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In Wake Of Winston Smith Shooting, U.S. Marshals Now Wearing Body Cameras In Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- U.S. Marshals are now wearing body cameras in Minnesota, WCCO-TV has learned.

The call for change came after the shooting of Winston Smith in Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood in June. The deadly confrontation sparked protests and raised questions about accountability.

At the time of the killing, U.S. Marshal task force deputies were prohibited from wearing body cameras. After Smith's death, the U.S. Department of Justice changed its policy.

Deputy U.S. Marshals doing enforcement in Minnesota began wearing body cameras on Oct. 6. Officials say that the cameras will be used for all planned arrests and court orders related to searches or seizures.

Marshals are also authorized to activate cameras if they encounter a hostile situation.

"It's absolutely necessary that they wear them, but this should have been the policy all along," said activist Michelle Gross, of Communities United Against Police Brutality. "Without body cameras, there's no accountability. We have to be able to know what happens in these situations."

Jaylani Hussein, of the Minnesota chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, said that the policy change shows that federal officials are listening to calls coming from communities.

"I think it's late. I think it's definitely a change, and for it to happen after Winston Smith shows that community calls are being at least, responded to," said Hussein.

Five of the 12 outside agencies that are part of the U.S. Marshals task force in Minnesota suspended their involvement after Smith's death, until body-worn cameras were implemented. So far, none of them has rejoined.

The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office has filed an application to return while others are reviewing the body camera policy before making a decision.

Under the new policy, cameras would have been rolling during the attempt to arrest Smith on gun charges. However, cameras will not roll on undercover officers, confidential informants or witness interviews, per the policy.

Winston Smith's Family Speaks Out

Relatives of Winston Smith spoke out Friday, calling for an independent investigation into his killing. w

Earlier this week, the Crow Wing County Attorney cleared the U.S. Marshals task force members of criminal wrongdoing. However, community activists say parts of the story don't add up.

The family's attorney said that none of the task force members agreed to be interviewed by state investigators.

At a press conference, Smith's brother spoke about how Smith's death is affecting his three young children.

"I don't think they realize that he's not coming back," Kidale Smith said. "That's heartbreaking to know that...when they get older they're going to have to deal with that, and eventually come to the reality of it."

The Crow Wing County Attorney said he could not determine who fired first. He said that investigators did find a gun inside Smith's car, along with spent casings.

The woman who was with Smith at the time of the shooting said that she did not see Smith with a gun.

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