A Minneapolis SWAT Team entered Amir Locke’s apartment and found him asleep on a sofa in his living room. Officer Mark Hanneman then shot him to death eight seconds later. The joint report of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (and Hennepin County attorney Michael Freeman) was released yesterday. This footage is broken down by six cameras and describes what each officer could see and did at what time. The bottom line: Ellison and Freeman say criminal charges will not be filed against Hanneman or any of the other officers who participated in the deadly February 2 raid, because they reacted appropriately to what they reasonably perceived as a lethal threat—the handgun that Locke picked up after the cops stormed into the apartment.
Ellison and Freeman also describe Locke “a victim”, and admit that Locke’s reaction to the no-knock, pre-dawn raid was not unreasonable. They say that they recognize Locke could have been asleep and may have misinterpreted the officer’s entry as someone entering the apartment. This is something we don’t dispute and it could be that this is what actually happened.
This implies that Hanneman and Locke are not compatible BothLocke acted in self defense. Hanneman was right to shoot him. That perplexing situation, which is similar to what happened during the March 2020 drug raid that killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville, underlines the dangers of police tactics that aim to reduce the risk of violence but often have the opposite effect.
While the SWAT team assisted St. Paul Police Department with homicide investigations, Locke wasn’t a suspect or person of interest. Mekhi Speed was Mekhi’s cousin and lived on another floor in the same building. Locke was a 22 year-old, aspirant hip-hop artist. He was living with Mekhi Speed’s brother Marlon Speed who lived in the same apartment building with Mekhi. St. Paul police initially obtained warrants to “knock and Announce” Mekhi Speed’s apartment, Marlon Speed’s, and another unit in which “the suspect or his associates frequently convened.”
Minneapolis SWAT officers were unable to join the event unless their warrants had been changed to allow them to enter the building early in the morning, without having to announce themselves. They considered this a prudent precaution as their primary target was a known murder suspect. Ellison and Freeman noted that police had information that “the primary suspect” and 2 other suspects made recent social media posts, in which they were pictured with several firearms. They also knew that these suspects were involved in multiple armed robberies or carjackings and that the rifle of.223 caliber used in the murder had not been found.
Video of Officer Aaron Pearson quietly opening Marlon Speed’s 7th-floor apartment door at 6:48 AM, twelve minutes before sunrise. Bodycam footage Sgt. John Sysaath shouts, “police search warrant,” as John Sysaath enters the building. They do the same, and their shouts overlap. The officers issue several commands including, “Show me your hands” as well as “Get on the Fucking Ground”.
According to the report, the living room was dark with the blinds closed and only light coming in from the flashlights of officers is sufficient. Officers can clearly see someone lying down on the sofa under a blanket. He is also moving about and glances over at the intruders briefly. Officers are alarmist that Locke is not visible at first. They become more concerned when Locke appears to have his right hand out of the blanket and is holding a gun.
Although they have searched both apartments and failed to find Marlon Speed, or any other suspects in the search, cops do not believe Locke is there. He could also be one of the suspects according to them. Locke isn’t touching the gun trigger, but this could change anytime. The police believe Locke intentionally disobeys their commands.
The report states that the firearm was pointed at Officer Hanneman at one point. However, it “appears to be moving downwards and angling slightly toward the ground, rather than its former position, which pointed straight out towards the side, approximately parallel to ground.” “The gun appears to continue to tilt further down, and now seems to be about 45 degrees lower than it was originally. It also appears to be 45 degrees higher than the ground. This too can change quickly. Hanneman tells Hanneman to show him his hands and, within seconds, a gunshot can be heard. Then, two more.
Hanneman later said that “in this moment,” he later remembered, “I feared my life and my colleagues’ lives.” It was clear to me that this person was about to shoot their handgun at me and cause severe injury, or death. At this point, I believed that I could be fatally injured if the other person used deadly force against me. I had no choice but to retreat or reposition. I had no choice but to escalate the situation. It was terrifying and imminent that my life and those of my team-mates were at stake.
This explanation was highly supported by Ellison and Freeman who were consulted by experts in the use of force. Based on the evidence, Ellison and Freeman concluded it was impossible to establish beyond a reasonable doubt Hanneman was innocent. Not acting in defense of himself and his colleagues—an affirmative defense that prosecutors would have to overcome to obtain a conviction on any of the charges that Ellison and Freeman considered.
“The State would be unable to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements of Minnesota’s use-of-deadly-force statute that authorizes the use of force by Officer Hanneman,” Ellison and Freeman said in a press release. “The State will not prove beyond doubt that any other officer was responsible for the decisions leading to Amir Locke’s murder.”
Ellison’s and Freeman’s legal analysis was based on “an objectively reasonable officers” in the situation. This is a “based on all the circumstances at the time, without the benefit or hindsight.” Therefore, they were obliged to look at the incident from Hanneman’s perspective and those of the other officers present, who all stated that they saw a deadly, imminent threat.
