Amir Locke Shooting: Minn. Mayor Grilled on No-Knock Warrant Policies - Rolling Stone
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Minneapolis Mayor Grilled on Why No-Knock Warrant ‘Ban’ Didn’t Actually Ban Them

After the police shooting death of Amir Locke, 22, local officials and legal experts are demanding Mayor Jacob Frey change the policy around the controversial practice

People march at a rally for Amir Locke on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, in Minneapolis. Hundreds of people filled the streets of downtown Minneapolis after body cam footage released by the Minneapolis Police Department showed an officer shoot and kill Locke during a no-knock warrant. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)People march at a rally for Amir Locke on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, in Minneapolis. Hundreds of people filled the streets of downtown Minneapolis after body cam footage released by the Minneapolis Police Department showed an officer shoot and kill Locke during a no-knock warrant. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)

People march at a rally for Amir Locke on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, in Minneapolis. Hundreds of people filled the streets of downtown Minneapolis after body cam footage released by the Minneapolis Police Department showed an officer shoot and kill Locke during a no-knock warrant.

Christian Monterrosa/AP

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s policies regarding no-knock/no-announce warrants have faced scrutiny in the wake of the killing of Amir Locke, including at a city council meeting he attended Monday afternoon. 

Following the shooting death of Amir Locke during a no-knock warrant in Minneapolis, the local city council held a meeting on the practice. On Monday, Minneapolis City Council’s Policy and Government Oversight Committee held a discussion on no-knock warrants. Guest speakers included law professor Rachel Moran from the University of St. Thomas School of Law, and civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the families of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and is representing Locke’s family.

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 2, a SWAT team for the Minneapolis Police Department used a key to enter an apartment unit with permission from a no-knock search warrant related to a homicide. Once they opened the door, body camera footage released a day later showed officers shouted, “Police, search warrant,” as they swarmed the home by flashlight, weapons drawn. Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, was under a blanket on the couch. An officer kicks the back of the couch, at which point Locke startles and rolls over, revealing a handgun. Locke never fully sits up before three gunshots can be heard on the camera footage. It all happened within 10 seconds of the officers opening the front door. A lawyer for Locke’s family told the New York Times Locke had been staying at his cousin’s house at the time. Locke’s parents said in a CNN interview that he’d gotten his handgun legally and had a permit to carry it. He was not named in the search warrant.

After the release of the body camera footage, protesters gathered over the weekend in Minneapolis, including Locke’s family. “He was responsible. He didn’t deserve to have his life taken from him the way that it was,” Locke’s father, Andre Lock, said at the Saturday protest. “Why couldn’t my son bury me?” 

Locke’s killing came more than a year after Minneapolis announced the city was updating its policy on no-knock warrants in Nov. 2020. The city was pressured to reform its policies following the Mar. 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor on a no-knock warrant in Louisville, Kentucky, and the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin. The update was touted in the media and even by Frey’s campaign as a “ban” on no-knock warrants when in fact, it was not. Moran, who studies police reform and police accountability, emphasized that the policy change did not constitute an end to the no-knock warrant, a practice first popularized in the U.S. during President Nixon’s war on drugs. Officers were still allowed to arrive outside of daylight hours and to enter without knocking, she said, but required police to announce their presence before crossing the threshold. There were also exceptions to the requirement to announce themselves for situations where police feared imminent harm to themselves or someone in the residence.

One council member wanted to know why Frey had not enacted an outright ban on the practice in Nov. 2020. “Certainly we could have said in all circumstances you’re required to both knock and announce,” Frey said. “There are instances where we could always go further and I think in this instance with this policy we need to. We believed at the time that the most important piece was the announcement itself. I think in addition to the announcement there’s room to go even further.” He said he invited input from the city council and the general public in crafting future policy on the issue.

Ben Crump also spoke about the need to eliminate no-knock warrants. “No-knock warrants create chaotic, confusing circumstances that put everyone present at risk,” Crump said, noting that the practice disproportionately affects people of color. “This is an epic failure of policy. That failed policy killed Amir Locke just as surely as the bullets that pierced his body.” He called on Minneapolis — and America as a nation — to do better, and to honor the memories of Taylor and Locke “by making sure no other innocent Americans are killed by simply living, breathing, and sleeping in their own home.” 

On Friday, Frey announced that he was temporarily stopping the issuing and serving of no-knock warrants, although it still allows for no-knock entries in certain situations, even without a warrant. A hostage situation or during a circumstance involving extreme domestic violence were two examples Frey named of possible instances where an officer would be justified in entering a home without announcing himself or knocking. “That exception exists regardless of whether we have a policy in place on it or not,” Frey said, and continues to refer to this latest policy as a moratorium on the practice.

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