In the days after members of a U.S. Marshals task force fatally shot Winston "Boogie" Smith, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, tasked with the initial investigation, issued a clear statement: "The BCA is not aware of any video of the incident."
That built upon what the agency had said on June 4, not 24 hours after Smith's death while in his car on top of a parking ramp in Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood. The task force prohibited the use of body cameras, the BCA noted publicly, and squad camera footage of "the incident" didn't exist.
But a review of the case released Monday indicates that while there may not be footage of the shooting itself, there is indeed law enforcement body camera footage from moments after the shooting, involving the woman in the car with Smith when it happened.
Crow Wing County Attorney Donald Ryan, who determined law enforcement officers' actions that day were "reasonable and justified," included a summary of evidence he weighed when recommending the involved officers not face criminal prosecution. Referencing Norhan Askar, the 27-year-old woman in Smith's car during the entirety of the incident, Ryan wrote:
"N.A. is observed in body cam footage immediately after the incident. In the body cam footage, N.A. is observed explaining that N.A. and Smith were having a lunch date at Stella's. When they were done eating the two proceeded to Smith's vehicle."
Those are the only two references to body camera video in the letters, which were released publicly this week.
But the abruptly announced existence of body cam footage directly connected to Smith's killing was met with surprise, given the language previously used by investigating agencies.
So, what is this body camera footage, who did it come from and when was it taken?
A spokesperson for the BCA told Bring Me The News the body cam video referenced in Ryan's letter is from a Minneapolis Police Department officer who "responded to the scene after the incident."
This officer was not on the scene at the time Smith was shot, but arrived shortly afterward, the spokesperson said.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office reiterated this to Bring Me The News, saying "there were no body worn or squad car cameras of any of the Federal Task Force actions" due to task force policy. (That set off its own debate following the shooing.)
But the attorney's office shed a little more light on when the footage was taken. The MPD officer, whose camera was functioning and on, came to the scene after the shooting and "assisted in helping the female passenger in the car out of the car and to the hospital to receive outpatient care," the attorney's office said.
When asked why the BCA did not previously acknowledge the existence of this body camera footage, the spokesperson replied:
"As previously stated, there is no video of the incident. The referenced body camera footage was from an MPD officer who responded to the scene after the incident. Evidence gathered during an investigation, including videos, is not public under Minnesota law while the investigation is active and ongoing. All public data from the case file will be released once the review process is complete."
What isn't clear is precisely when the MPD officer in question arrived on scene after the shooting.
According to Ryan's letter, after deputies shot Smith with Askar still in the vehicle, the task force members were ordered to fall back. A task force member then used the butt of a rifle to break the rear window. "At the same time," Askar exited the vehicle via the front passenger side door. She was "detained and escorted to a squad vehicle," the letter reads.
It is this MPD officer's interactions that are captured in body camera video, with the Hennepin County Attorney's Office stating Tuesday: "That is the only body worn camera footage of this incident."
Bring Me The News has reached out to Askar's attorneys for additional comment. Askar, in a statement released nearly a month after the shooting, said she never saw Smith with a gun while in the vehicle.
While the BCA notes that videos are not public under Minnesota law "while the investigation is active and ongoing," there have been several examples of recent police shootings where investigative footage has been released swiftly.
Last August, Minneapolis Police Department released footage of a man fatally shooting himself on Nicollet Mall within hours of it happening in an attempt to prevent the spread of misinformation that he had been killed by police.
When asked if the body camera footage mentioned in Ryan's report could be released, the Minneapolis Police Department and Hennepin County Attorney's Officer referred Bring Me The News to the BCA.
A BCA spokesperson said Monday's decision by the Crow Wing County attorney means the agency will go over, and then close, the case file.
"Once the BCA has finished review of the file for any not public data, all public data will be released," the spokesperson said. They could not provide a timeline for when that might happen, but said the agency will release the "full investigative file as soon as it’s available."