The parents of Amir Locke and their lawyers say the 22-year-old Black man was “executed” by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota this week, when a SWAT team woke him up from a deep sleep during a fatal, early-morning raid.
Locke’s parents, Andre Locke and Karen Wells, on Friday described their son as respectful, including to police, and said he reached in confusion for a legal firearm to protect himself after being woken up by police.
Wells said the couple coached their son on how to act and do “what they needed to do whenever they encountered police officers” because of the danger to “unarmed Black males”.
“My son was executed on 2-2 of 22,” said Wells, referring to the date the fatal shooting occurred, February 2, 2022. “And now his dreams have been destroyed.”
As #BreonnaTaylor showed us, no-knock warrants have deadly consequences for innocent law-abiding Black people! @MinneapolisPD executed a no-knock warrant yesterday at 6:48am, killing Amir Locke while he was wrapped in a blanket on the couch. Now we demand #JusticeForAmirLocke!! pic.twitter.com/FLKqR0eszP
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) February 4, 2022
The incident is stoking memories of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed in the same city almost two years ago by a white officer who knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest.
Outrage about Floyd’s death in May 2020 sparked a mass movement challenging police brutality and anti-Black racism in the US criminal justice system.
Locke’s parents spoke at a news conference organised by civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who said the family was “just flabbergasted at the fact that Amir was killed in this way” and disgusted at how the Wednesday morning raid was conducted.
They said he was law-abiding, with no criminal record, and had a permit to carry a gun.
“They didn’t even give him a chance,” Crump said, adding that it was shocking that Minneapolis police had not learned from the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed in a botched raid at her home in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2020, leading to calls for an end to no-knock warrants nationwide.
“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,” said Wells, Locke’s mother. “We are going to make sure that we speak loudly for Amir.”
Police said Locke pointed a loaded gun “in the direction of officers”. An incident report said he had two wounds in the chest and one in the right wrist.
Body camera video released by police on Thursday evening included footage of the incident in slow motion and at regular speed. It showed an officer using a key to unlock the door and enter, followed by at least four officers in uniform and protective vests, time-stamped at about 6:48am (12:48 GMT).
As they enter, they repeatedly shout, “Police, search warrant!” They also shout “Hands!” and “Get on the ground!” The video shows an officer kick a sectional sofa, and Locke, who was wrapped in a blanket on the sofa, begins to move, holding a pistol. Three shots are heard, and the video ends.
The city also released a still from the video showing Locke holding the gun, his trigger finger along the side of the barrel. The top of Locke’s head is barely visible.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he asked Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to help review the case for possible charges. “Amir Locke’s life mattered,” Ellison said in a statement, promising a fair and thorough review.
Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman said during a news conference on Thursday that Locke was not named in the warrant, which she said was issued in relation to a homicide investigation by a neighbouring police department.
The search warrant that led the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team to enter the apartment early Wednesday was still not public as of Friday morning. But a search warrant filed by state agents investigating the shooting was filed. It said the initial search warrants “were being executed for a homicide suspect who was apparently located” at the building where the shooting took place.
Huffman said the officer, 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 a fourth complaint, in 2018, that remains open. No details were given.