The Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Amir Locke, a black man, in an early morning February raid on an apartment complex will not face criminal charges, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
The shooting drew thousands of protesters to the streets and renewed calls for police accountability in the city where George Floyd was murdered.
Even though the murder prompted new rounds of convictions against the Minneapolis Police Department and the mayor who oversees it, criminal charges were considered by legal experts unlikely. That’s because Mr Locke, who was woken early in the morning by officers entering the flat under a no-knock warrant, was holding his own handgun. Mr. Locke legally owned the gun.
Mr. Locke was 22 when he was killed. He was a budding musician. His father, Andre Locke, told an emotional news conference after the shooting that his son was days away from moving to Texas to live near his mother.
“Amir Locke’s life mattered,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County District Attorney Michael Freeman said in a joint statement. “He was a young man who planned to move to Dallas, where he would be closer to his mother and – he hoped – build a career as a hip-hop artist, following in his father’s musical footsteps.”
In announcing they would not press charges, prosecutors slammed the raid that police carried out with a no-knock warrant, but said they would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer had committed a crime in violation of Minnesota law that allows officers to use deadly force in certain situations.
In a short, graphic video clip from a police-worn camera that was released following the murder, Mr Locke is seen under a blanket on the sofa where he was sleeping, clearly groggy and startled as he raises a pistol he held in his hand.
Mr Locke was not a suspect on the warrant, which was being executed in connection with a homicide investigation in nearby Saint Paul. But after the killing, the police department’s first statement about the incident described Mr. Locke as a suspect – an inaccurate statement that fueled community anger and drew comparisons to the department’s first misleading statement about Mr. Floyd. , which said he died after a medical emergency.
In an area still rocked by the murder of Mr. Floyd, as well as the police killing of Daunte Wright, a black man, in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center last year, the murder of Mr. Locke has reopened wounds in the community that were still raw.
The killing of Mr. Locke has also renewed scrutiny for a department that is still strained by the exodus of hundreds of officers following the murder of Mr. Floyd, and still struggling to pass reforms and restore the trust with the community.
That Mr. Locke was killed while police were using a no-knock warrant, a law enforcement tactic that was heavily criticized following the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., in 2020 after a botched raid, only added to the anger in Minneapolis.
Mayor Jacob Frey had previously limited the use of no-knock warrants, but Mr Locke’s murder sparked accusations that Mr Frey had misled the public during his campaign for re-election the year last when he claimed to have prohibited such mandates. In response to the murder of Mr Locke, the mayor issued a new policy this week, which bans no-knock warrants and requires officers to knock and announce their presence, then wait before entering a building .
“This policy is one of the most forward-thinking and comprehensive in the country, and will help keep our residents and officers safe,” Frey said in a statement.
Just as Mr. Wright was killed in the trial last year of Derek Chauvin, the officer who was convicted of murdering Mr. Floyd, the murder of Mr. Locke happened during a federal trial in St. Paul, Minnesota, for the three other officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death. These three officers were all found guilty of violating Mr. Floyd’s constitutional rights.