Video of Minneapolis police killing sleeping black man sparks anger

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Police violence targeting black people in the United States and excessive security practices once again made headlines in the country after a 22-year-old black man was killed during a “no-knock” police raid. The video released by the police shows that the man had no chance of survival.

Authorities in the northern U.S. city of Minneapolis, still reeling from the police murder of George Floyd in 2020, said Amir Locke was shot Wednesday by officers carrying out a search warrant on the apartment he was in.

Locke was not named in the search warrant, which was issued in relation to a homicide investigation that the neighboring Saint Paul Police Department is running, Minneapolis Police Department interim chief Amelia Huffman said on Thursday.

In the video of Locke’s arrest, which was released on Thursday, a police officer uses a key to unlock the door and then a group of officers enters while shouting, “Police, search warrant, get on the ground, get on the f****** ground!”

An officer then kicks at the couch where Locke was lying and as Locke turns, an arm comes out from beneath the blanket, showing a gun held in hand. Almost immediately, police fired at least three shots.

The total time between the officers’ entrance and the shots fired was less than 10 seconds. Locke was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Locke’s parents described their son as a talented musician, beloved member of his community and law-abiding citizen at a news conference on Friday with their lawyer, prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump.

“A mother should never have to see her child executed in that type of manner,” said Locke’s mother, Karen Wells, during a press conference, adding she would fight until her son “gets justice.”

“I’m going to fight every day, throughout the day, 365 days, to make sure that Amir Rahkare Locke gets justice for being executed by the MPD,” she said. “We are going to make sure that we speak loudly for Amir.”

Locke’s father, Andre Locke, said he watched the video with “disbelief and anger.”

He described his son, who he stressed had no criminal record and held a gun permit, as a “deep sleeper.”

“He did what any reasonable, law-abiding citizen would do, white or black,” Locke said.

He said police could have done “anything differently,” including ordering his son to drop his weapon before opening fire.

“It seemed that he didn’t have a chance,” Locke said.

Karen Wells, the mother of Amir Locke, is surrounded by family and lawyer Jeff Storms as she speaks at a news conference regarding Locke's death, who was shot and killed by Minneapolis police's SWAT team in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., Feb. 4, 2022. (Reuters Photo)
Karen Wells, the mother of Amir Locke, is surrounded by family and lawyer Jeff Storms as she speaks at a news conference regarding Locke’s death, who was shot and killed by Minneapolis police’s SWAT team in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., Feb. 4, 2022. (Reuters Photo)

‘Locke’s life mattered’

Locke’s death has reopened the wounds caused by the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, when white ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Minnesota State Attorney General Keith Ellison promised to conduct a “fair and thorough” investigation of the events to ease tensions now.

“Amir Locke’s life mattered,” he said, alluding to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Without predicting the outcome of the investigation, Minnesota’s Democratic Governor Tim Walz said the circumstances of Locke’s death “illustrate the need for further reform” in the police force beyond the changes made after Floyd’s death, particularly the execution of search warrants.

The search warrant at the heart of the tragedy had not named Locke but said he was related to a suspect in a homicide investigation in the neighboring city of Saint Paul.

The warrant allowed officers to enter unannounced, according to Minneapolis police chief Amelia Huffman, speaking to the MPR radio.

These so-called “no-knock” warrants have been at the center of several cases of police violence, including the shooting in March 2020 of Breonna Taylor, whose death along with Floyd’s sparked massive national anti-racism protests the summer of that year.

Minnesota has restricted the use of no-knock warrants since the protests. On Friday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced an immediate moratorium on such warrants while the city reviews the policy.

“No matter what information comes to light, it won’t change the fact that Amir Locke’s life was cut short,” Frey said in a statement.

“To ensure the 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,” he added.

Crump has represented multiple black victims of police violence, including Floyd and Taylor’s families.

“No-knock raids … continue to take the lives of innocent black people,” Crump said.

Locke had bought a gun for his protection because he was a delivery driver, according to the attorney.

“African Americans, like any other American citizen, (have) a right to the Second Amendment,” said Crump, referring to the U.S. constitutional right to bear arms.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Minneapolis Police Department said that the man had a “handgun pointed in the direction of the officers.”

During a news conference on Thursday, Huffman said the county’s attorney will review the facts, in response to a question noting that the video appeared to show that Locke’s gun was pointed toward the floor.

“As there’s a gun emerging in your direction, you are forced to make a split-second decision on when it’s a threat,” Huffman added.

Huffman said the officer, identified earlier as Mark Hanneman, was in a difficult position.

“The still shot shows the image of the firearm in the subject’s hands, at the best possible moment when the lighting was fully on him. That’s the moment when the officer had to make a split-second decision to assess the circumstances and to determine whether he felt like there was an articulable threat, that the threat was of imminent harm, great bodily harm, or death, and that he needed to take action right then to protect himself and his partners,” she said.

Hanneman was hired in 2015. Records released by the city showed three complaints, all closed without discipline, but gave no details. Data on the website of the citizen group Communities United Against Police Brutality showed the fourth complaint, in 2018, that remains open. No details were given.

In commenting on the search warrant in the homicide probe, Huffman said, “It is unclear at this time how he or if he was connected to the St. Paul’s investigation.”

She added that officers from the St. Paul’s Police Department were later at the scene and recovered possible evidence for the homicide investigation.

“In the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the City of Minneapolis told the public that it was limiting the use of no-knock warrants to ‘limit the likelihood of bad outcomes.’ Less than two years later, Amir Locke and his family needlessly suffered the worst possible outcome,” Jeff Storms, another lawyer representing Locke’s family in the case, said in a statement.

Taylor, a Black woman, was shot and killed when armed police raided her Kentucky apartment in March 2020. Floyd was killed in May 2020.

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