The Minnesota attorney general and Hennepin County attorney will not charge the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed 22-year-old Amir Locke during a botched no-knock raid in February.
“Amir Locke’s life mattered … Amir Locke is a victim,” reads a joint statement released on Wednesday. “However, there is insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges in this case.”
Locke’s killing in the early hours of Feb. 2 set off several days of protests and efforts at both the city and state level to ban no-knock search warrants.
Locke was not a suspect in a crime or named in the search warrants. He was lying on a couch under a blanket when a Minneapolis SWAT team raided the apartment he was staying in. In less than 10 seconds, officers approached Locke yelling “Police! Search warrant!”
Then an officer’s police light illuminated Locke’s face and showed a gun in his hand before an officer shot him three times and Locke crumpled, according to body camera footage released in the days after the killing.
The chaotic and confusing scene that ended tragically in mere seconds led to calls for the officer who killed him, Mark Hanneman, to be criminally charged.
But Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in the statement that Hanneman did not violate the state’s use-of-deadly-force law.
Police officers are allowed to kill if they reasonably believe it necessary to protect themselves or other officers from great bodily harm without consideration for the victim’s intent.
“The officers encountered an individual unknown to them … who was moving around under a blanket and held out a firearm that was pointed in the direction of at least one officer. This constitutes a specifically articulable threat,” the statement reads.
The prosecutors note that the SWAT team was executing a warrant on behalf of St. Paul police in a homicide investigation. High-powered rounds had been used in the killing, and the suspects “were known to possess firearms and engage in violent conduct.”
“These circumstances are such that an objectively reasonable officer in Officer Hanneman’s position would have perceived an immediate threat of death or great bodily harm that was reasonably likely to occur, and an objectively reasonable officer would not delay in using deadly force,” the statement reads.
Locke’s family expressed disappointment in the decision but vowed to pursue justice in the civil court system, although they have not yet filed a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis and Hanneman.
“Today only deepens the resolve of Amir’s family and its legal team,” reads a statement released by the law firm of Ben Crump, who also represented the families of George Floyd, Daunte Wright and Breonna Taylor.
Ellison and Freeman, in announcing their decision, urged lawmakers to “seriously weigh the benefits of no-knock warrants, which are dangerous for both law enforcement and the public alike.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, whose re-election campaign claimed he had already banned no-knock warrants, announced on Tuesday that the city had enacted a ban on requesting and executing no-knock search warrants.
Minnesota House Democrats have also moved forward with a ban on no-knock warrants.
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