It was 6:48 a.m. when Minneapolis police entered an apartment and shot and killed a man named Amir Locke, who had been sleeping on a couch wrapped in a blanket when he was jolted awake by the cops pointing guns at him.
Police say they were in fear for their lives because Locke had a gun in his hand but Locke was not only a licensed gun owner, he was not even named in the warrant.
And the limited body camera video released by police indicates he probably had no idea they were cops because they killed him within ten seconds of entering the apartment while shining a bright light in his face and yelling overlapping commands of “show your hands!” and “get on the ground!”.
Police say they had to kill him because he failed to obey commands. But the video shows he never really had a chance.
On Wednesday, prosecutors cleared the cop who shot him, Mark Hanneman, of any wrongdoing on the basis that cops breaking into a home to serve a warrant have more of a legal right to defend themselves than residents inside the home believing they are being robbed.
Locke, 22, had been visiting his cousin whose girlfriend was living in the apartment. Neither the cousin, Marlon Speed, or his girlfriend, Tatyana Henderson, were listed on the warrant. Both were sleeping in a bedroom while Locke slept on the couch when police entered the apartment using a key given to them by the building manager. Locke was one week away from moving to Dallas to begin a music career when he was killed.
The prime suspect on the warrant was Mekhi Camden Speed, Marlon Speed’s 17-year-old brother and Locke’s cousin, who was suspected in a homicide that took the life of a man named Otis Elber on January 10 in St. Paul in what witnesses say was a drug deal gone bad.
St. Paul police determined that Mekhi Speed lived in the Bolero Flats apartment complex in Minneapolis, the twin city that neighbors St. Paul in Minnesota, so they teamed up with Minneapolis police to obtain search warrants for three apartments in the building which they said were connected to the suspect.
But Mekhi Speed was not in any of the apartments they raided on February 2. In fact, he would not be arrested until six days later in Winona, a city more than two hours away from Minneapolis.
No-knock policy change
The Hennepin County Attorney’s office acknowledge that Locke would probably still be alive today had police not conducted a no-knock raid. And Minneapolis city officials have vowed to make changes in departmental policies to curb the use of these warrants.
However, they said the same thing in the wake of the George Floyd murder at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020, only for an innocent citizen to be killed in a no-knock raid less than two years later.
But this time, they say they mean it.
This is how the Minneapolis Star-Tribune described the latest policy change on Tuesday:
Minneapolis police can no longer apply for or execute unannounced search warrants, even when assisting other law enforcement agencies, according to a special order released by Mayor Jacob Frey on Tuesday.
In the latest effort to address the use of no-knock warrants after the police killing of Amir Locke this winter, the new policy states that Minneapolis officers serving a warrant must announce their presence and then wait 20 seconds during the daytime, or 30 seconds at night, before entering, unless under “exigent circumstances.” The policy defines “exigent circumstances” as when in hot pursuit, to prevent imminent harm or provide emergency aid, to prevent imminent destruction or removal of evidence and to prevent the imminent escape of a suspect.
And this is how the Minneapolis Star-Tribune described the previous policy change on November 25, 2020:
Minneapolis police officers will face restrictions on entering a person’s home unannounced under a new policy banning most “no-knock” search warrants, the latest attempt by city leaders to reform police practices in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.
The change would, for the first time, establish clear expectations for MPD officers before crossing the threshold of a home. Surprise police raids have resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians and most recently came under harsh criticism after police in Louisville, Ky., fatally shot Breonna Taylor in her home last March.
Mayor Jacob Frey called the move “overdue.”
St. Paul police, the agency leading the investigation into homicide suspect Mehki Speed, initially applied for a “knock and announce” search warrant for the three apartments in question but Minneapolis police refused to assist them unless it was a “no-knock” warrant for “officer safety” reasons on the basis the suspect was considered armed and dangerous.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who presided over the Derek Chauvin trial in 2020, approved the warrant without question on February 1 which you can read here.
The warrant allowed cops to enter apartments 701, 1402 and 1403. They first entered the two apartments on the 14th floor using keys obtained by building management, encountering other residents but not the prime suspect, according to the investigative report compiled by both the Hennepin County Attorney’s office and the Minnesota Attorney General’s office.
The cops then took the elevator down to the seventh floor and used a key to enter apartment 701 which was where Locke was visiting his cousin.
Family members say Locke worked as a Door Dash driver and had a concealed weapons permit and no criminal record. They say he carried a gun to protect himself while doing food deliveries.
We will never know what was going through his mind when he was awakened by screaming men with guns but we can assume he was probably in fear for his life which was why he grabbed his gun.
But that made Minneapolis police officer Mark Henneman fear for his life as well as he explained in his followup report which was included in the investigative report:
In this moment, I feared for my life and the lives of my teammates. I was convinced that the individual was going to fire their handgun and that I would suffer great bodily harm or death. I felt in this moment that if I did not use deadly force myself, I would likely be killed. There was no opportunity for me to reposition myself or retreat. There was no way for me to de-escalate this situation. The threat to my life and the lives of my teammates was imminent and terrifying.
Hennepin fired three times, then pounced on Locke and began wrestling with him.
Marlon Speed, the cousin sleeping with his girlfriend in the bedroom, said the first thing he heard were the gunshots followed by shouts of “police,” according to the report.
Marlon Speed reported that he heard gun shots then he heard Police. Marlon described, “I had just rolled over, just rolled over, probably was fittin to drink some water…all I hear is boom. (making gun noises) then they said police. That’s exactly how it went. They ain’t come in, they ain’t knock, they ain’t say police, or nothin. They just came through the door and got to shootin. And said police.” Marlon further reported, “They ain’t say shit, they just walked in, shoot their fuckin guns, they damn near shot me and her. She jumped off the bed under the fucking blanket, had to tell her she can’t do that shit. They woulda shot her ass, she came up from under the blanket with nothin in her hands.
Tatyana Henderson, the girlfriend, said she heard shouts followed by gunfire but was unable to make out what they were shouting and did not realize they were cops until they barged into their bedroom with guns drawn.
Henderson described, “I was in my bedroom. So me and MARLON was in our bedroom…And then his cousin was sleeping on the couch. And then we heard like yelling. Like I don’t, I just thought somebody…like ran into my apartment or something. And then like gunshots went off. And I’m like, on my God. So then we kinda like jumped on the floor…Then that’s when we seen like officers running in…Like with guns and everything. I’m like okay.” Henderson reported that the door to the bedroom was closed as this incident was occurring. Henderson described that it sounded as if someone was breaking in. Henderson said that the first time she realized it was the police was when officers entered the bedroom.
The entire operation turned out to be a failure because not only was an innocent citizen killed but the man they were looking for was nowhere to be found that day.
Nevertheless, the law protects cops in these situations, the investigative report noted.
Here in Minnesota, the legislature has enacted Minn. Stat. § 609.066 provides peace officers with the authority to use deadly force under certain circumstances, which may exceed circumstances in which the general public would be so authorized.
The county attorney’s office goes into great detail as to how they arrived at their decision to not charge Hanneman but also acknowledges that he should still be alive today, according to their synopsis of the investigation.
Amir Locke’s life mattered. He was a young man with plans to move to Dallas, where he would be closer to his mom and – he hoped – build a career as a hip-hop artist, following in the musical footsteps of his father.
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. County Attorney Freeman and Attorney General Ellison met with the Locke family this morning and once again send their deepest condolences to them during this incredibly difficult time.
After a thorough review of all available evidence, however, there is insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges in this 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. 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.
But the investigative report mentions that several cops were wearing body cameras but only less than a minute of footage has been released which you can see below.