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Police won’t be charged in death of Amir Locke, Black man shot during no-knock warrant

No charges will be filed in the death of Amir Locke, a Black 22-year-old man shot by a SWAT team officer during a no-knock warrant raid in Minneapolis in February, officials announced Wednesday.

Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement they are declining to file criminal charges in his death. 

The officials said they determined that after a “thorough review,” “there is insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges in this case.”

Amir Locke’s mother, Karen Wells, said Wednesday afternoon after the decision was announced, “I am not disappointed — I am disgusted with the city of Minneapolis.”

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The statement by the attorneys said the state would be unable to disprove “beyond a reasonable doubt” elements of Minnesota’s use-of-deadly-force statute that would have authorized use of force by Mark Hanneman, the officer who shot Locke.

The attorneys also said the state would be unable 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.”

Locke was killed on Feb. 2 after officers stormed into the apartment he was in and found him on the couch covered in a blanket. Minneapolis police said the officer opened fire after seeing the barrel of a gun come into view from under the blanket. 

Locke was shot three times in the incident.

The attorneys explained that under Minnesota law, peace officers are authorized to use deadly force while in the line of duty to protect other officers or another from death or great bodily harm.

They said during a news conference after the announcement that Locke’s hand was seen holding a firearm, though his finger was not on the trigger, and at one point it was pointed directly at Hanneman.

In the statement, the officials said Hanneman perceived the movements as a threat of death or great bodily harm.

Locke was not a suspect in the investigation connected to the search warrants.

His death once again rocked the city of Minneapolis, nearly two years after the death of George Floyd by then Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin. 

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“Amir Locke’s life mattered,” the attorneys said in a joint statement. “He should be alive today, and his death is a tragedy. Amir Locke was not a suspect in the underlying Saint 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,” the statement added. 

The county attorney and attorney general met with Locke’s family Wednesday morning to share their condolences again ahead of the announcement.

Wells said she was at the National Action Network Convention in New York when she received the news about her son’s case. She sat on a panel alongside other Black family members who have lost loved ones to violence including the mother of Ahmaud Arbery. 

She said she learned about the decision at the convention, a move she speculated city officials may have done intentionally.

“Once again, Minneapolis, you’re showing your true colors of actually who you are and who you represent. I’m not going to give up,” she said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Wells directed a message to Hanneman.

“You may have been found not guilty, but in the eyes of me, being the mother who I am, you are guilty,” she said. “You’re going to continue to be restless because the spirit of my baby is going to haunt you for the rest of your life.”

Rev. Al Sharpton called the decision “a slap in the face, not only to this mother, but to all of us.”

He said they’ll take the case to the Justice Department for review and called for no-knock warrants to be banned across the country. 

Locke’s family was “deeply disappointed” by the decision to not charge Hanneman, said attorneys Ben Crump, Jeff Storms and Antonio Romanucci in a joint statement Wednesday.

“The tragic death of this young man, who was not named in the search warrant and had no criminal record, should never have happened,” the statement said. “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 needly cutting Amir’s life far too short.”

Amir Locke's picture is seen during a heavy snowstorm at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on Feb. 22, 2022.
Amir Locke’s picture is seen during a heavy snowstorm at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on Feb. 22, 2022.Kerem Yucel / AFP via Getty Images

“No family should ever suffer like Amir’s again,” the statement concluded.

The use of the no-knock warrants was the crux of heated criticism against the Minneapolis Police Department — especially in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s death in Kentucky. 

After Locke’s death, Mayor Jacob Frey halted no-knock warrants. On Tuesday, the mayor enacted a new warrant and entry policy that prohibits the application for and execution of all no-knock search warrants by Minneapolis police.

The department remains the subject of a patterns and practices probe by the Justice Department.

At the Wednesday press conference, Freeman and Ellison acknowledged that residents of the city have been crying out for meaningful police reform for years.

“What I think we can try to do that perhaps will accomplish some of the reforms is to make sure that officers are less often in situations in which they’re confronted and think they have to use deadly force,” Freeman said.