A year after Amir Locke’s death, changes and justice remain elusive, family says

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A year ago, Andre Locke and Karen Wells found themselves forced into the spotlight to clear their son’s name.

They say 22-year-old Amir Locke was sleeping when Minneapolis police raided a downtown apartment where he was staying. SWAT officers used a no-knock warrant to get inside. Nine seconds after they crossed the threshold, Officer Mark Hanneman opened fire, killing Locke.

Within hours, MPD referred to Locke as a “suspect” and released photos of the gun that his parents say he legally owned. Police later acknowledged Locke was not the subject of the warrant.

“When they tried to make Amir out to be something that he wasn’t, we were able to immediately step up and say, ‘Hey, not our son.'” Wells said in an interview with 5 INVESTIGATES earlier this week.

Reflecting on the year since Locke’s death, his parents say they are still fighting for justice for their son and for changes to policing. While some reforms were made in the wake of the shooting, they say there’s much that hasn’t changed.

“We’re happy for the changes that have happened, but let’s continue,” Andre Locke said. “Let’s be proactive. Let’s do what’s right.”

Read KSTP’s full Amir Locke coverage

In the aftermath of Locke’s death, the initial information put out by police drew skepticism from long-time community leaders, like Nekima Levy Armstrong. 

“We’ve seen it time and time again,” Armstrong said. “The public still can’t trust the information that comes forward.”

The confusion continued after the city released body camera footage of the shooting. It showed Locke emerging from under a blanket on the couch, holding the gun in his hand. His finger was not on the trigger and the gun appeared to be pointed at the ground. 

“I was sick to my stomach because it didn’t match the statements that had been put out,” Armstrong recalled. 

The more the city tried to explain, the more frustrated the community became. During a press conference following the release of the video, Armstrong interrupted then-Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman’s comments, bringing up the inconsistencies in information. 

“I was so outraged that they would mislead the public,” Armstrong said.

Minneapolis Commissioner of Community Safety Dr. Cedric Alexander was not working for the city when the shooting happened but said it raised a lot of questions. 

“I think there were certainly some missteps that the city has to own in terms of sharing information at that particular time,” he said earlier this week in an interview with 5 INVESTIGATES. “The public will only begin to trust us when they feel we’re being open and transparent and honest, and I will be as long as I sit in this seat.”

Minneapolis did ban the use of no-knock warrants after the shooting. Locke’s death also spurred a bill at the state Legislature that would have banned no-knock warrants statewide.

But DFL Rep. Athena Hollins, who represents St. Paul, said her bill didn’t get any traction.

“I think that there is a fear of a slippery slope that if we take this away, we’re going to be taking all power away,” she said in an interview last month. “That’s simply not the case. We’re really looking at this specific action that has been shown to be deadly.”

When prosecutors from the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced they would not file charges against Officer Mark Hanneman, they added that Locke may be alive today if a no-knock warrant wasn’t used.

“Local, state, and federal policy makers should seriously weigh the benefits of no-knock warrants,” the offices said in the joint statement.

Locke’s parents, along with community members, gathered at the State Capitol on Thursday to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting and to call for changes to state law. 

Earlier in the day, Wells and Locke announced they will be filing a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis. 

A press conference is scheduled for Friday morning.

“We need to hold the officers and everyone that was involved accountable for their actions,” Andre Locke said. “That’s what we want. And I believe that’s what we’re gonna get.”

Minneapolis police say an internal affairs investigation into the shooting is open and “ongoing.” A spokesperson confirmed Officer Hanneman is still employed by MPD.