Locke’s view is not relevant to the issue of criminal prosecutions against officers. For policymakers, Locke’s perspective can be a crucial consideration when weighing the benefits and risks of “dynamic entry” and no-knock warrants.
Even if the SWAT team found it “terrifying”, a young man who was accosted by half a dozen gunmen would likely have felt at least as terrified. The eight-second delay between Locke’s arrival and Hanneman shooting Locke meant that the SWAT officers had no time to identify Locke and explain why he was carrying a gun. However, Locke was also given no time by the officers to discover who the men were or why they invaded the apartment.
Marlon Speed was with Tatyana Henderson in his bedroom when the incident occurred. Speed was reported to have “heard” a loud noise while he was sleeping and then’sat up’ again. Then he ‘next’ heard the gunshot. Henderson “stated that she did not really know what was going on and that ‘they just came in my house…They shot somebody and then they like came in the room and then we were already on the ground.” It sounded to Henderson like someone had broken in. She “remembers hearing someone yell and then hearing multiple gunshots.
Locke’s mother says that Locke bought the gun as protection for his job as a delivery driver. This type of self-defense involves the carrying of a firearm in public. The Supreme Court is currently considering the case. However, the Court recognizes that handguns can be used to defend one’s home and hearth. This is an “essential” right protected by the Second Amendment. This seems to be the reason Locke was murdered for exercising this right.
Ellison and Freeman report that “Mr. Locke’s thoughts and intents remain unknown” and they are unable to be determined. It is not known if Locke was awake at the time the officers entered, or if he believed that the intruders were unwelcome police officers. It is obvious that Mr. Locke was likely disoriented and startedled by the officer’s ‘no knock’ entry to the apartment. This, in addition to the multiple, interrelated shouts and orders and the shining of bright lights on Mr. Locke, we are very aware of. It is also obvious that Mr. Locke was not unreasonable in his reaction to the entry.
Ellison, Freeman and Freeman both want it to be made clear that Hanneman’s inexoneration doesn’t amount to an accusation of Locke. They say that Amir Locke was a significant part of their lives. “He was a young man with plans to move to Dallas, where he would be closer to his mom and—he hoped—build a career as a hip-hop artist, following in the musical footsteps of his father. His death should have been a tragic accident. Amir Locke wasn’t a suspect or named in search warrants in the Saint Paul criminal investigation. Amir Locke was a victim. The no-knock warrant that was used in this instance may have prevented the tragedy from occurring.
This last point is further elaborated by them: “No-knock warrants can be extremely dangerous and present significant dangers for both law enforcement officers and the general public. They also pose significant risks to those who aren’t involved in criminal activity.” Paramedics must be present at all times when no-knock warrants have been executed. This speaks volumes about the law enforcement tool’s violent nature. Both law enforcement officers and the public are at risk from no-knock arrest warrants. Federal and state policy makers need to weigh these benefits. Saint Paul and other cities have stopped using no-knock warrants completely.
The policy of St. Paul is evidently not as thorough as Ellison’s and Freeman would have you believe. St. Paul police accepted to get the no knock warrants Minneapolis SWAT officer demanded in exchange for their help. Amir Locke’s tragic death illustrates the importance of no-knock warrants. When police enter a residence at night and knock on the door, it is easy to mistake them for criminals.
Breonna Taylor claimed that Louisville police actually knocked, and that they had also identified themselves when they broke into her apartment at night. Taylor’s neighbor, one of whom later altered his story to match the official version, disputed Taylor’s claim. Even if it is true that police shouted “police search warrant” prior to entering, this does not necessarily mean Taylor or Kenneth Walker heard that announcement.
Walker claimed he was scared to death by the chaos, but Taylor and he knew that the intruders weren’t cops. Walker grabbed his gun, fired one round at the intruders and wounded one officer. Taylor was killed by the cops who responded to him with an explosion of bullets. When they dropped their attempted murder case against Walker, the prosecution implicitly admitted that Walker was a strong defense claim. In that case as Locke’s the state attorney general found that Walker had an objectively reasonable defense claim and that the officers who entered the apartment were acting in the same manner as Locke.
Both cases were not about the officers’ snap decisions, but rather the situations that forced them to make such quick decisions. For years, similar results have been seen in other cities as a result of the strategy to discourage resistance. This has included deliberately disorienting people and serving warrants. These tragedies can be predicted in a country that allows people to carry guns at home in self-defense.
It is important to consider this hazard every time that police enter homes, no matter what warrants they may have. If police are able to shock people with a sudden, overwhelming forceful presence of force and banging on doors in the middle night, it is not practical for them to do so. There is a risk people won’t understand why either approach was chosen. If they do not defend themselves, any officer objectively reasonable is likely to see dangers that justify the use force.