Police won’t be charged in shooting of Amir Locke during no-knock raid

MINNEAPOLIS – The Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot Amir Locke during a predawn, no-knock raid in February will not face charges in the killing, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

In a statement, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who jointly reviewed the case, said there was “insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges” in the case. They said they could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Mark Hanneman, who fatally shot Locke, had violated the state’s use-of-deadly force statute that authorizes officers to use such a force.

The prosecutors also said they could find no criminal wrongdoing in the decision making that led to Locke’s fatal shooting but strongly criticized the use of a no-knock warrant.

“Amir Locke’s life mattered,” Ellison and Freeman said in the statement. “He should be alive today, and his death dele is a tragedy.”

Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, was shot and killed Feb. 2 as members of the Minneapolis Police SWAT team executed a warrant related to a homicide investigation in neighboring St. Paul.

Body-camera video released by Minneapolis police shows Locke apparently waking up the SWAT officers burst into the apartment, his body wrapped in a comforter and a bright light in his face. As Locke shifts his body to sit up, a gun is seen in his hand.

Three gunshots are heard — all fired by Hanneman — before the video stops. Locke was hit twice in the chest and once in the wrist and was pronounced dead at a hospital. 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.

Broken Doors: A six-part investigative podcast about how no-knock warrants are deployed in the American justice system

Locke did not live in the apartment where he was killed. It was rented by the girlfriend of the older brother of Mekhi Speed, a suspect in the St. Paul investigation investigation. Speed ​​and his mother dele, Cheryl Locke, lived in another apartment in the same building, which was also searched by police in coordinated raids around the same time.

Police previously described Locke as a suspect but later said that it was incorrect. Locke was not named on the warrant that led to the shooting.

Asked why the police had previously described Locke as a “suspect,” interim Minneapolis Police chief Amelia Huffman blamed a lack of information in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. But Locke’s defendants accused the police department of trying to smear their son, who was to carry a firearm. They said their son had been “executed” by the police.

The killing has inflamed the ongoing debate over policing practices in Minneapolis, a city still reeling from the police killing of George Floyd nearly two years ago. The department is currently the subject of a patterns and practices investigation by the civil rights division of the Justice Department.

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 officers 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.

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.

On Tuesday, Frey implemented a new policy that he said prohibits the Minneapolis police from applying for or executing no-knock search warrants. But the latest ban, which goes into effect Friday, still allows for an exception for “exigent circumstances,” including when police determine there could be “imminent harm” or “imminent destruction or removal of evidence.”

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