Norhan Askar, the woman who was with Winston Boogie Smith Jr. in his car when he was killed by federal task force officers during an attempted arrest in June, has sued Hennepin and Ramsey counties, their sheriff's departments and the two officers who fired the shots into Smith's car.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Hennepin County District Court, claims three counts of denial of civil rights — state-created danger, excessive force and failure to announce — and one count of negligence. Askar is seeking at least $50,000 in relief.
The suit comes three weeks after Askar's attorneys described at a news conference the June 3 shooting from her perspective. It says Askar never saw Smith with a firearm, despite the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's repeated assertions that he produced a gun when confronted. It also claims that officers opened fire after Smith raised his cellphone to videotape the encounter.
The BCA has said Smith was wanted for a weapons violation.
Officers did not identify themselves as law enforcement agents after they surrounded Askar and Smith in unmarked cars, the suit says. It adds that Askar was injured by glass shards when the fatal shots shattered the car's windows.
The suit says multiple times that Askar "never acted in a dangerous manner," "never threatened any peace officer or member of the public" and "never committed a crime" during the attempted arrest. Askar "suffered severe emotional trauma" as a result of the officers pointing their guns directly at her and shooting into the car, it says.
"There was no reasonable excuse for using deadly force at the time of the Defendant's shooting," the lawsuit reads.
Besides the BCA's assertion that Smith was shot after he pointed a gun at officers, the agency has said investigators found a weapon and spent cartridge casings in the car while executing two search warrants.
The two officers are listed as Jane and John Does. The Sheriff's Offices of Hennepin and Ramsey counties said the officers were serving in undercover roles for their departments and that their identities are shielded by state public records laws. It's unlikely those names will ever be released.
Spokespeople for Hennepin County and its Sheriff's Department declined to comment Friday evening. Ramsey County and its Sheriff Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Askar's attorneys — Christopher X. Nguyen, Racey J. Rodne and Mike Fargione — also submitted a letter to the U.S. Marshals Service notifying the agency of impending civil action under the Federal Tort Claims Act, a complex legal process through which some citizens can sue federal agencies.
The service has six months to resolve Askar's complaint through "administrative remedies" before her legal counsel files suit. Askar said she intends to seek $15 million in compensation from the federal agency.
Maya Miller • 612-673-7086