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No charges for task force members in Winston Smith death

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No charges for task force members in Winston Smith death

By AMY FORLITI

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Members of a U.S. Marshals Service task force will not be charged in the fatal shooting of Winston Smith Jr., a Black man who was killed while authorities were trying to arrest him as he sat in an SUV at a Minneapolis parking ramp, a prosecutor announced Monday.

Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan said in letters dated last Wednesday that the task force members were justified in using deadly force when they shot Smith on June 3 as they tried to detain him for allegedly being a felon in possession of a firearm. The central Minnesota prosecutor reviewed the case because prosecutors in the Twin Cities area had conflicts of interest and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced the decision Monday.

Ryan said task force members were identifiable as law enforcement, told Smith he was under arrest and ordered him out of the vehicle. Ryan said Smith didn’t comply and as task force members tried to enter the SUV, “Smith initiated a deadly force confrontation … by drawing his handgun and firing.”

“Though I am unable to determine who fired first, it is irrelevant in this case,” Ryan wrote. “Once an individual initiates a deadly force confrontation, a law enforcement officer does not have to wait to be shot/shot at before reacting.” He said task force members’ actions were reasonable, justified and “in response to an apparent threat of death or great bodily harm.”

Smith, 32, of St. Paul, was in a parked SUV when he was shot. The U.S. Marshals Service said at the time that he didn’t comply and “produced a handgun resulting in task force members firing.”

Ryan said the task force used lights and sirens as they boxed in the SUV, wore clearly marked tactical vests and gave numerous commands for Smith to keep his hands visible as he did something with his phone. Ryan said Smith didn’t comply for “several minutes.” As law enforcement began to break a window, Smith looked at them “with a look of annoyance/disgust on his face.”

Ryan said Smith then dropped his phone, twisted his body and leaned into the back seat. He was told to stop reaching and recoiled into the driver’s seat when a task force member yelled “don’t do it,” then “gun, gun, gun,” Ryan wrote. That task force member then fired at Smith. Another pulled a handgun and began firing.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office said Smith was shot multiple times.

Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and an activist against police violence, said he’s not surprised. “There is absolutely no confidence that county prosecutors can fully bring forth justice against law enforcement,” he said.

A woman who was in the SUV with Smith has said through her attorneys that law enforcement officers were not in uniform and did not identify themselves when they surrounded the SUV with guns drawn. Norhan Askar also said that she never saw a gun on Smith or in his vehicle, and that he was shot after he raised a cellphone to begin recording.

Ryan said a handgun, and six spent cartridge cases that came from that weapon, were found inside the vehicle. Tests showed bullet fragments also had been fired from that gun.

Minneapolis was already on edge following the death of George Floyd more than a year earlier, and the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by an officer in nearby Brooklyn Center in April. Smith’s death led to protests in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood, including one in which a woman was killed when a man who was visibly intoxicated drove into protesters.

Authorities said at the time there was no video of the shooting, and the lack of body camera footage raised questions as Smith’s family and activists demanded transparency. Local officials said the deputies on the task force were assigned body cameras, but were told by the U.S. Marshals Service that they could not use them, despite an October 2020 change in Justice Department policy that would have allowed their use.

But Ryan wrote that there is body camera footage of Askar, recorded immediately after the shooting. Ryan said Askar said in the video it “happened really fast where a bunch of officers came out of nowhere” and told them to put their hands up. In the video, described by Ryan, Askar said she put her hands up and pleaded with Smith to do the same, but Smith would not, saying he did not want to go back to jail and he was “going to die.”

Ryan said Askar also gave a statement to state investigators saying she did not remember seeing a gun in Smith’s vehicle.

The task force members who shot Smith included a Ramsey County Sheriff’s deputy and a Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputy. Their names were not released because they were working undercover.

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Get Cooking: Meat with “dem bones”

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Get Cooking: Meat with “dem bones”

In the Bible, in the 37th chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, the Lord grants a vision to the prophet as He takes Ezekiel to the Valley of the Dry Bones. God tells Ezekiel how, on the Last Day, he will re-vivify the dry bones, all scattered about pell-mell: He will “breathe life into them” and “attach tendons to them” and “make flesh come onto them.”

This passage in the Scriptures occasioned the anatomy lesson of the great Black spiritual “Dem Bones,” written in the early 1900s, where we learn how all those bones are connected, “the knee bone connected to the thigh bone; the thigh bone connected to the hip bone,” and so on.

Cooks, now hear the word of the Lord.

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Two new Denver bars that’ll feel like vacation in January

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Two new Denver bars that’ll feel like vacation in January

You deserve a vacation this month. But if you’re like me, you aren’t taking one (because the holidays were expensive, because omicron still surges, and because there just isn’t any time for that).

Enter two new Denver destinations where you can at least feel transported for a night. One will take you to Paris by way of Montreal, and the other will give you a taste of Oaxaca and Mexico City all in one bite.

Cantina Loca

This is the Denver tasting room and bar for chef Dana Rodriguez’s own Doña Loca spirits brand. Rodriguez launched her mezcal and tequila line in 2021 and has been planning this cantina extension of it — her first solo restaurant project — all along.

Hi-Rez Photography, Provided by Cantina Loca

Cocktails from Cantina Loca, which specializes in mezcal and tequila drinks made with Doña Loca house spirits.

“This concept is my dream,” Rodriguez said in a release. “It’s the ultimate representation of Mexican culture through food and drink, in an atmosphere that feels like a true Mexico City cantina.”

