Prosecutors Justified Cops Killing Amir Locke Because He Grabbed a Legal Gun

Minnesota prosecutors have decided Amir Locke’s death was justified—and they're declining to file charges against the officer who shot him.
Prosecutors Justified Cops Killing Amir Locke Because He Grabbed a Legal Gun
A person wears a portrait of Amir Locke outside the Hennepin County Government Center on April 6, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

When Minneapolis police barged into the home Amir Locke was sleeping at last February without announcing themselves, the 22-year-old Black man immediately grabbed a firearm he legally owned and aimed it at them.

Now, two months later, Minnesota prosecutors have decided that justified his death—and are declining to file charges against the officer who shot him.

Less than 10 seconds after a SWAT team executed a no-knock warrant that didn’t even name Locke, Officer Mark Hanneman fired three shots at him. But state prosecutors announced Wednesday that Hanneman responded reasonably to the immediate threat Locke presented.

“[Police] kick in the door and expect us to just think, whoever’s coming through our door, even if we don’t know if they’re burglarizing us or if it’s a home invasion, don’t try to protect yourself. Well, Amir tried to protect himself, and for that, he’s dead,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said at a press conference Wednesday. “The NRA should be joining us, because if it can happen to Amir, if it can happen to Breonna Taylor, it can happen to your children, too.”

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For her part, Locke’s mother was enraged over the decision. 

"I am not disappointed. I am disgusted with the city of Minneapolis," Locke’s mother, Karen Wells, said after the decision, according to the Associated Press. “And I’m not going to give up. Continue to have your restless nights, because I know you do.”

On Feb. 2, Locke was sleeping on the couch in his cousin’s apartment in Minneapolis. Around 7 a.m., police stormed through the door of the apartment. Upon entering, police announced themselves and eventually located the couch Locke was lying on. They ordered the 22-year-old, who was under a blanket, to put his hands up and “get on the fucking ground,” and Locke stood up, armed with his gun.

Though he didn’t fire his weapon, Hanneman fired in response, killing Locke.

It was later revealed that the police were looking for Locke’s 17-year-old cousin, who was eventually arrested, less than a week after Locke’s death. He was charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the killing of a 38-year-old man in January.

Locke’s death earlier this year was just the latest example of how deadly no-knock warrants can be, and how they disproportionately affect people of color. Breonna Taylor’s death in March 2020 became a launching point for scrutiny against the practice and eventually led to the 26-year-old EMT to become the namesake for a law in Louisville banning it. The circumstances of her death are remarkably similar to Locke’s: Taylor’s boyfriend grabbed a gun he legally owned and fired it at police executing a warrant in the middle of the night.

One officer faced charges as part of Taylor’s death—not because of what happened to her but for endangering the lives of the family living next door. With Locke, however, prosecutors said the law won’t allow them to file any charges at all. 

“We have determined that under that precedent and the laws we have, we cannot file criminal charges. Current law only allows us to evaluate the case from the perspective of a reasonable officer,” Minnesota AG Keith Ellison said. “It would be unethical for us to file charges in a case in which we know that we will not be able to prevail because the law does not support the charges.”

Locke’s death spurred Minneapolis leaders to first impose a moratorium on the no-knock warrants in the city at the time, and then call for an outright ban, which goes into effect this week. City law enforcement will now only be allowed to execute knock-and-announce warrants.

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