Prosecutors announced Wednesday they will not file charges against the Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot Amir Locke during a February no-knock raid.
“ 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 the officer, Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said in a joint statement.
Officer Mark Hanneman shot Locke three times less than ten seconds after a SWAT team entered the apartment where Locke was sleeping to serve a search warrant early in the day. Officers from the Minneapolis Police Department were executing the search warrant as part of a St. Paul homicide investigation, but Locke was not listed on the search warrant, interim Chief Amelia Huffman told reporters after the shooting.
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Locke’s family is “deeply disappointed by the decision,” according to a statement released Wednesday by the family’s legal team.
“The family and its legal team are firmly 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,” the statement said.
Body camera footage released by Minneapolis police showed officers quietly opening the door to the apartment with a key and then repeatedly shouting commands as they entered the home. Locke, who was wrapped in a blanket on the couch, starts to rise. He can be seen holding a gun, which his family said he legally owned to protect himself, with his finger off the trigger. The officer then fires three shots, striking Locke twice in the chest and once in the wrist, and the video ends.
Locke, 22, did not live in the apartment where he was killed. Police were searching for suspects connected to the January shooting of Otis Elder in nearby St. Paul. Locke’s cousin and another teenager have been charged in the homicide investigation that led to the fatal raid.
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Minneapolis police faced criticism for initially describing Locke as a suspect. Wednesday, Ellison said Locke “was a victim” and “never should have been called a suspect.”
Freeman said he and Ellison spoke with Locke’s family prior to announcing the decision.
“They, like us, believe that if a no-knock warrant hadn’t been used, Amir Locke might well be here today,” Freeman said.
Civil rights groups, including the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Locke’s family and their attorneys demanded the Hanneman be fired in the wake of the shooting. Locke’s mother, Karen Wells, called his death “an execution.”
Hanneman was placed on administrative leave following the shooting.
He was hired in 2015 and had three complaints against him that were closed with no discipline, according to records released by the city. A fourth complaint against him from 2018 is still open, according to a database created by activist group Communities United Against Police Brutality.
Locke’s family and civil rights attorney Ben Crump have called for a ban on no-knock warrants, renewing a nationwide debate sparked by the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. The SWAT raid that killed Locke, who was Black, was not going to be executed as a pre-dawn no-knock search warrant until the Minneapolis Police Department insisted, according to the St. Paul Police Department.
Ellison and Freeman said the case shows no-knock warrants are “highly risky” and can pose “significant dangers” to law enforcement and public, including those who aren’t committing a crime.
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The Minneapolis Police Department will be prohibited from executing no-knock search warrants after Friday except under “exigent circumstances,” Mayor Jacob Frey announced Tuesday. Officers will be required to knock and wait 20 to 30 seconds before entering a residence.
Ellison called for the department to enforce the new policy and “get serious about ending in-custody deaths.” He also urged Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“The problems involving policing and communities of color in Minneapolis are long-standing and everyone knows it — yet it feels like nothing is ever done about it,” he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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