Minnesota AG Keith Ellison Mulls Criminal Charges Against SWAT Officer Mark Hanneman Who Killed Amir Locke

Second Amendment

MINNEAPOLIS—Minnesota’s governor activated the National Guard late Friday as Minneapolis braced for unrest over the police killing of Amir Locke, a Black 22-year-old entrepreneur fatally shot when cops entered his apartment on a no-knock warrant.

A caravan of cars converged on the city, horns blaring, as part of a protest to demand action in the wake of Locke’s killing.

“This is something we see year after year. There’s no action at the state level, there’s no action at the city level. And there seems to be no sense of urgency,” state Senator Omar Fateh told The Daily Beast.

Fateh said he was attending Friday night’s protest because he was fed up to see nothing change after a string of recent police shootings in Minnesota.

“I’m hoping with this break-in and murder that we witnessed on camera, I hope we can at least ban no-knock warrants.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced a moratorium on both the request of and execution of no-knock warrants late Friday “to ensure safety of both the public and officers until a new policy is crafted.” He also said the Minneapolis Police Department would team up with civil rights activist DeRay McKesson and Dr. Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University to come up with ways to improve the no-knock warrants policy.

But that was no comfort for some who see Locke’s killing as a sign anybody could be gunned down by police if they look a certain way.

“I’m a resident and I’m a student here. I’m here because this could have been me,” Ismail Ismail, 19, told The Daily Beast at the protest. “I’ve really been feeling my emotions all day. I can’t really describe them. It’s just really hard. What is happening seems like it is really targeted to us.”

“It never ends. If Minneapolis police stop killing Black people, we’ll stop gathering like this. I’m absolutely done with Minneapolis, with St. Paul. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’m not proud of our city,” said Sarah Han, who joined with the car caravan protest outside the Bolero Flats apartment building where Locke was killed.

Locke had dreams of going into the music industry. He also had admiration and respect for law enforcement, according to his family.

But the young man with no criminal record had his dreams cut short when Minneapolis police officers charged into his home with a “no-knock” warrant on Wednesday. One officer fatally shot him while he was still wrapped in a blanket on a couch in an incident already drawing comparisons to the tragic 2020 slaying of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.

Locke’s Wednesday killing was just the latest example of police violence in a city that has been repeatedly thrust onto the national stage for gruesome lethal attacks by cops on Black men. Minneapolis was the site of weeks-long protests against racial injustice after the May 2020 death of George Floyd, who was murdered when former officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on the unarmed Black man’s neck for over nine minutes despite pleas for air.

The killing was all the more remarkable because three of the ex-cops who presided over Floyd’s murder alongside Chauvin were, at least until a COVID-related delay, facing a federal civil-rights trial this week.

Gov. Tim Walz activated the National Guard late Friday to ensure “public safety” in Saint Paul and “communities across the State of Minnesota” in connection with that trial and “during any related civil unrest.”

“There is no excuse in the land of George Floyd for the state to have not banned no-knock warrants, and to make sure that policy sticks,” St. Paul resident Jeremie English told The Daily Beast. “Whatever the policy is with police, it’s enforced at a higher rate [on] Black people. We are the ones who get no-knock warrants, not white people, even though we are taxpayers and voters, too.”

Locke appeared to have been sound asleep at home when cops entered his apartment on a no-knock warrant. Multiple local media outlets have reported Minneapolis police went ahead with that controversial procedure despite St. Paul police—who were overseeing the homicide investigation that spurred the raid—not requesting one.

“I fought for them to end no-knock warrants and the Senate refused to pass it,” Garraway told The Daily Beast. “They don’t care about the families and the communities. They care about themselves. They could care less about all the other lives being lost. I think that they still did no-knock warrant because they don’t have anything to hold them accountable. It’s a free for all.”

Locke appeared to be holding a gun when he was shot; his family has said he had a permit for the firearm. The warrant was issued in connection to a St. Paul homicide investigation, and it did not name Locke personally.

“I have cousins that are sheriffs in Chicago. I have a cousin that’s a federal law enforcement agent… He was Amir’s mentor. Amir didn’t deserve what happened,” Andre Locke, his father, said during a press conference on Friday. “My son Amir was a good kid.”

“It hurt me to see my son executed,” his father added, noting that Locke never got to see who “killed him.”

“He never even got the chance to get the cover off his head. He was startled. He did what any reasonable law-abiding citizen would do. White or Black.”

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner on Friday concluded that Locke died from multiple gunshot wounds, and classified the cause of death as a homicide. The examiner, however, did note that the manner of death is not a “legal determination of culpability or intent.”

During a Friday press conference, civil rights attorney Ben Crump compared Locke’s killing to that of Taylor—a 26-year-old who was fatally shot in her home during a 2020 police raid. Taylor’s killing was among several instances of lethal brutality that spurred a national reckoning on race, alongside the murder of Floyd.

“If we learned anything from Breonna Taylor, it’s that no-knock warrants have deadly consequences for innocent, law-abiding Black citizens,” Crump, who represented her family, said Friday. “We are not going to let them sweep Amir Locke’s death under the rug, as they tried to do initially…. Black Lives Matter. Obviously, in Minneapolis, we have to say it louder now.”

Authorities in Minnesota may prosecute a SWAT officer in Wednesday’s shooting death of Locke, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced. Freeman’s office will partner with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to review the incident, after which they will jointly determine, “based on the law and evidence, whether criminal charges should be brought,” Freeman said in a statement released early on Friday.

Officer Mark Hanneman was identified by the City of Minneapolis as the one who fired the fatal shot that killed Locke.

“We want to extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Locke’s family and loved ones during this difficult time,” Freeman’s statement said, adding that “no further comments will be forthcoming.”

A law enforcement official with knowledge of the case previously told The Daily Beast that Locke was not the intended target of the investigation being carried out by police when they executed the search warrant just before 7 a.m. on Wednesday. Hanneman shot Locke three times, twice in the chest and once in the wrist. He has been placed on administrative leave.

“He was covered. He was asleep on his stomach. He was startled. And they took his life. He did what any reasonable, law-abiding citizen would do,” Andre Locke said Friday.

At another press conference at City Hall, Locke’s aunt, Neka Gray, revealed that her family began praying the second they heard about another police killing in Minneapolis. “We didn’t know it was our baby,” Gray said. “Amir was a good, carrying, licensed individual. NRA should be excited about that! You all need to get ready for what’s about to happen here in Minnesota.”

A spokesperson for NRA told The Daily Beast the organization “has a longstanding policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations.” But the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, a group that advocates for Second Amendment rights, also spoke out against Locke’s death, calling for a transparent and independent investigation for the 22-year-old “lawful gun owner, [who] should still be alive.”

“Black men, like all citizens, have the right to keep and bear arms. Black men, like all citizens, have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable search and seizure,” Chair Bryan Strawser said in a statement.

Karen Wells, his mother, also spoke during the Friday press conference—stressing that “a mother should never have to see her son executed.”

“Amir was very respectful. He was raised with morals and values. He respected law enforcement,” she said. “We always made sure that both of our sons do what they needed to do whenever they encountered a police officer because they also watched what was going on throughout this world to unarmed Black males.”

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