The Hennepin District Attorney announced on Wednesday that no criminal charges would be fileda 22-year-old man who was shot dead by a SWAT team in a no-knock raid in February.
District Attorney Michael Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement that there was “insufficient admissible evidence” to bring charges in the case.
“In particular, the state would not be able to disprove beyond reasonable doubt one of the elements of Minnesota’s Use of Deadly Force Act, which authorizes the use of force by Officer Hanneman,” the statement said. “Nor would the state be able to establish beyond reasonable doubt a criminal charge against another official involved in the decision-making that led to the death of Amir Locke.”
Although no charges are being filed by those offices, the statement said Locke is still a victim.
“He should be alive today and his death is a tragedy,” the statement said.
Ellison said at a news conference Wednesday morning that it would be “unethical” for prosecutors to press charges in a case they know would not succeed in court.
“And yet, and yet, a loving, promising young man is dead,” Ellison said. “His death leaves a wound in our community, but that is small compared to the wound his family suffers.”
Freeman said they spoke at length with Locke’s family Wednesday morning to discuss the decision.
The legal team representing Locke’s family said the family was “deeply disappointed” by the decision.
“The tragic death of this young man, who was not named on the search warrant and had no criminal record, should never have happened,” the team said in a statement.
Police bodycam video of the incident showed a Minneapolis SWAT team executing the warrant by using a key to enter Locke’s apartment at around 6:47 a.m. on February 2. Police officers can be heard screaming with guns drawn.
A gun can be seen in Locke’s hand as he stands up. Police officer Mark Hanneman then shot him three times, killing him.
His family said police scared him while he slept and he drew the gun – which he was allowed to carry – in self-defense. Locke’s name was not on the search warrant and the police were not looking for him.
“Amir didn’t deserve what happened. Amir was surprised. His life was taken unfairly. My son was scared,” said his father Andre. “Amir did what any law-abiding citizen would do to protect himself.”
“If we learned anything from Breonna Taylor, we know that arrest warrants are deadly for black American citizens,” family attorney Ben Crump said at the time.
In justifying their decision not to press charges, authorities said police bodycam video showed Locke “under the covers with a firearm, initially held parallel to the ground before falling at an approximately 45-degree angle.” was released and then lifted back in the direction by Officer Hanneman.” The statement said this constituted a “specifically articulate threat” justifying the use of deadly force under Minnesota law.
“The aggregate of circumstances known to Officer Hanneman and the other officers at that time included the following: 1) you were executing a search warrant in connection with a homicide involving the use of high-powered missiles; 2) the suspects remained at large; 3) the suspects were known to possess firearms and behave violently; and 4) an unidentified person held a firearm pointed in the direction of at least one officer while others were present,” the statement said.
“These circumstances are such that an objectively reasonable officer in Officer Hanneman’s position would have perceived an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury with a reasonable probability of occurring, and an objectively reasonable officer would not hesitate to use deadly force.”
The statement declined to comment on whether the use of a warrant was warranted, writing that “it was not the role of our offices to assess whether the decision to seek a warrant was reasonable.” However, it said search warrants are “very risky and pose significant dangers to both law enforcement and the public, including those not involved in criminal activity.”
Mayor Jacob Frey said in March he would propose a policy to ban nearly all no-knock warrants, and that policy was implemented Tuesday, CBS Minnesota reported.