A woman died and three people were injured in Minneapolis late Sunday after a man plowed his car into a crowd demonstrating against police excessive force, law enforcement confirmed. The suspect was detained and is now in custody, according to the city’s police department.
When the incident occurred, the group was congregating to commemorate the death of Winston Smith, who had a fatal altercation with U.S. Marshals task force members in Minneapolis this month when they attempted to arrest him on a felony weapons charge.
Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said that “preliminary investigation indicates that the use of drugs or alcohol by the driver may be a contributing factor in this crash,” indicating that the perpetrator may have been under the influence.
Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender wrote in a newsletter to town residents Monday that, “Based on the information available, it does not seem possible at this time to say if the crash was accidental or intentional.” She noted that the intersection where the episode happened is notorious for vehicle collisions.
The street corner in Minneapolis where Smith died has been a hot spot for protests for over a week with participants demanding police reform. Officials reported that no body-or-dash-camera footage that might corroborate the event was taken. An October 2020 modification to U.S. Marshal protocol permits local police serving on task forces to wear their own cameras for evidence purposes.
Authorities said findings from the preliminary investigation show that Smith fired a gun from inside his car. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is probing the case, said a firearm and spent cartridge cases were collected from inside the driver’s compartment.
Zachery James, a younger man who attended the Sunday vigil, told The New York Times that protestors has blocked off part of the road with their cars. He commented that about 40 to 50 other people were present when he heard the car crash into one of the protestors’ parked cars, which in turn hit the victim, who flew through the air several yards before hitting a pole.
The critically injured woman was later pronounced dead at the hospital, the police tweeted. The local police also updated on Twitter that three additional people were injured, two of which received medical attention.
The Smith shooting associated with the vehicle incident comes after a year of civil unrest and violent riots in Minneapolis, among other cities, following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020.