No charges filed in no-knock warrant killing of Amir Locke

Midwest

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota prosecutors declined to file charges Wednesday against a Minneapolis police SWAT team officer who fatally shot Amir Locke while executing an early morning no-knock search warrant in a downtown apartment in February.

Locke, 22, who was Black, was staying on a couch in the apartment when authorities entered it on Feb. 2 without knocking as part of an investigation into a homicide in neighboring St. Paul.

Locke, who was not named in the warrant, was shot seconds after authorities say he pointed a gun in the direction of officers. Locke’s family has questioned that. Body camera footage shows Locke holding a gun before he was shot.

Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office reviewed the case, said prosecutors determined Officer Mark Hanneman was justified in firing his weapon.

“After a thorough review of all available evidence, however, there is insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges in this case. Specifically, the State would be unable to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements of Minnesota’s use-of-deadly-force statute that authorizes the use of force by Officer Hanneman. Nor would the State be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a criminal charge against any other officer involved in the decision-making that led to the death of Amir Locke,” Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said in a joint statement.

The family of Locke released a statement through their lawyers saying they are disappointed by the decision.

In the statement, the family says his death “should never have happened” and are “committed to their continued fight for justice in the civil court system, in fiercely advocating for the passage of local and national legislation, and taking every other step necessary to ensure accountability for all those responsible for needlessly cutting Amir’s life far too short.”

Locke’s death came as three former Minneapolis police officers were on trial in federal court in St. Paul in George Floyd’s killing. It sparked protests and a reexamination of no-knock search warrants. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced an immediate moratorium on such warrants, and in March he announced a new policy that requires officers to knock and wait before entering a residence. Some lawmakers also have been pushing for a statewide ban on no-knock warrants, except in rare circumstances.

In their applications for search warrants of the Minneapolis apartment and other locations, authorities said a no-knock warrant was necessary to protect the public and officers as they looked for guns, drugs and clothing worn by people suspected in a violent killing. Authorities asked that officers be allowed to conduct the search without knocking, and outside the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., because the suspects being sought in the Jan. 10 killing of Otis Elder had a history of violence.

Locke was killed seconds after the SWAT team entered the apartment where his family said he was staying. 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 at about 6:48 a.m. As they enter, they repeatedly shout, “Police, search warrant!” They also shout “Hands!” and “Get on the ground!”

The video shows an officer kicking a sectional sofa, and Locke is seen wrapped in a comforter, holding a pistol. Three shots are heard and the video ends.

ST PAUL, MN – FEBRUARY 08: Students rally outside St. Paul Central high school as they stage a walkout to protest the killing of Amir Locke last week on February 8, 2022 in St Paul, Minnesota. Locke, 22, was shot and killed by Minneapolis Police during a no-knock raid in which Locke was not the target of a warrant. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Locke’s parents have said it appeared to them that their son was startled awake and his mother, Karen Wells, called his death “an execution.”

Police have said Locke was not named in the search warrant. His 17-year-old cousin, Mekhi Camden Speed, was named and has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in Elder’s killing.

The search warrants were carried out as part of an investigation into Elder’s death. Elder, a 38-year-old father, was found shot and laying in the street in what police believe was an apparent robbery. Drugs and money were found in Elder’s SUV, according to court documents.

The police department hired Hanneman in 2015. City records show there were three complaints made about him and that all were closed without him being disciplined, but they give no details. Data on the website of the citizen group Communities United Against Police Brutality shows a fourth complaint, in 2018, that remains open. No details were given.

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