Why Black people fear police
Minneapolis cop not charged in murder of Amir Locke

Malik Miah

Posted April 11, 2022

Protest against the police murder of Amir Locke, Minneapolis, February 8, 2022. (Photo: Chad Davis, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

On April 6, Minnesota state and county top prosecutors announced that Minneapolis police officer Mark Hanneman, who fatally shot Amir Locke during a predawn, “no-knock” raid on February 2, 2022, will not face charges in the killing.

Amir Locke was sleeping on his cousin’s coach when the SWAT team kicked down the door to enter the apartment. Within ten seconds Hanneman shot and killed Locke. Afterwards the police blamed Locke, who was not listed in the police warrant, for his own death.

Hanneman said he saw a gun and opened fire in “fear for his life.” His partners defended his action. Locke did have a gun next to him. It was legal, and he would have been justified to shoot first in self-defense. But he never had time to react.

Mother Condemns Decision

Locke’s mother Karen Wells said she was “disgusted” by the decision not to charge Hanneman and vowed to keep fighting for accountability not only in the police department but with Minneapolis city leaders.

“The Minneapolis police executed my baby boy,” Wells said at a New York news conference where she stood with the family’s attorney Ben Crump and the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights leader.

“This is not over,” Wells added. Directly addressing Hanneman, she said: “You may have been found not guilty, but 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.”

Indefensible Justification

A statement by Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s first African American Attorney General, and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who jointly reviewed the case, said there was “insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges.”

They said they could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hanneman had violated the state’s use-of-deadly-force statute.

Ellison also referred to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, saying that what is “reasonable” to a police officer supersedes the rights of anyone confronted by a cop.

The definition of “reasonableness “is determined by the police itself unless the state in court proves otherwise. Ellison believes that was impossible to do. The prosecutors thus said they could find no criminal wrongdoing in the decision-making that led to Locke’s fatal shooting.

“It would be unethical for us to file charges in a case in which we know we will not prevail because the law does not support the charges,” Ellison said. “And still, a loving, promising young man is dead.”

In a nod to the family and community protesters, Ellison and Freeman strongly criticized the use of a “no-knock warrant.”

“Amir Locke’s life mattered,” Ellison and Freeman said in their public statement. “He should be alive today, and his death is a tragedy.”

Lesson from an unjust system

George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis in 2021 sparked mass protests nationwide, and universal calls for police reform. But Minneapolis, and the country, remain deeply divided on how to get there.

President Biden supports more police finds and opposes the Black Lives Matters movement’s demands for serious change. “No knock” warrants can still be used due to loopholes in city and state ordinances.

The bottom-line for African Americans in particular: breathing, walking, driving, even sleeping on a couch, can get you shot and killed by a ”reasonable” cop.

(I personally have a simple policy: I will never call a police officer ever for help, or to report even a minor accident. It is easy to later go to the police station and file an incident report for the record.)

The Locke killing seemed to the family and the community as a slam dunk. The cop who murdered Locke would have faced a jury trial.

Having a Black Attorney General, working within the system, proved worthless. The fact that a trial didn’t occur exposes, once again, the true nature of the criminal and policing system in the United States.

The core problem is not just “no knock” warrants, but the police system itself. It must be abolished and replaced.