Last week, footage showing another controversial police shooting emerged and this particular story is yet another that will likely bring the issue of no-knock raids back into the spotlight. Being that Amir Locke was a black man killed by a police officer, this story, as many others, is racially charged. Nevertheless, the killing of Locke is probably the best example to date demonstrating the need to rethink the practice.
On Thursday, the City of Minneapolis released bodycam footage depicting the encounter between police officers and 22-year-old Amir Locke. The incident occurred two days before.
A local CBS affiliate reported:
The footage, initially released on the city’s YouTube page, is less than a minute long. It shows the same video, or parts of it, at various speeds. At first it’s in slow motion, showing police unlocking a door and entering an apartment. Several officers can be heard yelling “police” and “search warrant” as they step through the doorway with guns drawn.
The officers approach a couch on which Locke is wrapped in a blanket. He sits up and turns toward the officers. He is holding a gun. An instant later, an officer fires three shots, and Locke falls to the floor. The shooting is replayed in super-slow motion. The entire video then plays again in real-time. In total, Locke is shot roughly 10 seconds after officers open the apartment door.
You can review the footage below. Warning: The video has disturbing content:
Public documents released on Thursday night reveal that Officer Mark Hanneman shot and killed Locke on Wednesday morning in his cousin’s apartment. Police stated they recovered a handgun at the scene. Attorneys representing Locke’s family said the young man possessed a license to carry a firearm and has no criminal record, a fact which was affirmed later by the authorities.
Court documents show that a man who lived in the apartment had past violent interactions with law enforcement. Minnesota Public Radio reported:
Marlon Cornelius Speed, 23, who lives in apartment 701, pleaded guilty in 2019 to a misdemeanor charge of interfering with police. Prosecutors say while riding in a squad car, Speed threatened to rape an officer’s family members, then tried to head butt him after arriving at the jail. The criminal complaint says Speed then smashed the officer’s hand into a concrete pillar.
On Thursday night, after the footage had been released, Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman and Mayor Jacob Frey addressed reporters during a press briefing. The chief said officers entered the building at around 7 a.m. as part of a St. Paul Police Department homicide investigation. There were several suspects identified along with three locations in the city.
The local CBS affiliate reported:
Huffman said both a knock and no-knock warrant were obtained so that the SWAT team could make its best assessment. She said when Officer Hanneman saw Locke holding a gun, he had to make a “split-second decision” on if there was a threat of great bodily harm or death, and to protect himself and his partners. She said his decision would ultimately be examined by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office when it gets the case.
She also said Locke was not named in the original warrant, and it’s “unclear” if he’s connected to St. Paul police’s investigation.
The original warrant issued by St. Paul was a knock warrant. However, Minneapolis police reportedly indicated they would not serve the warrant unless there was a no-knock option available, which prompted St. Paul to go back and obtain the no-knock warrant. Judge Peter Cahill, who presided over the Derek Chauvin trial, is believed to be the official who signed the no-knock warrant. This was ostensibly done to allow officers to decide which was the appropriate approach at the moment, according to Huffman.
According to city documents, the officer shot Locke twice in the chest and once in his wrist. He was pronounced dead after being transported to the hospital.
The New York Times noted that after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Mayor Frey implemented a policy requiring officers executing a no-knock warrant to announce their presence and purpose before entering the building. The footage shows that the officers never declared their presence before opening the door. It was not until they had already stormed into the apartment that they announced themselves and began shouting at Locke, who had been sleeping on the couch.
After the release of the footage, a national outcry ensued. On Saturday, over one thousand protesters marched through downtown Minneapolis to express outrage at Locke’s senseless killing.
Protesters now marching through downtown Minneapolis. #AmirLocke @WCCO pic.twitter.com/tJT2uFEOIH
— Nick Streiff (@nickstreiff) February 5, 2022
Police Chief Huffman is also under increased scrutiny for referring to Locke as a “suspect” when he was not on the warrant. People are also slamming her for having claimed officers had announced themselves before entering the apartment and claiming Locke pointed his weapon at officers. The footage did not back up either of these claims. Footage shared on Facebook by independent journalist Georgia Fort showed dozens of protesters gathered together outside of what is believed to be Huffman’s home.
While police shootings of black men have not been dominant in the news after Chauvin’s trial, this story is beginning to get more traction. But this particular story has the potential to lead to deeper conversations about no-knock raids because it is a more clear-cut example of how things can go wrong.
Locke did not have a criminal record, which means there are no prior issues that can be used to distract from how the city government mishandled this situation. Unless other information arises to the contrary, it is clear at this point that this incident should never have happened. As the story develops, eyes will be on Minneapolis’ government to see if they will finally pass meaningful legislation to address no-knock raids.
However, this could also become a national issue. After the death of Breonna Taylor, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a measure that would outlaw no-knock raids. However, the bill floundered and is essentially dead at this point. If I didn’t know any better, I would be tempted to think it was because Democrats were not too keen on advancing a significant piece of legislation addressing a serious law enforcement issue because it was introduced by a Republican. Either way, it appears this tragedy could actually lead to something positive in the future.
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