The family of a 22-year-old man killed while police in the United States conducted a “no-knock” search of the apartment where he was sleeping has filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging wrongful conduct by the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota, its police force and the officer who fired the fatal shots.
The death of Amir Locke on February 2, 2022 re-examined the practice of no-knock warrants, allowing police to enter buildings without announcing their presence.
“Our hearts are broken and there is nothing in the world that can make it better,” Locke’s parents, Karen Wells and Andre Locke, said Friday. “Amir was a wonderful 22-year-old who waited a lifetime and we will never know how his contribution could have made the world a better place.”
They explained that they filed the lawsuit in the hope that “significant change will be his legacy.”
The family’s complaint includes allegations that Officer Mark Hanneman violated Locke’s constitutional rights when he opened fire on the sleeping 22-year-old, who was building a career as a hip-hop artist.
It also included allegations that the city of Minneapolis and its police department showed “deliberate indifference” by failing to train officers not to use excessive or deadly force.
Locke’s killing has drawn comparisons to the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, who was shot eight times during a separate no-knock raid in Kentucky. Her death in 2020 helped spark nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
Like Taylor, Locke was asleep when a police SWAT team arrived in the early morning hours at the Minneapolis apartment where he was a guest. Police cited safety concerns in enforcing the restraining order.
Footage from police-worn body cameras shows the officers using a key to open the door to the apartment, entering with guns drawn around 6:48 a.m.
Shouting “Police! Search warrant!” and “Get on the ground,” quickly moving towards the brown sofa near the television where Locke is resting, wrapped in a large, white comforter.
One officer kicks the couch and Locke appears to flinch and grab a gun. At that moment, Officer Hanneman fires three shots at Locke, killing him. The entire incident, from the moment the policemen entered the apartment, lasted approximately 10 seconds.
Locke was a guest at his cousin’s downtown apartment when the raid took place and was not a suspect in the homicide investigation that police were investigating as part of the search warrant.
His cousin, Mekhi Camden Speed, later pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the 2022 killing of Otis Elder. Speed was 17 years old at the time.
“The city of Minneapolis, as we have seen clearly and painfully in recent years, has a history of using excessive and unjustified force, particularly against black people,” attorney Ben Crump said in a press release Friday on behalf of Locke’s family.
“Amir Locke should not have died a year ago, and we will use this lawsuit to fight for justice and much-needed change in the way Minneapolis trains its officers.”
A two-year investigation released in April 2022 by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights concluded that the city’s police department had demonstrated a “pattern or practice” of racial discrimination.
Crump previously served as a lawyer for the family of George Floyd, another black man killed by police in Minneapolis. Video of Floyd’s arrest — which shows an officer kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes — went viral, serving as a catalyst for international protests and calls for police reform.
Crump represented the Floyd family as it filed a civil suit against the city of Minneapolis, alleging that its police force exhibits a culture of excessive force, racism and impunity. The city eventually agreed to pay a $27 million settlement.
Locke’s shooting occurred as trials continued against the officers involved in Floyd’s death. But prosecutors declined to charge the officers involved in Locke’s death, citing the fact that Locke can be seen holding a gun as he wakes up.
Friday’s complaint said Locke had the gun “pointed down” and his finger was off the trigger. It accuses the Minneapolis Police Department of implementing “inconsistent policies, sparse training and minimal discipline to ensure the safety of its citizens.”
The lawsuit also slams the administration of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who announced reforms to the city’s search warrant policy after Locke’s death last year.
Under the new guidelines, officers with a search warrant should wait 20 seconds before entering a residence during the day and 30 seconds before entering a residence at night. No-knock orders are still allowed under the new rules in extreme circumstances, such as hostage situations.
But the Locke family’s complaint claims the policy changes have had “little effect, as more than 87 restraining orders have been executed in their wake.”
“No-restraining orders, like the one that resulted in Amir’s senseless death, are a problem that Minneapolis and our entire nation must address,” Antonio Romanucci, another attorney on the Locke family’s legal team, said in a statement.
“The city will review the complaint when it receives it,” Minneapolis city spokesman Casper Hill told The Associated Press in response to the allegations.
US President Joe Biden’s administration is under pressure to enact nationwide police reform following another high-profile officer-involved incident, this time in Memphis, Tennessee. There, the police beat a 29-year-old black man, Tire Nichols, who died three days later in the hospital.
At his funeral earlier this week, Vice President Kamala Harris stood at a church pulpit and pressed a divided US Congress to pass police reform legislation, including the George Floyd Police Justice Act.
“We should not delay and we will not be denied,” Harris said. “That is non-negotiable.”