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Parents of Amir Locke say he was ‘executed’ by Minneapolis police during no-knock raid

This screenshot taken from Minneapolis Police Department body-camera footage and made available by Minneapolis authorities on Feb. 3 shows police pointing guns at Amir Locke as he lies on a sofa before being shot. (Minneapolis Police Department/AFP)

MINNEAPOLIS — The parents of a 22-year-old Black man shot and killed by Minneapolis police during a predawn no-knock raid early Wednesday said their son had been “executed” by an officer and called for charges to be filed.

Andre Locke and Karen Wells, the parents of Amir Locke, said in their first public remarks about their son’s fatal shooting that he had been a “good kid” with no criminal history who had been raised to “respect” police and was mentored by relatives in law enforcement.

They said Locke was legally armed when police executed a no-knock warrant inside a downtown Minneapolis apartment where their son was lying on a couch. Andre Locke said his son reacted as “any reasonable law-abiding citizen would do to protect themself” and “never had a chance” to respond to officers before shots were fired.

“A mother should never have to see her child executed in that type of way,” Wells said, describing her son’s death as an “execution.” “I gave birth to Amir. Not Minneapolis. I did. And you all took him from me.”

Police said they shot and killed Locke early Wednesday as members of the department’s SWAT team carried out a warrant related to a homicide investigation in neighboring St. Paul.

Amelia Huffman, the interim Minneapolis police chief, said the man had pointed a loaded gun “in the direction of officers,” prompting one of the officers to shoot and kill the man.

In a news conference Wednesday, Huffman claimed the officers “loudly and repeatedly announced police search warrant before crossing the threshold into the apartment.” But the body-camera footage released late Thursday raised questions about that account as it showed several officers quickly rushing into the apartment at the same time they announced their presence, giving Locke little time to react before he was shot.

Minneapolis police release body-cam footage in the deadly shooting of Amir Locke

The raid took place just before 7 a.m. Wednesday, and the footage captures officers shining a bright light toward Locke, who appears to be lying on the couch in the darkened apartment.

As Locke sat up, his body wrapped in a blanket and a bright light shining in his face, a gun is seen in his hand, prompting one of the officers to fire at Locke three times. It’s not clear from the video if the gun was pointed at officers or if anyone ordered him to drop it before he was shot. The chaotic incident lasted less than 10 seconds.

Locke’s father said his son had been a “deep sleeper” since he was a kid. After viewing the body-camera footage, he said he believed his son was startled awake when an officer kicked the couch he was sleeping on, causing him to grab for his gun.

He said Locke had gotten the firearm because he was a DoorDash driver and had been concerned about a spate of violent carjackings in the city — many targeting delivery drivers.

“When they allowed us to see the footage of Amir, I had to be strong, but I was bleeding inside,” Andre Locke told reporters, his voice trembling. “He didn’t have a chance. … My heart ripped out of my body to see his life taken from him.”

Locke was hit three times — twice in the chest and once in his right wrist, according to a medical incident report released by the city. Huffman said officers immediately provided medical aid, but Locke later died at a nearby hospital.

In a news conference Thursday night, Huffman defended her initial description of the scene, insisting the body-camera footage showed officers announcing the warrant before they crossed into the door of the apartment. When a reporter said the video did not show that, Huffman insisted it did and urged the public to view the footage and “make their own assessment.”

While the footage appears to show the barrel of Locke’s gun aimed toward the ground, Huffman said it was aimed toward an officer out of frame. “The officer had to make a split-second decision to assess the circumstances and determine whether he felt like there was … the threat of imminent harm, great bodily harm or death,” Huffman said. “Ultimately, that decision of whether that threshold was met will be examined by the county attorney’s office that reviews this case.”

On Friday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that he would jointly review Locke’s “tragic death” with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office has overseen the prosecutions of police officers including the 2020 killing of George Floyd.

Minneapolis police on Thursday identified the officer who shot Locke as Mark Hanneman, who joined the force in 2015 and started working on the SWAT team in 2020. Personnel records released by the city show he had been the subject of three complaints since his hiring, all closed without discipline. Officials said Hanneman has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is being investigated. Locke’s family, speaking at a news conference at City Hall, demanded Hanneman be fired and charged in the man’s death.

Huffman confirmed Thursday that Locke was not the subject of the warrant and that police were still gathering information about why he was at the scene. Asked why the police had initially described Locke as a “suspect,” Huffman blamed a lack of information in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and said it remained “unclear” what connection, if any, Locke had to the St. Paul investigation.

On Friday, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is part of the legal team retained by the Locke family, accused the police of trying to “assassinate the character of Amir Locke to justify their unjustifiable act.” He likened the case to the killing of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed by Louisville police as they executed a no-knock warrant at her apartment in 2020.

Both Crump and Minneapolis attorney Jeff Storms — who was part of the legal team that won a $27 million civil settlement from the city of Minneapolis for members of Floyd’s family — questioned why Minneapolis continued the practice of no-knock raids after Taylor’s death and accused the city of refusing to reform a police department long accused of racism and abuse toward people of color.

“We have a city that just refuses to learn,” Storms said. “We continue to be known for these colossal civil rights failures. And so now the question is, is the city going to hold itself accountable? And can we believe the city anymore when it says it’s going to learn from its own mistakes? … How many more people have to die?”

The killing has inflamed the ongoing debate over police practices in Minneapolis, where the department is the subject of a patterns and practices investigation by the civil rights division of the Justice Department. The fatal shooting occurred as three former Minneapolis officers charged in Floyd’s death are on federal trial accused of violating his civil rights in that fatal 2020 arrest.

Garland announces Justice Dept. probe into Minneapolis police

In the aftermath of Locke’s shooting, Huffman and other police officials quickly reached out to Black activists in the community, seeking to maintain calm amid continued fears of unrest in a city that remains traumatized by the death of Floyd and others who have died at the hands of police.

Floyd’s killing sparked almost universal calls for police reform. But Minneapolis remains deeply divided on how to get there. Last fall, voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have replaced the police department with a new agency, amid fears that it would only further diminish public safety efforts amid scores of officer departures and rising violent crime.

Mayor Jacob Frey, who was elected to a second term in November, has vowed to make public safety a major focus of his new term, emphasizing his plans to transform policing by rebuilding the diminished department with new officers and embracing “needed” reforms. But he has repeatedly complained about reforms being overridden or blocked by state and federal policing regulations.

A ballot initiative on overhauling police after George Floyd’s death is tearing Minneapolis apart

In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, Frey instituted a policy against the use of no-knock warrants in Minneapolis that his campaign described as a “ban.” But critics say the wording of the policy still allowed police to use such warrants, though department officials have declined to say how often.

On Friday afternoon, Frey issued an “immediate moratorium” on the “request and execution” of no-knock warrants in the city. In a statement, his office said the “only permissible way for MPD officers to execute a warrant is the ‘knock-and-announce’ approach,” which requires officers to knock, announce and wait “a reasonable amount of time” before entering. But Frey’s office said exceptions to the no-knock moratorium could be made if there is an “imminent threat” to an individual or member of the public.

Frey announced the city would partner with activist DeRay Mckesson and Pete Kraska, an expert on police militarization who is based at Eastern Kentucky University, to “review and suggest revisions” to the MPD’s policies on “unannounced entry.”

“No matter what information comes to light, it won’t change the fact that Amir Locke’s life was cut short,” Frey said in a statement. He has said the body-camera footage of Locke’s shooting “raises more questions than answers.”

A source close to the investigation told KARE-TV that St. Paul police did not request a no-knock warrant as part of its investigation because the department no longer uses them. But when Minneapolis police were asked to execute the warrant, MPD allegedly insisted the warrant be changed to authorize it be executed without first knocking, forcing St. Paul police to amend their request with a district judge — who has to approve such warrants.

A copy of the warrant had not yet been made public Friday, and a spokesman for the St. Paul Police department declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

Gov. Tim Walz on Friday called for additional regulations on the use of no-knock warrants in the state, calling Locke’s death a “tragedy.” “To ensure the safety of both residents and law enforcement, we need to make additional changes to police policies and practices regarding the execution of search warrants,” Walz said.

On Thursday night, a somber Frey joined Huffman at a news conference, where he reiterated his commitment to enacting police reforms. “We are dead serious about seeing the necessary changes through, and the necessary changes start with being honest and transparent,” Frey said. “We want to get things right.”

But Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and prominent Black activist in the city, interrupted the news conference, tearfully confronting Frey and Huffman and accusing them of another police coverup. Levy Armstrong, whom Frey recently appointed to chair a commission on community safety in the city, said the footage shows that Locke never had a chance against the officers.

“I don’t know how you guys slept last night,” Levy Armstrong said, her voice shaking. “Demonstrate integrity. Don’t cover up for what those cops did. If they knew that the kid had a gun as he started waking up, say ‘Drop your weapon.’ They didn’t do that. … Any mom can see what happened there.”

Others across the city reacted with shock to the footage. Jamal Osman, a Minneapolis City Council member who is Somali American, said on Twitter that the video made him “sick.” On Friday, Osman called for a state and federal intervention for a police department that he said was “out of control.”

“What do we have to do to stop the police from killing people that look like us?” he said at a news conference with Locke’s family. “This is America. This is not Afghanistan or Somalia. … This is not the SEAL team that is catching Osama bin Laden or somebody. This is our kids. … This should have never happened.”