No charges have been filed for the murder of black man Amir Locke in a no-hit raid

Minnesota prosecutors declined to press charges Wednesday against a Minneapolis police SWAT team officer who fatally shot and killed Amir Locke, a 22-year-old black man, while executing an early morning search warrant in a downtown apartment in February.

Locke remained on a couch in the apartment when authorities entered it without knocking Feb. 2 as part of a homicide investigation in nearby St. Paul.

Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman, whose offices reviewed the case, said after reviewing all the evidence, they determined that Officer Mark Hanneman was justified in shooting. his weapon.

They told a news conference that Hanneman’s body camera footage shows Locke pointing his gun at the officer.

Locke’s parents said that from what they saw in another officer’s body camera footage that was released shortly after the shooting, it appeared their son had woken up in startle. His mother, Karen Wells, called his death an “execution”. Through their lawyers, they said they were “deeply disappointed” by the decision.

Amir Locke’s parents, Karen Wells, left, and Andre Locke, attend a news conference in Minneapolis February 4, two days after he was shot dead by police. (Kerem Yucel/AFP/Getty Images)

Locke, who was not named in the warrant, was shot seconds after showing a gun. Body camera footage shows Locke holding a gun before he was shot.

Ellison and Freeman said Locke might never have been shot without the no-knock warrant. But they said there was not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hanneman violated any of the legal elements of state law governing when police can use the lethal force.

“It would be unethical for us to file charges in a case where we know we can’t prevail because the law doesn’t support the charges,” Ellison said.

Locke’s death came as three former Minneapolis police officers were on trial in federal court in St. Paul for the murder of George Floyd.

It sparked protests and a re-examination of no-knock search warrants. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced an immediate moratorium on such warrants, and on Tuesday formalized a new policy that will go into effect Friday requiring officers to knock and wait before entering a residence.

Some lawmakers have also pushed for a statewide ban on no-knock warrants except in rare circumstances.

Locke’s family were angry that police initially portrayed him as a suspect, which police later said was a mistake.

“Amir was not a suspect. Our investigation found no evidence that he had any role in the homicide investigation that brought police to his doorstep at 6:48 a.m. on February 2,” he said. Ellison said. “Amir was a victim. He should never have been called a suspect.”

Students in St. Paul, Minnesota participate in a statewide walkout to demand justice for Amir Locke on February 8. (Ben Brewer/Reuters)

In their requests for search warrants of the Minneapolis apartment and other locations, authorities said a no-knock warrant was needed to protect the public and officers as they search for firearms , drugs and clothing worn by violent murder suspects. Authorities requested that officers be allowed to conduct the search without knocking and outside of the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. because suspects wanted in the Jan. 10 murder of Otis Elder had a history of violence.

Locke was killed seconds after the SWAT team entered the apartment where his family said he was staying. Body camera video shows an officer using a key to unlock the door and enter, followed by at least four officers in uniforms and protective vests, time stamped at approximately 6:48 a.m. As they enter, they repeatedly shout “Police, search warrant!” They also shout “Hands!” and “Get down!”

The video shows an officer kicking a sectional couch, and Locke is seen wrapped in a quilt, holding a gun. Three shots are heard and the video ends.

Ellison and Freeman said they had a lengthy chat with Locke’s parents on Wednesday before announcing they would not press charges.

“They, like us, are very frustrated with the prohibition warrants. They, like us, believe that if a prohibition warrant had not been used, Amir Locke might well be here today,” Freeman said. , declining to give further details. details of their reaction.

The Locke family statement said they and their legal team are “firmly committed to their continued fight for justice in the civil justice system, advocating fiercely for the passage of local and state legislation and taking all other necessary steps to secure accountability from all those responsible for needlessly cutting short Amir’s life.”

Reverend Al Sharpton, left, and Locke’s mother Karen Wells, center, arrive for the 22-year-old’s funeral in Minneapolis on February 17. (Nicole Neri/Associated Press)

Ellison did not confirm statements from Locke’s family that he had a license to carry a firearm. He said it was “irrelevant” to his and Freeman’s analysis and did not impact their decision, given that Locke was in a house and legally owned the gun because he didn’t. It wasn’t legally forbidden to have one.

Although Locke was not named in the warrant, his 17-year-old cousin, Mekhi Camden Speed, was named and charged with two counts of second-degree murder in Elder’s murder.

The search warrants were executed as part of an investigation into Elder’s death. Elder, a 38-year-old father, was found shot dead and lying on the street in what police believe was an apparent robbery. Drugs and cash were found in Elder’s SUV, according to court documents.

The police department hired Hanneman in 2015. City records show three complaints were filed against him and all were closed without disciplinary action, but they don’t give any details. Data from the website of citizen group Communities United Against Police Brutality shows a fourth complaint, in 2018, which remains open. No details were given for this.