Video: Amir Locke, under blanket, holds gun as officers enter, fire 3 shots

Minneapolis police body camera video released Thursday night showed several officers shouting “search warrant” after they entered a downtown apartment, followed by multiple deadly gunshots at Amir Locke as he moved beneath a blanket on a couch with a gun in his hand.

The 55-second video repeats the entry into the dark apartment, revealing the SWAT officers closing in on the 22-year-old Locke with their guns drawn and equipped with mounted lights that illuminated the otherwise dark apartment. The incident Wednesday morning unfolded in seconds. leaving Locke fatally wounded.

The officers were at the seventh-floor unit of the Bolero Flats Apartment Homes, at 1117 S. Marquette Av., shortly before 7 a.m. to serve a search warrant in connection with a St. Paul homicide investigation.

The Star Tribune learned earlier Thursday that Locke, a Black man, was not the subject of the warrant and was in legal possession of his gun.

Police turned the key quietly. As soon as the door was opened, someone yelled, “Police search warrant! … Get on the [expletive] ground!”

Locke is moving beneath the blanket, a handgun emerging in his right hand before one of the officers fires three times, knocking Locke to the floor. That’s where the released video stops.

Amir Locke’s parents, Andre and Karen Locke, declined to comment about the shooting, other than his mother saying, “We want justice for our son.” Jeff Storms, an attorney representing the family, confirmed earlier Thursday that Locke’s family viewed the video before its release.

Storms is partnering with civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has won significant financial settlements for several families across the country that have lost loved ones to police violence in recent years, including a record $27 million settlement with the city of Minneapolis for the family of George Floyd.

The family plans to hold a news conference Friday morning. The legal team said after the parents watched the video that all available information points to Locke not being the subject of the warrant.

Authorities say that one of the officers, Mark Hanneman, fired the fatal shots. Interim Minneapolis Police Chief Amelia Huffman coordinated the video release with investigators at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) “without compromising the integrity of their investigation or their ability to collect evidence,” read a statement from City Hall.

Crump and Storms said Locke has several family members in law enforcement and has no criminal history, and was in legal possession of a firearm at the time of his death.

“Like the case of Breonna Taylor, the tragic killing of Amir Locke shows a pattern of no-knock warrants having deadly consequences for Black Americans,” Crump said in a statement. “This is yet another example of why we need to put an end to these kinds of search warrants so that one day, Black Americans will be able to sleep safely in their beds at night.”

Three sources from separate law enforcement agencies told the Star Tribune that Locke was not the target of the St. Paul homicide investigation. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case remains under BCA investigation.

Police officials said that a loaded handgun was recovered at the scene.

One of Amir Locke’s cousins said Thursday there was nothing violent and hot-tempered about him.

“He was totally the opposite,” said 21-year-old Ervin Locke Jr., who recalled the two of them catching up on the phone just last week. “All he did was crack jokes.”

He said the man he’s affectionately known all their lives by the nickname C-Mo “was no street person. All he was into was music and playing basketball. He stayed to himself.”

Ervin Locke Jr., who moved from the Twin Cities to Maryland about 10 years ago, regularly saw his cousin at family cookouts and also ran into him at their grandmother’s funeral about a year ago. The news of Amir’s death left him devastated, he said.

“I couldn’t even drive yesterday,” he said.

Locke was not named in the application for the search warrant, but is related to one of the people thought to be involved in the St. Paul homicide. A police spokesman declined to comment Thursday.

In an interview with the Star Tribune Thursday, civil rights attorney Nekima Levy-Armstrong said she was told by the family that Locke had a permit to carry his firearm. Such records are not public information, but Locke would not have required a permit to possess the weapon in a private residence.has been identified as the officer who shot Locke, and he has been placed on administrative leave, in keeping with department policy. He has been with the department since 2015.

