Police in Minneapolis are under enormous scrutiny following a police raid that left one man dead just nine seconds after police entered the apartment early in the morning. That man, identified as 22-year-old Amir Locke, wasn’t named in the no-knock warrant that was issued to the police department, and he was wrapped up in a blanket on the couch when he was shot by a SWAT team.
Police found a gun in Locke’s possession, which attorneys for the man’s family say he was registered to own. In addition to not being named in the warrant, Locke was not considered a suspect in the homicide police were investigating. He didn’t even live at the apartment.
“We will be working with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to ensure a thorough and complete evaluation,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. “Thereafter we will decide together, based on the law and evidence, whether criminal charges should be brought.”
Harrowing bodycam footage of the shooting was released following mounting pressure on Mayor Jacob Frey and interim MPD Chief Amelia Huffman, who abruptly ended a tense press conference after being pressed on inaccuracies in the Minneapolis Police Department’s official press release of the shooting. That press release referred to Locke as a “suspect,” even though he was not named in the warrant. Frey and Huffman were unable to answer questions about why.
“Yesterday at the time that we were putting out the press release, we didn’t have as much information as we do now, of course,” Huffman said. “It remains unclear if or how Mr. Locke is connected to St. Paul’s investigation and more information will be coming as St. Paul digs further into the case.”
Bodycam footage appears to show Locke asleep in the apartment when the SWAT team entered, only shouting “police search warrant” after they had entered the room. The footage appears to show Locke waking up and holding a hand gun, though his finger is not on the trigger and it is pointed at the floor. MPD Officer Mark Hanneman shot Locke as he began to sit up. The video is here but be warned, it is very graphic.
Here’s how Huffman summarized the video:
“As they proceeded toward the back of the apartment, as you saw in the video, they approached the couch, and you can see that there’s a form under a blanket or a comforter that begins to rise up. The officers were approaching, they were giving commands to ‘show your hands, show your hands,’ and as they got close, you can see along with an individual emerging from under a blanket, the barrel of a gun, which comes out from the blanket and becomes more fully exposed as you move frame-by-frame through the video,” she said.
“That’s the moment when the officer had to make a split-second decision, to assess the circumstances and to determine whether he felt like there was an articulable threat, that the threat was of imminent harm – great bodily harm or death – and that he needed to take action right then to protect himself and his partners. Ultimately, that decision, whether that threshold was met will be examined by the county attorney’s office that reviews this case.”
Huffman said on Wednesday and Thursday that police had announced their presence before entering the apartment, though the footage only shows them shouting “police” after they were in the room. When a reporter contradicted her assertion, she said she “definitely encourage[s] everyone to view the video and make that assessment themselves.”
Tension also broiled over Locke’s gun. Huffman and the MPD press release both stated that Locke pointed the gun at officers, but the bodycam footage doesn’t make that clear. “If you look at that still image, even though you don’t see all the officers, the involved officer was just outside the frame in the direction that that barrel is emerging from the blanket,” Huffman said.
“The mother in me is furious and sick to my stomach,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney who challenged Frey and Huffman after the video’s release. “Amir never had a chance to survive that encounter with police.”
Prominent Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump agreed, saying on Friday that he was “flabbergasted” by the footage. “They didn’t even give him a chance,” he said.