Amir Locke shooting: What we know so far
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - After the shooting death of Amir Locke in downtown Minneapolis on Feb. 2, the Twin Cities has again gained national attention centered on the circumstances that led to the fatal event.
Protests have called for further police reform under the belief the shooting should not have happened, while simultaneously calling for increased transparency and a ban on "no-knock" search warrants in the process.
Nearly a week later details regarding the fatal encounter have become more clear, but questions remain still.
Background on shooting
Just before 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 2, the Minneapolis SWAT team entered apartment 701 at the Bolero Flats in downtown Minneapolis to execute a no-knock search warrant in connection with a January homicide in St. Paul.
According to the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) incident report, the SWAT team went to two apartments on the 14th floor before entering the unit on the seventh and "loudly" announcing their presence.
MPD says about nine seconds "into the entry," they encountered a man holding a handgun pointed "in the direction of officers." Mark Hanneman, a member of the eight-person SWAT team, fired at the man, striking him three times – twice in the chest and once on the right wrist, according to the incident report.
Controversy has surrounded the fact that all available information indicates Locke was not named in the search warrant that led to his fatal encounter, and he was a legally registered firearm owner, according to his family.
On Tuesday Ramsey County prosecutors filed second-degree murder charges against a 17-year-old in connection with a St. Paul homicide investigation which was the basis for the search warrant that resulted in Amir Locke's death. The suspect in that homicide, Mehki Speed, is the cousin of Amir Locke and lived in the same apartment building.
In a statement Tuesday, Feb. 8, the family said, "We are aware of the recent reports of an arrest and the charging of a teenager in connection with the warrants executed at the Bolero Flats. We can confirm that the charged teenager is Amir Locke’s cousin. His cousin was not present in Unit 701, where the no-knock warrant and Amir were both executed… We must remain focused on the fact that Amir was an innocent young man of a raid gone terribly gone, who is now the latest statistic and victim of the dangerous and intrusive no-knock warrant techniques that must be banned."
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) is now handling the investigation, which is typical for cases in Minnesota if an officer fires shots.
Bodycam video released
Shortly after the shooting on Feb. 2, MPD released images of the gun and ammo recovered inside the Bolero Flats apartment.
But following calls from the public as both news and rumor began to spread, graphic body camera video of the incident was released to the public around 7 p.m. on Feb. 3.
The video is 54 seconds total, in which the first 29 seconds was edited in slow motion, the next nine seconds was edited to be extra slowed, and the last 15 seconds shows the video in real-time.
Contrary to previous statements made by MPD interim police chief Amelia Huffman before its release, the video shows that police did not announce themselves until after opening the apartment door.
The video shows Locke was armed – his family later saying he was carrying legally – however, it's not clear in the video if the gun was "pointed in the direction of officers," as MPD wrote in its initial news release to the public.
Responses and protests
Minneapolis Mayor Frey and Huffman held a news conference shortly after the public release of the body camera video, intending to reinforce the city’s position and commitment to transparency throughout the investigation.
But while answering questions both were confronted by activists during tense moments that led to them leaving prematurely, after answering only a few questions for media outlets. Nekima Levy Armstrong, co-chair of the mayor’s public safety work group, was a prominent voice during the news conference. The following day activists held their own press conference demanding answers from city officials.
Protesters took to the streets of downtown Minneapolis Friday, Feb. 4, to make their voices – and horns – heard as a car caravan rally blocked traffic outside Minneapolis City Hall before heading down 7th Street and eventually stopping in front of the Bolero Flats building where Locke was killed.
The next day more than 1,000 protesters marched through the streets of Minneapolis as they gathered outside the Hennepin County Government Center around 3 p.m. and called for action.
Crowd members held signs honoring Locke, while also calling into question the circumstances that led to his death. The group collectively called for the officer who shot and killed Locke to be arrested, while also calling for the resignations of both Frey and Huffman.
Meanwhile Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced he will partner with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to review the fatal police shooting of Amir Locke, and help Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman review the case file and determine if charges will be brought against any of the officers involved in the shooting.
"Amir Locke's life mattered," Ellison said in a statement. "I promise the Locke family and all Minnesotans that we will work with the Hennepin County Attorney's Office to conduct a fair and thorough review of the BCA investigation and that we will be guided by the values of accountability and transparency."
