Minneapolis Police Shoot and Kill Black Man on Couch During No-Knock Warrant Targeting Someone Else

Amir Locke, 22, died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner

Amir Locke
Photo: Facebook

Minneapolis released police body camera footage of the deadly shooting of a 22-year-old man killed when officers entered an apartment serving a no-knock warrant.

Amir Locke was shot early Wednesday morning as he was trying to sit up on a couch in his friend's living room, where he lay with a gun.

At a news conference Thursday, Minneapolis interim police Chief Amelia Huffman said the warrant was tied to a homicide investigation in St. Paul and that Locke was not named in the original search warrant.

"At this point it is unclear if or how he's connected to St. Paul's investigation, but they are continuing to work dedicatedly on that case," she said.

"These events unfold in seconds but the trauma is long-lasting," said Huffman. "A young man lost his life, and his friends and family are in mourning."

During a Friday morning news conference, civil rights attorney Ben Crump criticized the way the raid was conducted, stating that Locke's family was "just flabbergasted at the fact that Amir was killed in this way," Associated Press reports. "They didn't even give him a chance."

"My son was executed on 2-2 of 22," Locke's mother Karen Wells said, according to AP. Locke's family said he had no criminal record and had a legal permit to carry a weapon.

Jeff Storms, an attorney for Locke's family, tells PEOPLE that loved ones described him as a "motivated, ambitious, kind kid who everyone really, really liked."

Earlier Friday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he asked Attorney General Keith Ellison and the Minnesota Attorney General's Office to work with his office to review the shooting.

Ellison agreed and released his own statement Friday.

"Amir Locke's life mattered," he wrote. "He was only 22 years old and had his whole life ahead of him. His family and friends must now live the rest of their lives without him. I promise the Locke family and all Minnesotans that we will work with the Hennepin County Attorney's Office to conduct a fair and thorough review of the [Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] investigation and that we will be guided by the values of accountability and transparency. "

Freeman also announced in his statement that he reached out to retired judge Daniel Mabley, presently the chief criminal deputy in the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, to head up his office's efforts.

Amir Locke
Body camera footage shows Amir Locke wrapped in a blanket on the couch. Minneapolis Police

"We will be working with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to ensure a thorough and complete evaluation," he said. "Thereafter we will decide together, based on the law and evidence, whether criminal charges should be brought."

At the Thursday news conference, Huffman said Minneapolis Police Department SWAT team officers went to the Balero Flats apartment building early Wednesday morning to execute the search warrant at three apartments as part of the St. Paul murder investigation.

"Their investigation led them to identify several suspects and three locations in the city of Minneapolis," she said. "Both a no-knock and a knock search warrant were obtained for those locations so that the SWAT team could assess the circumstances and make the best possible decision about entry."

The body cam footage shows the officers entering the apartment with a key before yelling, "Police! Search warrant!"

Once inside, officers approach and surround Locke, who was asleep on the couch wrapped in blankets.

"As they got close, you can see along with an individual emerging from under the blanket, the barrel of a gun, which comes out from the blanket and becomes more fully exposed as you move frame by frame through the video," Huffman said. "And then 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."

Three shots are heard before the video ends.

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"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," said Huffman. "Ultimately that decision of whether that threshold was met will be examined by the county attorney's office that reviews this case."

The shooting of Locke spotlights once again the use of no-knock warrants. The death of Breonna Taylor sparked national outrage after she was killed after police performed a no-knock warrant entry on her home in Louisville, Ky. That city passed an ordinance banning no-knock warrants.

"Like the case of Breonna Taylor, the tragic killing of Amir Locke shows a pattern of no-knock warrants having deadly consequences for Black Americans," Crump stated in a release. "This is yet another example of why we need to put an end to these kinds of search warrants so that one day, Black Americans will be able to sleep safely in their beds at night."

In November 2020, Minneapolis formalized a policy stating that officers must announce their presence when conducting no-knock warrants. Mayor Lucas Frey said at the time that the policy would "limit the likelihood of bad outcomes," AP reported.

"What is particularly frustrating is the way the city seemed to try to package and publicize it as if they were actually banning no-knock warrants," Storms tells PEOPLE. "It really doesn't feel like Minneapolis is learning any lessons. It sounds like Minneapolis repeatedly tries to say the right things but there is no action or implementation to suggest there is change."

Mayor Frey said at Thursday's press conference: "This video raises about as many questions as it does answers. We intend to get answers as quickly as possible and in transparent fashion recognizing that as of tonight not all of those answers can be provided."

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