No charges will be filed in the death of Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man who was shot by a SWAT team officer during a raid with a “no knock” warrant in Minneapolis in February, officials announced Wednesday.
Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement that after a “thorough review,” “there is insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges in this case.”
Locke’s mother, Karen Wells, said Wednesday afternoon after the decision was announced, “I am not disappointed — I am disgusted with the city of Minneapolis.”
The statement from Freeman and Ellison said the state would be unable to disprove “beyond a reasonable doubt” elements of Minnesota’s use-of-deadly-force statute that would have authorized use of force by Mark Hanneman, the officer who shot Locke.
They also said the state would be unable 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.”
Locke was killed Feb. 2 after officers stormed into the apartment he was in and found him on the couch covered in a blanket. Minneapolis police said Hanneman opened fire after he saw the barrel of a gun come into view from under the blanket.
Locke was shot three times.
Freeman and Ellison said that under Minnesota law, peace officers are authorized to use deadly force in the line of duty to protect other officers or other peope from death or great bodily harm.
They said at a news conference after the announcement that Locke’s hand was seen holding a firearm, although his finger was not on the trigger, and that at one point it was pointed directly at Hanneman.
In the statement, they said Hanneman perceived the movements as a threat of death or great bodily harm.
Locke was not a suspect in the investigation connected to the search warrants.
His death once again rocked Minneapolis, nearly two years after the killing of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.
“Amir Locke’s life mattered,” Freeman and Ellison said in the joint statement. “He should be alive today, and his death is a tragedy. Amir Locke was not a suspect in the underlying Saint Paul criminal investigation nor was he named in the search warrants. Amir Locke is a victim. This tragedy may not have occurred absent the no-knock warrant used in this case.”
“No knock” warrants can be issued when authorities say they believe knocking or otherwise announcing the presence of law enforcement officers could be dangerous.
Freeman and Ellison met with Locke’s family Wednesday morning to share their condolences again before the announcement.
Wells said she was at the National Action Network Convention in New York when she got the news about her son’s case. She sat on a panel alongside other Black family members who have lost loved ones to violence, including the mother of Ahmaud Arbery.
She said she learned about the decision at the convention, a move she speculated city officials may have made intentionally.
“Once again, Minneapolis, you’re showing your true colors of actually who you are and who you represent. I’m not going to give up,” she said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Wells directed a message to Hanneman.
“You may have been found not guilty, but in the eyes of me, being the mother who I am, you are guilty,” she said. “You’re going to continue to be restless because the spirit of my baby is going to haunt you for the rest of your life.”
The founder of the National Action Network, the Rev. Al Sharpton, called the decision “a slap in the face, not only to this mother, but to all of us.”
Sharpton, the host of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” said they will take the case to the Justice Department for review, and he called for “no knock” warrants to be banned across the country.
Attorneys Benjamin Crump, Jeff Storms and Antonio Romanucci said in a joint statement Wednesday that Locke’s family was “deeply disappointed” by the decision not to charge Hanneman.
“The tragic death of this young man, who was not named in the search warrant and had no criminal record, should never have happened,” the statement said. “The family and its legal team are firmly committed to their continued fight for justice in the civil court system, in fiercely advocating for the passage of local and national legislation, and taking every other step necessary to ensure accountability for all those responsible for needlessly cutting Amir’s life far too short.”
“No family should ever suffer like Amir’s again,” the statement concluded.
The use of the “no knock” warrants was the crux of heated criticism against the Minneapolis Police Department — especially in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s death in Kentucky.
After Locke’s death, Mayor Jacob Frey halted the use of such warrants. On Tuesday, he enacted a new warrant and entry policy that prohibits applying for and executing all such search warrants by Minneapolis police.
The police department remains the subject of a patterns and practices investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.
Freeman and Ellison acknowledged at the news conference Wednesday that city residents have been crying out for meaningful police reform for years.
“What I think we can try to do that perhaps will accomplish some of the reforms is to make sure that officers are less often in situations in which they’re confronted and think they have to use deadly force,” Freeman said.