Sunday, December 10

A no-punch ruling left Amir Locke dead

This has to stop.

As editorialists we value balanced responses to the maddening events around us, but as citizens we cannot deny the anguish of being attached to a city whose commitment to justice is repeatedly undermined. It has to stop.

Another Twin Cities family is mourning the death of a young black man at the hands of police, once again captured on traumatic video that provokes more pain, more anger, more questions.

By now, most Minnesotans have seen the footage of a Minneapolis Police Department SWAT team quietly opening a door and entering a dark downtown apartment just before 7 a.m. Wednesday. Officers then burst inside, yelling “Police, search warrant!” After a few seconds of chaotic screaming, veteran officer Mark Hanneman shoots 22-year-old Amir Locke, who had emerged from under a blanket, with a pistol.

Locke, who had apparently been sleeping on a couch in a relative’s apartment, died 13 minutes later at the nearby Hennepin County Medical Center. He had been shot twice in the chest and once in the wrist.

We have since learned that the MPD was executing a search warrant as part of a murder investigation in St. Paul. Locke, like Breonna Taylor in 2020, was not the target of that investigation. But she ended up getting shot three times and dying.

The Star Tribune and other media outlets reported that St. Paul police had applied for a standard search warrant, but that the MPD insisted the raid be an unannounced operation. Warrants without notice are controversial, with critics arguing that they make encounters with police more dangerous, as in the shooting death of the innocent Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and some in law enforcement contend that they are necessary to protect to the police and evidence.

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Minneapolis restricted walk-ins as one of its policing reforms in the wake of the 2020 death of George Floyd, requiring officers to announce their presence before crossing the threshold of a residence. The Star Tribune reported that the MPD has obtained at least 13 walk-in or overnight warrants this year, and that seven other walk-ins have been served by other law enforcement agencies at city addresses. It is likely that there were more, because, as in the case of the investigation that led to Locke’s death, some warrant applications are submitted under seal.

On Friday, Mayor Jacob Frey placed a moratorium on warrants except in extreme circumstances involving imminent danger. The MPD had been executing such warrants an average of 139 times a year. The ban will remain in place until Eastern Kentucky University professor Pete Kraska and DeRay Mckesson, a former Minneapolis school official and activist against police violence, revise their search warrant policy. Kraska and Mckesson helped develop reforms such as “Breonna’s Law” in Kentucky.

Neither the moratorium nor the policy review is likely to ease the Locke family’s pain, but both are necessary. The review should lead to a permanent ban on warrants or a more effective review of Minneapolis policy. It’s also worth noting that St. Paul police rarely execute warrants — in fact, they haven’t used one since 2016 — because they consider them high risk, a spokesperson told the Star Tribune. But the MPD successfully used such a warrant just the day before Locke’s murder to arrest two suspects and recover a gun, in connection with last week’s school shooting in Richfield.

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The warrants in the investigation that led to Locke’s murder must be revealed. The public needs to know why the MPD agreed to just a no-knock search, and Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman should explain what role she had in approving the raid, why she left an innocent man dead, and why the MPD initially and incorrectly referred to Locke as a “suspect”. Huffman said last week that police collected evidence related to the murder investigation during the search.

The Star Tribune Editorial Board backed Frey in his bid for re-election and opposed an ill-conceived city charter change that would have replaced the Police Department. But those positions were conditional, in part, on effective police reforms and rebuilding public confidence in the MPD. Locke’s death is a tragic setback for those efforts and raises new questions about the leadership of Frey and Huffman.

In a move that should boost public confidence that more answers and justice will be forthcoming, Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman said Friday that his staff will work with the state Attorney General’s office, Keith Ellison, to review the death. of Locke.

Members of the Locke family have called for Hanneman’s firing and prosecution. If the officer gets his day in court, issues like reasonable use of force and split-second decision-making will be judged in light of the fact that Locke was holding a gun when he was shot. Locke owned the licensed firearm and had a permit to carry it, his family said, in part because he delivered DoorDash and wanted protection from a rise in violent carjackings in the Twin Cities.

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We cannot help thinking, once again, that there are too many weapons on our streets, obtained legally or illegally. Amir Locke, an aspiring musician interested in business, shouldn’t have had to fear for his safety while making food deliveries for money, and the two New York City police officers who were shot and killed in the line of duty duty last month. they should still be with their families today. But the cycle of violence continues, unnerving citizens and police officers and creating circumstances that can quickly spiral out of control. And the weapons are the common thread.

This has to stop.

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