Why make the trip: If you’ve been to Rodriguez’s restaurants Work & Class and Super Mega Bien (or even if you haven’t) you’ll want to check out this latest addition to the family. It’s a casual cantina with an artistic streak. Local builders FinArt furnished the space on the ground floor of a LoHi extended stay, and muralist John Rumtum warmed up the concrete walls and brickwork with a loving ode to the agave plant.

Order like a local: There are plenty of agave spirit-based cocktails to order (see requisite palomas and margaritas), but you should also peruse the menu of aguas benditas so you can sip the house brand mezcal on its own, in three distinct styles, and also try other traditional Mexican spirits, such as raicilla (pronounced rai-see-yuh) and sotol (pronounced so-toll). See also tacos and snacks such as tempura cactus, or nopales fritos, and stuffed corn sopes, or picaditas vegetarianas.

Exchange rate: Snacks will set you back $7-$13, tacos cost $3.75-$5 and big plates such as pollo adobado and lamb mixiote are priced at $15-$26. Expect to pay $11-$14 for cocktails, and $9-$30 for sipping mezcal. Beers are also available for $5-$8, and four N/A drinks including horchata and chicha morada cost $6.

Travel plan: The cantina is open Sunday-Thursday from 4-10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4-11 p.m. It’s closed on Monday and Tuesday, at 2880 Zuni St., and cantinaloca.com.

1642597461 332 Two new Denver bars thatll feel like vacation in January

Provided by Au Feu Brasserie

Au Feu Brasserie is a new French wine bar and restaurant in Wash Park. You’ll find French bottles and cocktails on the menu alongside a strong selection of Cognac, Armagnac and Eau de Vie.

Au Feu Brasserie

Meet a former RiNo food hall stall that’s all grown up and sophisticated in Washington Park. This French-inspired restaurant started out at Zeppelin Station in 2018 but recently advanced to a brick-and-mortar space next door to Uncle ramen on Pennsylvania Street. And the two businesses make for great date-night neighbors, depending on your mood. At the brasserie, owners Jared and Amanda Leonard were inspired by Montreal’s food scene.

“We ate our way through Montreal while researching the Au Feu concept and fell in love with the French culture of the city,” Jared Leonard said in a release. “We were particularly inspired by restaurants like Joe Beef and Au Pied du Cochon.”

Why make the trip: It’s hard to recognize this space that was once occupied by a burger shop. Now it’s all velvet seating and art deco decor, with the air of a Parisian sitting room. Pair that with a barbecue master’s expert food, which includes a mix of French and Canadian influences (see boeuf bourguignon and house poutine), and you’ll start to see why the Leonards are calling it a “casually indulgent” after-work escape.

Au Feu Brasserie is a new ...

Provided by Au Feu Brasserie

Au Feu Brasserie is a new wine bar and restaurant in Wash Park. You’ll find Montreal-inspired French food, such as this short rib bourguignon.

Order like a local: Leonard tapped Dutch sommelier Jeroen Erens to pick the 65-bottle, all-French wine list, so you’ll want to get his input for your drink order. Aside from wine, there’s a great selection of pre-prohibition European-inspired cocktails (Prince of Wales, Fleur de Lis), as well as cognac, armagnac and eau de vie.

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Former CSU Rams football commits search for new opportunities after Jay Norvell pulls scholarship offers

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Former CSU Rams football commits search for new opportunities after Jay Norvell pulls scholarship offers

Bryce Johnson went to Colorado State last summer on a football recruiting visit and left Fort Collins with a dream scholarship offer to play for the Rams.

“It was Division I football and a full ride in your home state,” said Johnson, a star two-way player for Lutheran High School, and a finalist for The Denver Post’s annual Gold Helmet Award. “That’s a huge opportunity. I jumped on that right away.”

Johnson’s dream turned into a nightmare six months later.

That’s because Johnson’s commitment became null and void in December after the program hired former Nevada coach Jay Norvell to replace fired Steve Addazio as head coach. Johnson is not alone. Norvell’s re-evaluation of the Rams’ 2022 recruiting class led to offers being pulled for a handful of local commits seen as improper fits.

Among those taking their spots: previous Nevada commits and transfers.

“Their staff came in with an entirely different scheme on both sides of the ball. They had a lot of changes that needed to be made. So, they ended up pulling my scholarship to use in the JUCO and transfer portal,” said Johnson, who is now considering New Mexico State, South Dakota State and others. “They talked to me about blue-shirting and getting me in the 2023 class. But they said that wasn’t approved by their compliance.”

Norvell didn’t hide from that uncomfortable truth when speaking to reporters last month during the early signing period.

“It’s not a thing that people like to hear,” Norvell said back on Dec. 15. “That they had a scholarship, they had committed (to CSU) and you’ve got a new coaching staff and you kind of have to start all over again. It’s unfortunate. But it is the reality.”

Where do those former commits go from here? CSU’s 2022 sendoffs are scrambling for new opportunities. Highlands Ranch tight end Jade Arroyo — with 107 career receptions for 1,515 yards and 16 touchdowns — pledged to the Rams back in July. He’s now considering multiple Ivy League programs.

“It’s kind of hard right now. Most schools have already filled up their class for this year,” Arroyo said. “Especially with COVID, there are limited scholarships. I’m just talking to schools with coaches (direct messaging) me on Twitter. I’m just trying to build relationships at the moment.”

The list goes on: Arapahoe outside linebacker Jareb Ramos is also no longer committed to the Rams but recently picked up a scholarship offer from Penn. Addazio’s staff stayed close to home offering scholarships at Fort Collins High School to wide receiver Dorion McGarity and safety Dontay Johnson. Neither player signed with the Rams and their college destinations are still undetermined.

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