MINNEAPOLIS — No criminal charges will be filed against the officers involved in serving a no-knock warrant on a Minneapolis apartment that ended in the fatal shooting of Amir Locke.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Attorney General Keith Ellison made the announcement in a press release sent out Wednesday morning.
"After a thorough review of all available evidence, however, there is insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges in this case," Freeman said in a released statement. "Specifically, 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. Nor would the State be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a criminal charge against any other officer involved in the decision-making that led to the death of Amir Locke."
Locke, 22, was killed the morning of Feb. 2 as he slept on a couch inside an apartment at Bolero Flats in downtown Minneapolis. Body camera footage showed SWAT officers entering the apartment with a key fob, and Locke stirring underneath a blanket before he reached for a handgun, which he was permitted to carry. Shots were then fired by a SWAT officer, striking Locke multiple times and killing him.
The entire incident took just nine seconds to unfold.
City officials later identified police officer Mark Hanneman as the person who fired the shots that killed Locke. Records show that Hanneman has had three complaints filed against him since 2016 but no disciplinary actions.
Hanneman's initial statement to investigators following the shooting was revealed for the first time Wednesday. Court documents show Hanneman told them he "feared for his life" and said he believed there was "no way" to de-escalate the situation.
Also Wednesday, the MPD said Hanneman had returned to active duty at the end of February. A statement sent to KARE 11's Danny Spewak said the department believes Hanneman was "assigned to a role that is the best fit for the needs of the department."
Freeman and Ellison held a virtual press conference late Wednesday morning to further explain the decision not to charge officer Hanneman or any others involved in serving the warrant. Both said prosecutors have an ethical responsibility to not file charges in a case they feel cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, according to laws on the books. Both spoke of the need to examine the use, even the existence of no-knock warrants, and urged reform in the way officers are trained so another life is not needlessly lost.
"I will say that it calls for reform, and I think it's appropriate for community to engage to have a policy that's going to preserve life for everyone involved," Ellison told reporters.
"I am not disappointed, I am disgusted," Locke's mother, Karen Wells, said in a news conference on Wednesday afternoon. She also addressed Hanneman, the officer involved in her son's death: "In the eyes of me, being the mother who I am, you are guilty, and I'm not going to give up... The spirit of my baby is going to haunt you for the rest of your life."
Appearing alongside Locke's mother on Wednesday afternoon, Rev. Al Sharpton called on the U.S. Justice Department to review the shooting.
Ben Crump, the attorney for the Locke family who also represented the family of George Floyd in their legal action against the city of Minneapolis, posted a reaction to news of the decision on his Twitter account.
Crump and his fellow attorneys Jeff Storms and Antonio Romanucci also released a statement, vowing to continue their efforts to end the use of no-knock warrants.
"The family of Amir Locke is deeply disappointed by the decision not to criminally charge Minneapolis Police Officer Mark Hanneman," the statement read. "The tragic death of this young man, who was not named in the search warrant and had no criminal record, should never have happened. The family and its legal team are firmly committed to their continued fight for justice in the civil court system, in fiercely advocating for the passage of local and national legislation, and taking every other step necessary to ensure accountability for all those responsible for needlessly cutting Amir’s life far too short. Today only deepens the resolve of Amir’s family and its legal team. We hope this deepens the resolve of the community at large as well. This is only the latest reminder that we must work even harder to protect and obtain equal justice and accountability for our communities of color. No family should ever suffer like Amir’s again."
Court documents revealed that SWAT officers were looking for Locke's cousin, 17-year-old Mekhi Speed, who was a suspect in a January St. Paul homicide. There was no mention of Locke's name in the warrant. St. Paul police asked their counterparts in Minneapolis to serve the warrant, but did not request that it be of the no-knock variety.
Locke's death triggered an uproar across the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota, with activists calling the fatal shooting an act of murder. Locke's parents and their legal team called for an end to no-knock warrants in the city, and said the incident was proof that the culture of the police department has not changed since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of then-officer Derek Chauvin.
The statement released by Freeman and Ellison said the two prosecutors met with Locke's family to inform them of the decision, and mourn the loss of a young life.
"Amir Locke’s life mattered. 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," the statement read.
"He should be alive today, and his death is a tragedy. Amir Locke was not a suspect in the underlying Saint Paul criminal investigation nor was he named in the search warrants. Amir Locke is a victim. This tragedy may not have occurred absent the no-knock warrant used in this case."
Interim Minneapolis Police Chief Amelia Huffman released a statement expressing sympathy for Locke's family and the community, while also stressing the importance of training within the department. Chief Huffman's full statement reads:
We recognize the deep loss felt by Amir Locke’s family and those who loved and knew him best, as well as the profound grief in our community.
Officers never want to face split second decisions that end in the loss of life. I’m thankful for the commitment of our men and women who faithfully provide police service every day, steadfast in their response in the face of danger. We do, and we must, ask much of our officers – not only to act with courage, but also with compassion and character.
It is vitally important that the Department provide the training, equipment and policy support necessary for them to carry out their work, mitigating the risks to community members and officers as we work together toward a safer and more peaceful City.
I appreciate the diligent work carried out by the investigators with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the efforts of Hennepin County Attorney Freeman and Attorney General Ellison.
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