JUNE 10, 2021

The Honorable Tim Walz
Governor of Minnesota

130 State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55155

Penned from–

Members of the Racial Justice Network

In response to the violent and horrific death of a Black man and father, Winston Smith, who was killed last week by Sheriff’s Deputies from Hennepin and Ramsey Counties under the authority of the U.S. Marshals

Dear Governor Walz,

As the world watches Minnesota and our demands for genuine transformation, accountability, and transparency within our system of policing, we face yet another violent and horrific death of a Black man and father at the hands of law enforcement.

Winston Smith was killed last week by Sheriff’s Deputies from Hennepin and Ramsey Counties under the authority of the U.S. Marshals.

The public has received scant details about what happened and why and even those details have changed repeatedly over the last few days. Not only has the public been told that there is no body camera or dash camera footage available, which is unfathomable in 2021; but now we are being told by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) that the identities of the officers will not be revealed because they were supposedly acting undercover.

It appears that no one is accepting responsibility or taking accountability for the police killing of Winston Smith.

As Minnesota residents, we deserve better and we demand better. Since you became Governor, multiple people have been killed by police under very questionable circumstances. Yet, we have not seen the calls for more transparency, stronger policies to protect the public from unwarranted police violence, and a more robust disciplinary system be addressed by you or your administration with a sense of urgency. 

We have made clear for many years that the BCA is not a credible or competent agency for investigating killings by police officers. In addition to their lack of credibility, the BCA has major conflicts of interest which should result in the agency’s immediate removal from investigating the police killing of Winston Smith.

As you may know, Ramona Dohman, the current head of the U.S. Marshals for the District of Minnesota is the former boss of Drew Evans, the BCA Superintendent; stemming from her time as Commissioner of Public Safety for Minnesota.

Further, the Star Tribune recently reported that some BCA agents have been deputized by the U.S. Marshals to become members of their task force(s). Thus, we believe that it is impossible to expect a fair and impartial investigation. What we have seen thus far is evidence of a cover-up of the killing of Winston Smith.

We, the members of the Racial Justice Network, are calling for the following demands to be met:

  • Immediately bar the BCA and all law enforcement agencies from participating in the US Marshal’s Northstar Task Force and any other federal task forces;
  • Immediately remove the BCA from investigating the shooting of Winston Smith and request an independent federal investigation;
  • Create an independent panel to review task force agency conduct and the memorandum(a) of agreement/understanding between Minnesota law enforcement agencies and federal law enforcement agencies. The independent panel should report findings and recommendations to the public; and there should be accountability for officers who engaged in civil rights and human rights violations of civilians;
  • Hold Minnesota law enforcement officers who participated on the NorthStar Task Force that killed Winston Smith accountable under law. Their identities should also be released to the public, as well as any footage regarding this police killing;
  • Pass meaningful police reform legislation and use your executive power and resources to establish an Independent Office of the Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute killings by law enforcement officers in the state of Minnesota.

The truth of what happened to Winston Smith and so many other individuals who have been killed by police in Minnesota, remains hidden beneath the thin blue line of injustice because of policy failures at the highest levels. 

Governor Walz, the world is watching. We demand change. We demand a response from you and decisive action. We are not looking for lip service, politics as usual, or empty rhetoric. Even with all eyes on Minnesota, we continue to experience the same violent policing and adherence to qualified immunity that encourages lethal tactics and abuse of citizens. We demand change, not more empty promises.


Racial Justice Network