MINNEAPOLIS — Chanting the name of Amir Locke, a large crowd of protesters marched in frigid weather in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday to voice exasperation and anger over the conduct of law enforcement officers, nearly two years after the murder of George Floyd.
Locke, 22, was fatally shot in an early morning raid at an apartment complex Wednesday when a SWAT team for the Minneapolis Police Department carried out a search warrant for police in nearby St. Paul involving a homicide.
Locke was not named as a suspect in the warrant, according to authorities. Nor was he a resident of the apartment, according to Jeff Storms, a lawyer representing Locke’s family, who said that Locke was staying there with a cousin.
“Say his name!” shouted protesters, who, marching together, spanned more than one city block as they walked to the police station in the 1st Precinct. Some carried signs that read “Justice for Amir Locke and All Stolen Lives” and “Stop the War on Black America!”
Tensions over racial justice and police violence were already elevated in the Twin Cities before the death of Locke, who was Black. The federal trial against the three former Minneapolis police officers who stood by as Derek Chauvin, their superior officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck has been underway since Jan. 24.
The protest Saturday, which was peaceful, followed a car protest in downtown Minneapolis on Friday night in which a caravan of vehicles blocked traffic.
A graphic and brief body camera video of the raid involving Locke released by the Minneapolis Police Department on Thursday night shows an officer quietly turning a key in the apartment door before officers enter the apartment and begin to shout.
“Police! Search warrant!” they yell.
One officer kicked the back of the couch, where Locke was huddled under a blanket, jarring Locke and making a gun visible. Police fired at least three times in response.
Locke died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner.
Jeanelle Austin attended the protest draped in a white comforter not unlike the blanket Locke had over him when he was killed.
“I don’t know what today will bring,” she said. “But we need something different. We can’t keep continuing with more of the same. We’re dying.”
Many of the attendees Saturday indicated they had been actively involved in the racial justice demonstrations in the Twin Cities after the murder of Floyd. Joseph Kebbekus and Sam Foerderer, both 23, said they had marched in demonstrations in 2020.
“We were kind of hopeful to see things change,” Kebbekus said. “But clearly nothing has, and so we wanted to make sure to continue to come out.”
Speaking at the protest, Andre Locke, Amir Locke’s father, called for peace as he mourned his son. “He was responsible. He didn’t deserve to have his life taken from him the way that it was,” he said. “Why couldn’t my son bury me?”
The killing of Amir Locke has increased scrutiny of the use of so-called no-knock warrants by police and on the efforts in Minneapolis to restrict the use of those surprise searches. No-knock warrants allow police to enter property without first announcing their presence and are primarily used when there is concern that evidence will be destroyed or officers will be put in danger.
The Police Department had obtained knock and no-knock warrants for searches at three units in the apartment complex so that officers could decide which was appropriate in the moment, Amelia Huffman, the interim police chief in Minneapolis, said at a news conference Thursday.
One officer fired shots at Locke, according to the Police Department, which released the personnel file of Officer Mark Hanneman.
Hanneman joined the department in 2015 and the SWAT team in 2020, according to department records. He has had three previous complaints in his file, all of which were closed without discipline.
In the wake of national outcry over the murder of Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Mayor Jacob Frey issued a new policy in 2020 requiring officers executing no-knock warrants to announce their presence and purpose before they enter, except for extreme circumstances. Before the policy, the department executed 139 no-knock warrants per year, according to the mayor’s office.
This year, the number of no-knock warrants is already on track to reach about the same number: 11 have been issued so far this year.(BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM.)“It’s become clear that no-knock warrants continue to be overly sought by the Minneapolis Police Department and overly granted,” Storms said.
He went on to add that “the entire country learned the lessons of the danger of no-knock warrants via the tragic death of Breonna Taylor,” referring to the Black medical worker who was fatally shot by police in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2020 during a no-knock search. “Minneapolis had a chance to learn from that.”
Storms also said that the video shows that Locke’s finger was not on the trigger when he was shot, but rather on the barrel, and that the gun was pointed down. At the news conference Thursday, Huffman said that the officer who shot Locke was outside the frame of the video but in the “direction of that barrel emerging from the blanket.”
“It’s very clear that when Amir grabbed the gun, he grabbed it in such a manner that he did not know whether or not he would shoot,” Storms said. “Amir utilized good trigger discipline and the officer didn’t.”
(END OPTIONAL TRIM.)The shooting prompted Frey to announce Friday a moratorium on no-knock warrants in the city. During the moratorium, the city will work with DeRay Mckesson, a racial justice activist, and Pete Kraska, a criminal justice expert at Eastern Kentucky University, to review and suggest revisions to the department’s policy.
Stacey Burns, who protested Saturday, said she was frustrated at the lack of action on police reform in Minneapolis.
“It’s just chipping away at the edges — we’ll make this adjustment, we’ll make this reform — and then they don’t even do that,” Burns said. “And then this is what happens. Another young Black man with his whole future ahead of him is dead.”This article originally appeared in The New York Times.