According to a dispatch report, police informed a dispatcher around 6:19 a.m. that they would be going into Apartment 701 at Bolero Flats. A comment added to the report showed that police would “AIR WHEN ABOUT TO EXECUTE THIS RISK – NO NOISE EXPECTED” — suggesting that they were carrying out a no-knock warrant. By 6:48 a.m., police called medics from Floor 7, indicating that someone was shot, the report showed. CPR was started three minutes later as officers brought the man, later identified as Locke, down to medics on the first floor. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

About 7:04 a.m., an officer said on the radio that police were “transporting” a woman to Room 801, an office at police headquarters that is used for interviews. It’s unclear whether the woman in question was in the apartment with Locke.

Hanneman was the only officer who fired, striking Locketwice in the chest and once in the wrist, according to a separate report.

A search of court records showed that the warrant to support the raid hadn’t been made public as of Thursday afternoon.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Chief Huffman said the officers “loudly and repeatedly announced ‘police search warrant,’ ” before breaching the apartment. Within nine seconds of entry, they encountered Locke, who Huffman says was holding a gun. Moments later, Hanneman fired his service weapon, officials said.

Huffman confirmed that there was body-camera footage of the incident and that she had seen it. In the past, authorities have taken weeks, sometimes months, to release video from police shootings, but local officials have promised to do so more quickly in the future.

Earlier Thursday, pressure to release the video mounted on the city, as leaders from U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar to city councilmembers Jason Chavez and Robin Wonsley Worlobah called for all footage to be made public. That demand was echoed in a letter to Huffman and Mayor Jacob Frey from members of the Minneapolis delegation of the Minnesota House.

Huffman and Frey declined to take questions at Wednesday’s news conference, but Frey released a brief statement Thursday saying he was “committed to ensuring the family has had an opportunity to review the body camera footage prior to the public release of it.” He added that he was working with the MPD and the BCA to “ensure that the footage is released as quickly as possible without compromising” the BCA’s investigation. Community organizer Lisa Clemons posted on Facebook Thursday that Huffman met with North Side leaders, and later updated her post saying the family had reviewed the footage.

Wednesday’s shooting has revived a simmering debate over the use of so-called “no-knock” search warrants.

The use of these unannounced raids, which allow police to enter a property without announcing their presence beforehand, have been banned in cities across the country after they resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. Minneapolis restricted the practice in 2020, but it is still occasionally used in certain cases.

While police have defended the the use of no-knock raids as necessary for keeping officers safe while apprehending violent suspects, critics say it puts lives at risk.

Paul Applebaum, a private defense attorney, said that no-knock warrants are often used in drug and violent crime cases, but that with the expansion of surveillance technology police should be able to apprehend a suspect without such a show of force.

“It seems like the risk is greater than the reward of preserving evidence or not having a shootout or all that,” said Applebaum, who has sued officers for alleged misconduct. “It’s like, just go sit in the lobby behind a newspaper and wait until he comes out.”

Another problem, he says, is that judges tend to be deferential to law enforcement, signing off on no-knock warrants “without thinking about the potential repercussions if something goes wrong.”

“And this is what happens,” he said.

Under the current Minneapolis policy, officers must identify themselves as “police” and announce their purpose as “search warrant” before entering any domicile — regardless of whether a judge signed off on an “unannounced” or “no-knock” entry. Once inside a residence, officers are supposed to periodically repeat those announcements in case occupants didn’t hear them. The same rules, which mirror those already in place across the river in St. Paul, also apply for arrest warrants.

The practice, most often used by SWAT officers, should help maintain the element of surprise and preservation of evidence while eliminating confusion about who’s entering the building, a police spokesman said at the time.

Policy dictates that no-knock warrants would be acceptable only in high-risk circumstances such as a hostage situation, when “giving an announcement would create an imminent threat of physical harm to victims, officers or the public.” Some exceptions apply, but investigators need to obtain permission from the the chief of police or his or her designee.

In the past, MPD executed an average of 139 no-knock warrants a year.

Star Tribune staff writers Liz Sawyer, Alex Chhith and Abby Simons contributed to this report.

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