Jaffort Smith’s family has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of St. Paul and four of its police officers who fatally shot him in 2016. They are demanding damages for an alleged violation of his civil rights.
According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which investigated the case, cops killed Smith after he shot Beverly Flowers, 49, in the face and fired at officers in the city’s North End. The officers’ use of fatal force was found to be legal by a grand jury in early 2017.
On behalf of Smith’s family, attorney Paul Bosman filed an 11-page lawsuit on May 6 alleging that Smith “was not a genuine danger” to any of the four policemen who fired at him on May 9, 2016.
According to the lawsuit, all four police — John Corcoran, Michael Tschida, Mark Grundhauser, and Jeff Korus — used “excessive force” that “violated Mr. Smith’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”
Bosman said Thursday that the complaint was filed last week because civil rights claims have a six-year statute of limitations.
According to the lawsuit, the city was responsible in Smith’s death because its lethal force training “centered on a proactive use of force and on police safety over public safety.”
The complaint has not yet been served on St. Paul, according to Kamal Baker, press secretary for Mayor Melvin Carter.
“While this tragedy permanently affected the lives of all those involved,” Baker said in a statement, “the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigation concluded the officers did not engage in misconduct, and a grand jury assembled in Washington County refused to pursue charges.”
A total of 23 Ramsey County citizens served on the grand jury. Smith, 33, looked intent to commit “suicide by cop,” according to then-Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, who handled the case to avoid a potential conflict of interest for the Ramsey County attorney’s office.
Smith has a history of mental illness, including schizophrenia. He was “well-known” to St. Paul police, according to the lawsuit, and was “courteous and cooperative” during his multiple arrests.
According to the BCA, the 2016 incident began about 3:30 a.m. when officers responded to a 911 call about a man with a pistol at Rapid Recovery, a towing firm on Acker Street near Jackson Street. Smith followed Flowers into the establishment. According to the BCA, he brandished a gun and led Flowers back outside.
Soon after, Smith and Flowers were seen approximately four blocks distant, near Acker and Buffalo streets. According to Orput, two cops drove up and Smith shot Flowers as they were getting out. She escaped the gunshot with one eye missing.
In 2017, Orput told the newspaper, “I don’t care how long you’ve been a cop – that’s fairly stunning.” “Then, directly after he shot her, he rushed up the driveway of a home and started sprinting behind the garage, blasting rounds at these two officers, and it erupted into a gun war that lasted a few minutes,” says the witness.
Smith and the four police officers, he alleged, fired “many, many bullets.”
Bosman was recently employed on a contract basis by Communities United Against Police Brutality, where he was entrusted with establishing the organization’s litigation division. “They have a reinvestigation team,” he explained, “which has been really helpful in bringing these cases.”