The lonesome death of Amir Locke

Amir Locke was killed in the course of the execution of a no-knock search warrant by Minneapolis police this past Wednesday. On Thursday evening the police released bodycam footage (in slow-motion and real time) from one of the officers executing the warrant (not the shooter). YouTube has made the video and several local news stories that include it age-restricted. As I write, the brief KARE 11 story below including some of the bodycam footage is generally accessible.

So is the longer CBS Minnesota story below, with bodycam footage and some analysis of the footage. If the videos are later restricted, I hope to find replacements.

In any event, the bodycam video (first in slow motion, then in real time) is embedded in this Bring Me The News story (below) and others (the video as released by the authorities on Thursday).

I had thought that a fuller account of the relevant facts would be available by now, but the story remains roughly where it was of this past Friday, with the exception of the civic disorder it has occasioned. The disorder is continuing. There are many holes in the story that will be filled. They may or may not be relevant to an assessment of the police conduct leading to Locke’s death. Here are some of the relevant facts as I understand them. My purpose here is to lay them out with a minimum of comment. There is more to come.

• Amir Locke was 22 years old. He was sleeping on the couch of what has been described as a relative’s apartment located at 11th Street and Marquette Avenue downtown Minneapolis when a SWAT team unlocked the apartment door and entered the apartment just before 7:00 a.m.. Locke appears to have been sleeping under a blanket holding a gun.

• The four MPD SWAT team officers were executing a no-knock search warrant that they had sought after St. Paul police had applied for a standard search warrant in a homicide case. St. Paul police have minimized and essentially discontinued the use of no-knock warrants.

• As a gun emerges from under the blanket, MPD Officer Mark Hanneman shot Locke three times.

• Locke was not named as a suspect in the homicide underlying the warrants. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

• Locke’s possession of the gun on the premises was lawful. I have not seen any explanation why he was sleeping with a gun.

• The warrant has not been made public. Who or what were sought in the warrant remains a mystery.

• The raid on the apartment must have been incomprehensible and terrifying from Locke’s perspective.

• Locke’s death has reportedly been deemed a homicide by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.

• Locke is said by his family to have been a delivery driver for DoorDash who acquired the handgun to protect himself from the rampant criminality to which the work subjected him. He reportedly had no criminal record. According to his family, Locke’s move to Texas to pursue a career in music was imminent. Attorney Ben Crump is back in town representing Locke’s family.

• MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo retired last month. His absence is felt under the circumstances. The department is under the leadership of interim chief Amelia Huffman. In the press conference held by Mayor Frey and Huffman last Thursday, Huffman was unable to explain why the department had referred to Locke as an adult male suspect in its original press release. Pressed on this point at the press conference, Frey and Huffman took a hike.

• At the press conference Huffman provided this account of the shooting: “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. 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.”

• Minneapolis has supposedly restricted the use of no-knock warrants. No explanation for the use of a no-knock warrant has been offered in this case, but I’m guessing it will be a long time before the department uses another one.

• Locke was black and his killing has been turned into a racial cause. Witness the return of Ben Crump. The Star Tribune editorial on Locke’s killing begins and ends with the statement “This has to stop.” What is “this”? The substance of the editorial addresses no-knock raids, but as I read it the implication is racial with no apparent explanation. I think the editorial is ambiguous.

• Rob Doar and the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus have specifically addressed the no-knock nature of the raid. The press release quotes caucus chairman Bryan Strawser with this straightforward reference to Locke’s race: “Amir Locke, a lawful gun owner, should still be alive. Black men, like all citizens, have a right to keep and bear arms. Black men, like all citizens, have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable search and seizure.” That is certainly true.

• The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating Locke’s killing. The Minneapolis police union has asked the public to reserve judgment until the investigation is complete.

• In the bizarre hellworld of life in the Twin Cities, the involvement of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in the case is deemed a plus. The Star Tribune editorializes: “In a move that should boost public confidence that more answers — and justice — will be forthcoming, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Friday that his staff will work with state Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office to review Locke’s death.” Before he thought to seek elective office, Ellison made a name for himself supporting the defendants convicted of the most notorious cop killing in the history of the city. See my 2006 Weekly Standard article recounting Ellison’s career.

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