Minnesota prosecutors declined to file charges Wednesday against a Minneapolis police SWAT team officer who fatally shot Amir Locke while executing an early morning search warrant at a downtown apartment in February.
Locke, 22, who was black, was sleeping on the couch in the apartment when authorities entered on Feb. 2 as part of a homicide investigation in the neighboring city of St Paul.
Locke jolted awake and reached for a handgun when the SWAT officer shot him, police body camera video shows. He was killed seconds after police entered the apartment. Minneapolis authorities claimed Locke pointed the gun in the direction of officers, but his family has disputed this.
Locke’s mother, Karen Wells, has called his death “an execution”. His family said Locke had a license to possess the gun and was startled awake by police before being shot within seconds.
Minnesota State Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman, whose offices reviewed the case, said they determined officer Mark Hanneman was justified in firing his weapon.
“Amir Locke’s life mattered. He was a young man with plans to move to Dallas, where he would be closer to his mother and, he hoped, build a career as a hip-hop artist, following in his father’s musical footsteps,” Ellison and Freeman said in a statement. joint. “He should be alive today, and his death is a tragedy.”
But, “there is insufficient admissible evidence to bring criminal charges in this case. Specifically, the State could not refute beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements of Minnesota’s use of deadly force statute that authorizes Officer Hanneman’s use of force,” Ellison and Freeman said.
Locke’s death in February came when three former Minneapolis police officers were on trial in United States federal court in St Paul for the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody. The case sparked protests and a review of search warrants without notice.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced an immediate moratorium on such orders and on Tuesday formalized a new policy effective Friday that requires officers to call and wait before entering a residence.
In their requests for search warrants on the Minneapolis apartment and elsewhere, authorities said a search warrant was necessary.
Police were looking for Locke’s 17-year-old cousin, Mekhi Camden Speed, who was charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the January slaying of Otis Elder, a 38-year-old father who had been found shot and lying in bed. on the street.
Body camera video shows an officer using a key to unlock the door and enter, followed by at least four officers in uniform and protective vests, time-stamped around 6:48 a.m. [11:48 GMT] As they enter, they repeatedly shout: “Police, search warrant!” They also yell “Hands!” and “Get on the ground!”
The video shows an officer kicking over a sectional couch, and Locke is seen wrapped in a duvet, holding a gun. Three shots are heard and the video ends.
Ellison and Freeman issued a 44-page investigative report into Locke’s death detailing their conclusion that there was no legal basis to charge Officer Hanneman with any crime. Locke’s death showed that warrants are “highly risky” and can pose “significant dangers” to people not involved in criminal activity, they said.
“Federal, state and local lawmakers should seriously weigh the benefits of warrants, which are dangerous to both police and the public,” Ellison and Freeman said. “Other cities, like Saint Paul, and some states, have completely ended the use of warrants.”
A year ago, Kentucky enacted a new state law limiting the use of “unannounced” police raids to violent crime cases after police shot and killed 26-year-old Black woman Breonna Taylor in a police raid. misdirected drugs. Taylor’s death triggered nationwide demonstrations.
The United States Department of Justice announced in April 2021 that it had opened an investigation of potentially unconstitutional policing practices within the Minneapolis Police Department following Floyd’s death.