In a statement, Governor Walz said following the shooting, "My heart is with the family and friends of Amir Locke… Minnesota made strides last year, passing statewide restrictions on the use of no-knock warrants. But the events leading to the death of Amir Locke illustrate the need for further reform. To ensure the safety of both residents and law enforcement, we need to make additional changes to police policies and practices regarding the execution of search warrants."
Students have also organized walk-out protest rallies calling for answers and accountability.
No-knock warrant questions, concerns
In Minnesota, "a search warrant may be served only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. unless the court determines on the basis of facts stated in the affidavits that a nighttime search outside those hours is necessary to prevent the loss, destruction, or removal of objects of the search, or to protect the searchers or the public."
The practice of no-knock warrants is often used by law enforcement agencies to surprise suspects that might otherwise be confrontational or mitigate the risk of potential evidence destruction. Minnesota law requires police to outline why they cannot use a regular "knock and announce" warrant, and two high-ranking officials in the police agency must sign off on the application.
Two days after the shooting death, Frey ordered a moratorium on no-knock warrants in Minneapolis. However, many thought they were already banned.
Since the shooting Frey's allies have seemingly backpedaled from claims made during the 2021 municipal elections about no-knock warrants. All of Mpls, which supported Frey in his re-election, has since removed a page from its website that claimed Frey had "banned no-knock warrants" during his first term. The group had been touting it as one of Frey's "key accomplishments." Frey's owned campaign website made similar claims.
While Frey placed restrictions on no-knock search warrants, by requiring police to announce their presence before crossing the threshold of the apartment, the practice was still allowed in Minneapolis.
"No matter what information comes to light, it won’t change the fact that Amir Locke’s life was cut short," said Frey in the news release announcing the moratorium. "To ensure safety of both the public and officers until a new policy is crafted, I’m issuing a moratorium on both the request and execution of such warrants in Minneapolis."
But the ban includes an important exception: "To execute a no-knock warrant under the moratorium, there must be an imminent threat of harm to an individual or the public, and then the warrant must be approved by the chief," Frey said during the announcement.
After questioning, Frey told FOX 9, "Outside of limited exigent circumstances, like a hostage situation, MPD officers will be required to announce their presence prior to entry... we can't prevent every tragedy, but we can limit the likelihood of bad outcomes."
Speaking with Minneapolis City Council members on Feb. 7, Frey seemingly admitted his campaign made inaccurate statements when it came to a policy change on no-knock warrants.
"Throughout a campaign, and certainly as more and more outside groups began weighing in, language became more casual, including my own," the mayor said, responding to questions from Councilman Jeremiah Ellison.
FOX 9’s Paul Blume confirmed St. Paul police initially requested a standard search warrant, but for MPD to join the operation its personnel insisted on the no-knock provision.
St Paul's last no-knock warrant was executed in 2016, though they defer to local jurisdictions to determine entry tactics when investigations take them out of St. Paul.
Family members, Al Sharpton and Ben Crump remember victim
Following his death, the Locke family retained civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Jeff Storm, the attorneys who also represented the family of George Floyd.
In a statement following the announcement Crump said, "Like the case of Breonna Taylor, the tragic killing of Amir Locke shows a pattern of no-knock warrants having deadly consequences for Black Americans. This is yet another example of why we need to put an end to these kinds of search warrants so that one day, Black Americans will be able to sleep safely in their beds at night. We will continue pushing for answers in this case so that Amir’s grieving family can get the closure they deserve."
On Feb. 7 the Minneapolis City Council's Policy and Government Oversight Committee discussed future no-knock warrant policies for the city, with input from Crump, Storms, and Antonio Romanucci.
The family of Amir Locke, the 22-year-old who was fatally shot by Minneapolis Police while they were serving a no-knock warrant two weeks ago, gathered with community members and civil rights leaders to remember him and express their anger over his death at a funeral service held Thursday at a church in north Minneapolis.
The Reverend Al Sharpton, civil rights leader and president of the National Action Network, gave the eulogy. Sharpton previously participated in funeral services for George Floyd in 2020, and Daunte Wright last year.
Locke's parents appeared on Sharpton's MSNBC show on Feb. 6 to discuss the shooting while again calling for justice and peace in the wake of their son's death.