MINNEAPOLIS — The predawn no-knock raid early Wednesday where Minneapolis police shot and killed 22-year-old Amir Locke nine seconds after entering the downtown apartment has led to widespread condemnation of the use of no-knock warrants.
The search warrants and underlying affidavits related to a January St. Paul murder case remain sealed, however a source with knowledge of the investigation confirms to KARE 11 that Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill signed off on the no-knock warrant MPD used to enter the apartment.
Judge Cahill became a prominent judicial figure nationally as he presided over the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer ultimately convicted of murdering George Floyd.
KARE 11 emailed Hennepin Courts asking:
“Judge Cahill signed the no-knock warrant that ended with MPD shooting Amir Locke. Would Judge Cahill comment on this, or more generally on how much scrutiny he gives the request for the no-knock and if he ever refuses to sign one because he doesn’t think it’s necessary?”
Matt Lehman, Hennepin County Courts spokesperson responded:
“Judge Cahill cannot comment on this particular warrant or any warrant he signs because of the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct's prohibition on judicial comment in any pending or impending cases.”
While Minneapolis police are not saying why they opted for a no-knock warrant the morning Locke was killed, Minnesota Public Radio is reporting court documents indicate that a man who lived in the apartment that Locke was visiting had threatened police before.
A law enforcement source told KARE 11 investigative reporter A.J. Lagoe the warrant that resulted in Locke's death was not originally supposed to be a no-knock warrant. When Minneapolis police were asked to assist St. Paul Police with executing the warrant, the MPD insisted the warrant be changed to be executed without knocking first.
In a statement Friday, a spokesperson from the St. Paul Police Department said it's "common practice" to ask other agencies help serve a warrant outside the SPPD's jurisdiction.
"After the warrants in this case were signed by a Hennepin County judge, the Saint Paul Police Department asked the Minneapolis Police Department to carry out three of them at an apartment complex in downtown Minneapolis. The apartment complex management team complied with the court orders and provided access to the MPD officers," the statement said.
It went on, "Each agency has its own protocols and policies for serving search warrants. The agency responsible for serving the warrant determines what tactics that will be used."
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey instituted a policy against the use of no-knock warrants which his campaign described as a “ban.” But in practice Minneapolis police were still allowed to enter without knocking if they announced themselves before they crossed the threshold of the residence they were entering.
Now after Amir Locke’s death, Frey announced a moratorium on no-knock warrants in the city.
“To ensure safety of both the public and officers until a new policy is crafted, I’m issuing a moratorium on both the request and execution of such warrants in Minneapolis," Frey said in a statement.
The statement went on to say the city is "bringing in national experts DeRay McKesson and Dr. Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University to review and suggest revisions to the department’s policy."
McKesson and Kraska were both instrumental in forming "Breonna's Law" in memory of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky police in March of 2020.
In the state of Minnesota, a no-knock search warrant is defined as "a search warrant authorizing peace officers to enter certain premises without first knocking and announcing the officer's presence or purpose prior to entering the premises." Minnesota statutes might also refer to them as dynamic entry warrants or unannounced entry warrants.
In a news conference Wednesday, Amelia Huffman, the interim Minneapolis police chief, said the SWAT team “loudly and repeatedly announced police search warrant before crossing the threshold into the apartment,” and Locke pointed a loaded gun “in the direction of officers,” which prompted one of the officers to shoot and kill him.
Body-camera footage raised questions about that account as it showed several officers rush into the apartment at the same time they announced their presence, giving Locke just nine seconds to react before he was shot.
On Saturday, the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis released the following statement:
The Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will gather the needed facts for the investigation, and no conclusions should be made until the investigation is complete.
Policing, particularly with a SWAT team, is a dangerous, high-stress profession where officers are forced to make important split-second decisions in defense of themselves and fellow officers, especially when weapons are involved. Weapons are drawn and used when officers are faced with significant safety threats.
This particular SWAT team was conducting a homicide-suspect search warrant, authorized by a judge, as part of an investigation of a violent crime. Officers were obviously prepared for a very dangerous and high-risk situation. During the event, as shown in the body-camera footage, Officer Hannemen quickly encountered Mr. Locke who was armed with a handgun and made the decision to use deadly force. No officer goes into a dangerous setting like this wanting to use a weapon. That decision was not taken lightly, and the impact of the use of deadly force will affect these officers, their families, and the family of Mr. Locke for the rest of their lives.
We express our sympathies to the family for the loss of Amir Locke that resulted from this tragic chain of events as well as our support of the officers and their families.