Prosecutors: No charges to be filed in fatal shooting of Amir Locke
Criminal charges will not be filed in connection to the fatal police shooting of Amir Locke, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Locke, 22, was shot and killed on the morning of Feb. 2 as a Minneapolis Police Department SWAT team was serving a no-knock search warrant at the Bolero Flats apartment building in connection to a St. Paul homicide case. Locke wasn’t named in the search warrant.
The news comes just a week after the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office received the case from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
The attorney’s office cited “insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges” and said prosecutors “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.”
Body camera footage of the incident shows the SWAT team unlock the door to the apartment with a key, open the door and yell, “Police search warrant!” as they step into the apartment. Locke is seen on a couch underneath a blanket in the living room and only appears to rise after an officer kicks the sofa.
When Locke emerges, he is seen holding a handgun pointed at the ground with his finger pointed out and off the trigger. At that point, Minneapolis Police Officer Mark Hanneman fires shots from off camera. The entire encounter lasts roughly nine seconds.
A joint statement from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and Minnesota Attorney General’s Office stated “there is insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges in this case” after “a thorough review of all available evidence.”
“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,” the statement reads. “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.”
Despite declining to file charges, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and Minnesota Attorney General’s Office said in the joint statement that Locke “should be alive today, and his death is a tragedy.” The offices also said Locke may be alive if a no-knock warrant wasn’t used and called the warrants “highly risky,” adding that they “pose significant dangers to both law enforcement and the public.”
“Local, state, and federal policy makers should seriously weigh the benefits of no-knock warrants,” the offices said in the joint statement.
In a written statement to prosecutors, Hanneman said of Locke having a gun pointed at him:
“In this moment, I feared for my life and the lives of my teammates. I was convinced that the individual was going to fire their handgun and that I would suffer great bodily harm or death. I felt in this moment that if I did not use deadly force myself, I would likely be killed. There was no opportunity for me to reposition myself or retreat. There was no way for me to de-escalate this situation. The threat to my life and the lives of my teammates was imminent and terrifying.”Statement from Minneapolis Police Officer Mark Hanneman in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and Minnesota Attorney General’s Office’s joint report
Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump, Jeff Storms and Antonio Romanucci released the following statement on the decision:
“The family of Amir Locke is deeply disappointed by the decision not to criminally charge Minneapolis Police Officer Mark Hanneman. 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.”Attorneys Ben Crump, Jeff Storms and Antonio Romanucci
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison held a news conference Wednesday morning regarding their decision. You can watch their full news conference in the video player at the bottom of this article.
They said each of their offices and an independent expert — retired Capt. Jack Ryan — separately investigated the case and came to the same conclusion: that charges couldn’t be filed.
Freeman said he and Ellison talked with Locke’s family Wednesday morning and informed them of the decision, adding that “they, like us, are frustrated” and believe Amir would still be alive if a no-knock warrant hadn’t been used.
Ellison reiterated that Locke wasn’t a suspect and emphasized that state and federal laws only allow prosecutors to evaluate cases from the perspective of a reasonable officer and not from the victim’s.
Freeman and Ellison also called for reforming the use of no-knock warrants, reiterating that they’re not safe for the public or officers.
Ellison touted St. Paul’s no-knock warrant policy and said it hasn’t had a negative effect on public safety in the city.
Freeman also said he believes, to prevent future fatal police shootings, that officers need to be in situations where they believe they have to use deadly force less frequently and officers need to be thoroughly trained to only use deadly force as a last resort.
“I think we have work to do in both of those areas,” Freeman said.
All bodycam footage from the officers who raided the apartment when Locke was shot will be released later Wednesday, the attorneys said. They noted that it shows Locke’s gun was pointed in the direction of Hanneman but his finger wasn’t on the trigger.
CLICK HERE to read the full report regarding charges in Locke’s death that was issued by the prosecutors.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey released the following statement:
“I respect the decision made by Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. The loss of Amir Locke is felt most by his friends and family who are grieving their loved one. Today, my heart is with them as they process this news.
“Addressing the challenges in criminal justice and safety requires a shared resolve to continuous change and improvement. That conviction will continue guiding the City of Minneapolis moving forward.”Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis released the following statement:
“The POFM is pleased with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and Minnesota Attorney General’s decision to not charge Officer Hanneman. After a thorough investigation by the BCA, the facts of the case and the applicable laws did no support charges. MPD SWAT was executing a search warrant signed by a judge who authorized the use of a “no knock” warrant. While executing the warrant the evidence shows that Officer Hanneman was faced with a deadly threat and he had to make a split-second decision to use deadly force to protect himself and others from death or great bodily harm. The use of deadly force by an officer is never taken lightly and weighs heavy on the officers involved. This incident was a tragedy for everyone involved and will have a lasting impact on many lives.”Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis