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Family, friends mourn Amir Locke, a Black man shot by police during a ‘no-knock’ raid

At his funeral, attendees called on the mayor of Minneapolis to end the law enforcement tactic

Amir Locke's casket after his funeral Feb. 17 in Minneapolis. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune/AP)

A Black church in the heart of North Minneapolis filled with music, grief and calls for action Thursday morning, as family and friends gathered to mourn Amir Locke.

The 22-year-old was killed in a predawn, “no-knock” raid on Feb. 2, as SWAT officers entered a downtown Minneapolis apartment to serve a warrant related to a homicide investigation in neighboring St. Paul.

He was a burgeoning musician, like his father, Andre Locke, who records as Buddy McLain. Among the musical groups to perform at the funeral at Shiloh Temple Ministries was the Grammy-winning Sounds of Blackness, whose performance of “Black Lives Matter” ended with a Black power salute. The gospel group James Grear & Company also performed, bringing mourners to their feet with raised hands.

Grear said he’s known Andre Locke for over 20 years and has two sons in the same building where Amir Locke was killed. “I remember the anxiety of trying to see if my sons were okay,” he told the crowd. “When I learned it was your boy, my heart broke for you.”

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

The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered an impassioned call to action in his homily. Recalling his discovery that his last name is the same as that of one of his ancestors’ enslavers, Sharpton said: “Our names are our title of ownership. That’s why it didn’t matter that Amir’s name wasn’t on the warrant. Because we don’t have a right to a name in the eyes of some in this country. We are nameless suspects.”

Sharpton called for a bill that would ban the “no-knock” police tactic of entering homes without warning to execute warrants. “I stand here to say you are going to pass the Amir Locke Law. Enough is enough.”

“Amir has a name,” he added. “His name wasn’t on your warrant, but his name is going to be in your law books.”

Attorney Ben Crump, who has represented the families of George Floyd and Daunte Wright, listed other Black men and women who have been killed by police, including Breonna Taylor, who was shot during a no-knock raid in Louisville in 2020. Like Locke, Taylor wasn’t listed on the warrant. During each description of how they died, he paused after the word “while,” prompting the mourners to call out “Black.”

“If the Minneapolis Police Department would have banned no-knock warrants like they said, let’s be clear, Amir would still be here,” Crump said.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D) has come under scrutiny in recent days for touting during his reelection campaign last year that he had banned no-knock warrants in the city. A closer look at the policy revisions Frey implemented in late 2020, after a Minneapolis officer killed Floyd, revealed that the language allowed police to continue using them under a different name.

Two days after Locke’s death, Frey again announced a moratorium on the warrants — but in the fine print allowed the department to use them if officers deemed the situation an “imminent threat.” Frey later apologized for describing his 2020 action as a “ban,” telling city council members last week that over time, “language became more casual, including my own, which did not reflect the necessary precision or nuance, and I own that.”

What to know about the police shooting of Amir Locke, the Minneapolis man killed during a ‘no-knock’ raid

At the funeral, Amir Locke’s cousin Shiela Morgan read Psalm 91, while his aunt Neka Gray read a passage from the Book of Revelation. Lekesia Wilbon, listed as Locke’s “honorary aunt,” read a poem that turned into a song.

Delivering a tribute, Locke’s aunt Linda Kay Tyler decried the notion of more training for police officers. “You cannot train somebody to be empathetic about Black and Brown lives,” she said. “It’s either in you, or it’s not.”

Rather than more training, Tyler said, officers need to be relieved of their duties. “If you think being a police officer is a difficult profession, try to be a Black man.”

Locke’s mother, Karen Wells, had pointed words for those in power: “Chief of police, Mayor Frey and all those squad members, MPD, that was in there — when you go to bed at night, I want you to see his face.”

Holly Bailey contributed to this report.