The Hennepin County Attorney announced Wednesday that no criminal charges will be filed in the death of Amir Locke , a 22-year-old man who was shot and killed by a SWAT team during a no-knock raid in February.
County Attorney Michael Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement that there is “insufficient admissible evidence” to file charges in the case.
“Specifically, the State would be unable to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements of Minnesota’s use-of-deadly-force statute that authorizes the use of force by Officer Hanneman,” the statement said. “Nor would the State be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a criminal charge against any other officer involved in the decision-making that led to the death of Amir Locke.”
Though no charges will be filed by those offices, the statement said Locke is still a victim.
“He should be alive today, and his death is a tragedy,” the statement said.
Ellison said at a press conference Wednesday morning that it would be “unethical” for prosecutors to file charges in a case they know would not prevail in court.
“And still, and yet, a loving promising young man is dead,” Ellison said. “His death leaves us with a wound in our community, but that is small in comparison to the wound his family is suffering from.”
Freeman said they spoke at length with Locke’s family Wednesday morning to discuss the decision.
Locke’s mother, Karen Wells, pledged to keep fighting for justice at a separate press conference Wednesday.
“I am not disappointed, I am disgusted with the city of Minneapolis,” she said, adding: “Be prepared for this family, because every time you take a step, we’re going to be right behind you. This is not over.”
Police bodycam video of the incident showed a Minneapolis SWAT team executing the warrant by using a key to enter Locke’s apartment at approximately 6:47 a.m. on February 2. Officers can be heard yelling with guns drawn.
As Locke rises, a gun can be seen in his hand. Officer Mark Hanneman then shot him three times, killing him.
His family said the police startled him while he was asleep and he drew the gun — which he was licensed to carry — in self-defense. Locke’s name was not on the search warrant, and police were not looking for him.
“Amir didn’t deserve what happened. Amir was surprised. Life was taken from him in an unjust way. My son was startled,” his father Andre said after his death . “Amir did what any law-abiding citizen would do to protect himself.”
“If we’ve learned anything from Breonna Taylor, it’s that we know no-knock warrants have deadly consequences for Black American citizens,” family attorney Ben Crump said at the time.
In explaining their decision not to file charges, authorities said that police bodycam video showed Locke “under the blanket holding a firearm that was initially held parallel to the ground before being dropped to about a 45-degree angle, then being raised again in the direction of Officer Hanneman.” The statement said that constituted a “specifically articulable threat” that justified the use of deadly force under Minnesota law.
“The totality of the circumstances known to Officer Hanneman and the other officers at the time included that: 1) they were conducting a search warrant related to a homicide in which high-powered rounds had been used; 2) the suspects remained at large; 3) the suspects were known to possess firearms and engage in violent conduct; and 4) an unidentified individual was holding a firearm pointed in the direction of at least one officer with others present,” the statement said.
“These circumstances are such that an objectively reasonable officer in Officer Hanneman’s position would have perceived an immediate threat of death or great bodily harm that was reasonably likely to occur, and an objectively reasonable officer would not delay in using deadly force.”
The statement declined to comment on whether the use of a no-knock warrant was justified, writing that “it was not the role of our offices to evaluate whether the decision to seek a no-knock warrant was appropriate.” It did say, however, that no-knock warrants are “highly risky and pose significant dangers to both law enforcement and the public, including to individuals who are not involved in any criminal activity.”
Mayor Jacob Frey said in March that he would propose a policy to ban almost all no-knock warrants, and that policy was implemented on Tuesday, CBS Minnesota reported.
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