The parents of Amir Locke, the young Black man killed by Minneapolis police last week, have called for no-knock warrants to be abolished, as protesters demand the resignations of local officials who failed to prevent the latest in a string of high-profile fatal shootings by officers.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who led the city through the contentious aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in 2020, was elected to a second term last November while touting his leadership in reforming local policing, including a ban on most no-knock warrants. Such search warrants allow police to enter people’s homes without first announcing who they are.
But in a press conference Thursday, Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Locke’s family, called city leaders’ claim that they had instituted a no-knock warrant ban “a terrible joke played on us.”
Crump and others at the press conference named other Black men who had been killed by police in Minnesota, including Philando Castile and Daunte Wright, amid unanswered calls for police reform and accountability.
“Our families have pleaded, our families have begged for the legislators, the Senate … to hold these officers accountable and pass police accountability bills. And they refused to do so in the last session,” said Toshira Garraway, the founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence. “So here we stand again, with another body. And I want the legislators to know, the governor to know, everybody who had a chance to make changes before Amir – I want all of you to know, the blood is on all of your hands.”
Minneapolis has been a global epicenter of the racial justice movement since Floyd’s murder in the summer of 2020 evoked protests worldwide for changes to policing. During his campaign, Frey promoted “a litany of changes” made to law enforcement in the city, including increased use of body-worn cameras, a shift from warrior-style training to de-escalation tactics, and “banning no-knock warrants for all but exigent circumstances,” as he told Minnesota Public Radio in October.
But the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Locke has reignited a simmering distrust of local police and government leaders in the embattled city. For some residents, Locke’s killing was another chance for Frey and interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman to demonstrate their commitment to change. Frey instituted a moratorium on no-knock warrants two days after the Feb. 2 killing, and announced that he will work with activist DeRay Mckesson and the advocacy nonprofit Campaign Zero to assess policy improvements for the Minneapolis police.
Activists have said it’s too little too late, and they view the involvement of Mckesson’s group as another misstep by Frey. Local organizations like Communities United Against Police Brutality would be more equipped to provide guidance, they say, since they have more than 20 years of data and research compiled on police departments statewide.
After eight days of demonstrations, protesters are demanding more action and accountability from leaders.
Activists say they have organized a campaign resulting in more than 1,250 ethics complaints filed by Minneapolis residents against the mayor related to the handling of the Locke shooting.
“I have lost confidence in the interim chief,” said city Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, who criticized Huffman for what he called a lack of transparency in her handling of Locke’s killing. “We need leadership that is going to stand boldly and tell us the truth in these moments and I think she fell short of that.”
Crump furthered the demands by invoking President Biden’s name at Thursday’s press conference.
“The blood of Amir Locke, the blood of Breonna Taylor, should call for a ban on no knock warrants all over the country,” he said. “President Biden, we need a federal decree.”
Locke was killed on Feb. 2 during a police raid of a downtown Minneapolis apartment as part of a murder investigation. Minneapolis police say Locke was not named as a suspect in the search warrant, though the department’s original press release on the shooting described him as one. His 17-year-old cousin has since been arrested in the homicide investigation, according to police records.
Body camera footage shows police quietly using a key to open the apartment door at about 6:48 a.m. and announcing “search warrant” as they rush inside. Within seconds, they shot Locke, who was lying on the couch under a blanket. Police said he was holding a gun, which relatives say he legally owned.
Locke’s father said his son had been working for DoorDash and decided to get his license to carry a gun for protection amid a recent increase in carjackings.
The search warrant that led to Locke’s death originated from the Saint Paul Police Department, which resubmitted the warrant after Minneapolis police insisted it be executed as a no-knock warrant.
“The Saint Paul Police Department is responsible, too. They could have said ‘no,’” said attorney Jeff Storms, who is serving as Crump’s co-counsel representing the Locke family.
Marques Armstrong, a gun owner who has taken tactical training, says Amir’s position with his weapon indicated he was assessing a threat, not preparing to shoot – something he says officers should have picked up on.
“At no time can Amir’s finger be seen on the trigger. In the footage, his finger is clearly seen along the barrel of the gun, and the gun is pointed toward the ground,” Armstrong said during a press conference last week. To have a clearer vantage point, community members have demanded the release of body camera footage from the other responding officers.
Local activists and former President of the Minneapolis NAACP Leslie Redmond says they have called for the officer who fatally shot Locke, Mark Hanneman, to be terminated and criminally charged.
During a student sit-in at City Hall Wednesday afternoon, several dozen North High School students also called for Huffman to resign, a demand that Ellison and other demonstrators have supported.
Huffman and Frey have not responded to the residents’ demands.
Huffman was appointed interim chief last month when Medaria Arradondo, the department’s first Black police chief, stepped down. Arradondo was praised for “breaking the blue wall of silence” after testifying against Chauvin during the former officer’s murder trial. Arradondo also campaigned in the Black community, using his influence to persuade residents to “vote no” on transforming the Minneapolis Police Department into a public safety department, a measure some residents felt would address the city’s ongoing policing issues.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has tapped Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to review Locke’s case. Ellison has a track record of holding police accountable following the successful prosecution of Chauvin and former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, who fatally shot Daunte Wright. Together, Ellison and the county Attorney’s Office will determine if criminal charges will be brought against Hanneman and the other officers involved in Locke’s death.
Crump is representing the Locke family as they pursue a civil suit against Minneapolis police.