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No charges for Minneapolis officers in shooting death of Amir Locke

A brief body camera excerpt released by the city after the shooting showed officers opening the door of the apartment where the 22-year-old Locke was staying. Officers did not knock before entering. Seconds later, Locke is seen stirring from underneath a blanket and holding a handgun just before he was shot.

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A screen capture of a police body camera video shows the Minneapolis SWAT team enter an apartment where police fatally shot 22-year-old Amir Locke in February.
Courtesy of Minneapolis Police Department via MPR News
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MINNEAPOLIS — There will be no criminal charges against the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Amir Locke in February, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said Wednesday, April 6.

Ellison and Freeman said they did not have enough admissible evidence to file charges against officer Mark Hanneman, nor any of the officers involved. Hanneman shot Locke, 22, during a no-knock warrant raid on a Minneapolis apartment building during the early morning hours of Feb. 2.

Police raided the apartment in connection to a St. Paul homicide investigation. Locke, who was wrapped in a large blanket sleeping on the couch, was holding a handgun when he woke up to officers storming into the apartment . Officers shot Locke after seeing the gun, the Minneapolis Police Department said. The shooting played out in seconds.

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Amir Locke
Courtesy of the Locke family via Jeff Storms

The state would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hanneman violated the state's use-of-force statute, the prosecutors explained Wednesday.

“It would be unethical for us to file charges in a case in which we know that we will not be able to prevail because the law does not support the charges,” Ellison told reporters during a news conference following the announcement.

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Ellison and Freeman called Locke's death a tragedy.

"Amir Locke’s life mattered. He was a young man with plans to move to Dallas, where he would be closer to his mom and — he hoped — build a career as a hip-hop artist, following in the musical footsteps of his father," the statement said. "Amir Locke was not a suspect in the underlying St. Paul criminal investigation nor was he named in the search warrants. Amir Locke is a victim. This tragedy may not have occurred absent the no-knock warrant used in this case."

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Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison address reporters remotely following the announcement of their decision to not pursue criminal charges against officers involved in the raid that killed 22-year-old Amir Locke at a Minneapolis apartment on Feb. 2, 2022.
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Locke had a permit to carry a handgun, his family said. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said it could not verify Locke’s permit status as that information is private under state law. Ellison said whether Locke was a legal firearm permit holder was irrelevant to his investigation as Locke was allowed to have a firearm in the apartment when he was shot.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference in New York City Wednesday afternoon, Locke’s mother, Karen Wells, said she'll continue to seek justice for her son. "This is not over," she said.

“I am not disappointed, I am disgusted with the city of Minneapolis," she later added. "I am not Minnesota nice, you’ve got something different right here. I’m from a different state, we stand up, we speak up.”

Wells, who was joined by attorney Ben Crump and civil rights leader Al Sharpton, said they will continue to push for further review of the shooting. Sharpton said they plan to ask for a federal investigation of the case.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey this week announced a new ban on no-knock warrants for the Minneapolis Police Department and new rules for knock-and-announce warrants including a requirement for officers to wait a minimum of 20 seconds after announcing presence before entering, and 30 seconds during nighttime hours.

Frey previously said he would restrict the practice following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in 2020. Ellison said he hoped the mayor will do more to enforce the policy.

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The report

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated the shooting and provided a report on its findings to prosecutors last week. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and an independent expert all arrived at the same conclusion: that criminal charges could not be pursued, Freeman told reporters on Wednesday.

The independent expert who reviewed the BCA findings is Jack Ryan, a former police captain and use of force expert who Ellison said has been critical of Minneapolis police in the past.

Ban on no-knocks?

Ellison also questioned the need for no-knock warrants in the first place, as they put the lives of suspects, bystanders and police officers at unnecessary risk.

There is a national movement pushing for a ban on no-knock warrants that has grown significantly since police shot and killed Breonna Taylor during a 2020 raid on her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. The only officer prosecuted in that case was acquitted of charges.

The Minnesota Legislature is currently considering a bill that would ban the practice of no-knock warrants in the state. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party-backed measure stands ready for a vote on the House floor should DFL leadership take it up. Bill author Rep. Athena Hollins, DFL-St. Paul, said that might not happen as there are concerns it may not get enough votes to pass in the House. There is currently no companion bill in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The proposed ban has support from police reform activists and a state gun-rights group. Rob Doar with the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus has testified in favor of the bill and called for a no-knock ban in the wake of Locke’s death.

No-knock warrants have been banned in Florida since 1994 through a state supreme court ruling . Oregon has a law forbidding the practice.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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