Minnesota prosecutors declined to file charges Wednesday against a Minneapolis Police SWAT team officer who shot Amir Locke in an early-morning downtown apartment in February while executing a no-knock search warrant .
Locke, 22, who was black, was living on a couch in his cousin’s apartment when officers entered neighboring St. Paul on February 2 without knocking as part of a murder investigation.
Prosecutors said body camera video showed Locke pointing a gun at Officer Mark Heinemann, justifying his use of deadly force. Locke’s family disputed that, arguing that the footage showed Locke was shocked and held out for a gun he had been licensed to carry.
Locke’s mother, Karen Wells, said she was disappointed by the decision. At a news conference in New York with attorney Ben Crump and civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, he vowed to keep the pressure on Minneapolis city leaders and spoke directly to Hahnemann.
“It is not over. You may not have been found guilty, but in my eyes, the mother I am, you are guilty,” Wells said. “And I am not going to give up. Carry on with your restless nights, because I know you do.”
Locke was shot seconds after officers entered the apartment. Body camera footage shows Locke holding a gun before shooting it.
Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman, whose offices reviewed the case, said that Locke would never have been shot if the no-knock warrant was warranted. But he said there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hahnemann violated state statute when police could use deadly force.
“It would be immoral for us to file a charge in a case in which we know we will not win because the law does not support the charges,” Ellison said.
Locke died while three former Minneapolis police officers were being tried in federal court in St. Paul over the murder of George Floyd. It re-examined the protests and no-knock search warrants. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced an immediate moratorium on such warrants, and on Tuesday, he formalized a new policy that, with limited exceptions, requires officers to knock and wait before entering residences. Was. Some lawmakers are pushing for a statewide ban on no-knock warrants, except in rare circumstances.
The department issued a statement on behalf of interim chief Amelia Huffman, saying that Heinemann returned to active duty on February 28, but is no longer on the SWAT team. She did not comment directly on Hahnemann’s actions, but said, “Officers never want to face split-second decisions that end in the loss of life.”
Locke’s family was outraged that the police initially called him a suspect, which the police later called a mistake.
“Our investigation found no evidence that she had any role in the murder investigation that brought police to her doorstep on February 2 at 6:48 p.m.,” Ellison said. “Aamir was a victim. He should never have been called a suspect.”
In their applications for search warrants of Minneapolis apartments and other locations, officials said a no-knock warrant was necessary to protect the public and officers as they searched for guns, drugs and clothing worn by people suspected of violent murder. Were. Authorities said officers be allowed to conduct searches without knocking, and outside 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., because the suspects being sought in the January 10 murder of Otis the Elder had a history of violence. Is.
Locke died just seconds after the SWAT team entered the apartment at 6:48 a.m. Body camera video shows an officer entering the door using a key, followed by a minimal uniform and protective vest. There are four officers. As they enter, they repeatedly shout, “Police, search warrant!” They say “Hands!” also shout and “Get on the ground!”
The video shows an officer kicking a sectional couch, and Locke is seen wrapped in a comforter while holding a pistol. Three shots are heard and the video ends.
“I believed the man was going to fire his handgun and that I would suffer great bodily harm or death,” Hahneman wrote in his statement to investigators. “I realized in this moment that if I didn’t use lethal force myself, I was likely to be killed.”
Ellison and Freeman said they spoke to Locke’s parents on Wednesday before announcing they would not file charges.
“They, like us, are very disappointed with the no-knock warrant. They, like us, believe that Amir Locke would be here today if the no-knock warrant had not been used,” Freeman said, refusing to divulge further details of their conversation.
Sharpton said the family would demand that the US Justice Department review the case. Crump blamed the police for creating a life-or-death situation, and said gun rights groups should seek to end the no-knock warrant with the family.
She linked Locke’s death to Breonna Taylor, who was killed in a failed police raid in Kentucky in 2020, in which her boyfriend had previously shot officers as they broke into her apartment.
“Because if it can happen to Amir, it can happen to Breonna Taylor, it can happen to your kids,” Crump said.
Although Locke was not named in the warrant, his then 17-year-old cousin, Mekhi Camden Speed, was named and was charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the Elder murder.
The 38-year-old father, Elder, was found shot and lying on the street in what police believe was an apparent robbery. According to court documents, drugs and money were found in the SUV of the elder.
The Police Department hired Hahnemann in 2015. City records show that three complaints were made about him and he was all locked up without being disciplined, but they give no details. Data on the website of the citizens’ group Communities United against police brutality shows the fourth complaint in 2018 remains open. No details given.
Associated Press writer Amy Forlity contributed to this report.
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