The police officer who shot and killed Amir Locke while executing a no-knock search warrant won’t face charges.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman announced the decision Wednesday, April 6. A joint statement called Locke’s death “a tragedy” and railed against no-knock warrants, but ultimately stated “there is insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges in this case.”
A lawyer for Locke’s family did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, was killed Feb. 2 by an officer on a Minnesota Police SWAT team that was carrying out a no-knock warrant for a homicide suspect. As they SWAT team entered the apartment, bodycam footage showed Locke sleeping under a blanket on the couch; police kicked the couch, Locke rolled over, revealing a gun in his vicinity. An officer, later identified as Marik Hanneman, immediately opened fire, shooting Locke three times.
(It later came out that two other members of the SWAT team, Kristopher Dauble and Nathan Sundberg, had been named in a civil suit tied to a Minneapolis PD “hunting scandal”: During the uprising over the murder of George Floyd, riot cops were ordered to cruise around the city and fire non-lethal ammo at protestors and others out after curfew. A commander was caught on a body camera praising this activity as “goin’ out hunting.”)
Locke was not a suspect on the search warrant and his family later said he had been staying with his cousin at the time of the shooting. The suspect, 17-year-old Mekhi Speed, was also a cousin of Locke’s and sometimes stayed in the apartment where the killing took place.
In declining to file charges against the officers involved, prosecutors said they’d be unable to “disprove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements of Minnesota’s use-of-deadly-force statute… 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.”
To that end, the statement notes that the bodycam footage of the killing showed Locke moving around under a blanket and holding out a firearm “that was pointed in the direction of at least one officer.” This, it continues, constituted a “specifically articulable threat,” under which the use of deadly force is authorized for police officers in the line of duty.
After Locke’s killing, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey instituted a temporary ban on the request and execution of no-knock warrants. At the end of this week a new policy will go into effect requiring Minneapolis cops to knock and wait a certain amount of time (20 seconds during the day, 30 seconds at night) before entering someone’s residence.
In their statement, Ellison and Freeman said it “was not the role of our offices to evaluate whether the decision to seek a no-knock warrant was appropriate” while making their decision on whether to file charges or not. That said, the pair called on local, state, and federal lawmakers to “seriously weigh the benefits of no-knock warrants, which are dangerous for both law enforcement and the public alike.”