogie Smith, a 32-year-old father and comedian and former Roosevelt High School student. Smith was fatally shot at the top of a parking ramp in Uptown by U.S. Marshals, allegedly operating within the “North Star Fugitive Task Force” in cooperation with county authorities.
The site of W. Lake St. and Girard Ave. S. quickly became a place of mourning and protest, expressions shared at an intersection blocked to traffic as demonstrators demanded answers. Among other messages, street art and signage read: “Winston Smith was Assassinated,” “Stop the Cover Up,” and “Release the Footage.”
Racial Justice Network (RJN) issued a list of questions on June 5, including whether Mayor Jacob Frey, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and other law enforcement authorities signed off on the action, what the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between this task force and local government were, why the task force was allowed to operate without body worn cameras, and why the task force placed people in unnecessary danger by trapping and ambushing Smith in a parking lot in a busy part of Uptown.
“The lack of transparency in the MOA allows all of these agencies to escape responsibility for lying, their faulty decision-making and devaluing of Black life,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, civil rights attorney and founder of RJN.
Similar questions are still being asked about the fatal shooting on Dec. 30, 2020, by Minneapolis police of Dolal Idd, which took place at the busy Holiday gas station at 36th St. and Cedar Ave. and for which complete body worn, squad car and surveillance camera footage has not been released (the footage that was released is brief and lacks context as to what occurred before shots were fired).
Idd’s father, Bayle Gelle, said at a June 6 march he recently learned that the investigator assigned to the case through the Dakota County Attorney’s Office had retired, and the case sat idle for months. Gelle, with family members and supporters, continues to seek answers into his son’s death and the raid by law enforcement of their family home later that same night which turned up no evidence.
Another life was taken Uptown, that of 31-year-old Deona Marie Knajdek, who was attending a protest on behalf of Winston Smith on the night of June 13. She was killed when a driver, Nicholas Kraus, barreled into a vehicle blocking the intersection, which then hit her.
As people gathered for a vigil for Deona Marie the following day, several youth who were there when Kraus drove through took turns with the microphone. Visibly shaken and fighting off tears, they spoke to the trauma this caused, being scared by loud noises and losing sleep. One activist told the crowd to be mindful of how the media would spin the narrative, and smear their names while giving White supremacists grace.
“Everyone here needs to spread the truth of what really happened. This man was sober, it was intentional. He got out... he was smiling, he was smirking at us. He stopped at the red light down there, and one of our best friends tried to wave him away, and then he accelerated through,” they said. “So just know that this was intentional.”
Despite Mayor Frey referring to the incident in a press conference as a “car accident,” Kraus has been charged by the Hennepin County Court with second degree murder, “with intent to effect the death of that person or another, but without premeditation,” and two counts of second degree assault for injuring two others using a dangerous weapon.
As demonstrators remained on site, police in riot gear disrupted the peaceful protest, slashing tires, towing cars and making targeted arrests. No dispersal orders were given, even after assurances by the mayor that those would be issued and people would be given an opportunity to leave.
Calls for answers – and justice – continue.
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