The Hennepin County District Attorney announced Wednesday that no criminal charges will be filed ina 22-year-old man who was shot dead by a SWAT team in a raid without firing a shot in February.
County Attorney Michael Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement that there was “insufficient admissible evidence” to press charges in the case.
“Specifically, the state would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements of Minnesota’s use of lethal force law that authorizes the use of force by Officer Hanneman “, reads the press release. “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 Amir Locke’s death.”
Although no charges are filed by those offices, the release says Locke is still a victim.
“He should be alive today, and his death is a tragedy,” the statement read.
Police body camera video of the incident showed a Minneapolis SWAT team executing the warrant using a key to enter Locke’s apartment around 6:47 a.m. on February 2. Officers can be heard shouting with guns.
As Locke stands up, a gun can be seen in his hand. Officer Mark Hanneman then shot him three times, killing him.
His family said police caught him sleeping and pulled out the gun – which he was allowed to carry – in self-defence. Locke’s name was not on the search warrant and the police were not looking for him.
“Amir did not deserve what happened. Amir was surprised. His life was taken away from him unfairly. My son was surprised”, his father André. “Amir did what any law-abiding citizen would do to protect themselves.”
“If we’ve learned anything from Breonna Taylor, it’s that we know no-knock warrants have deadly consequences for black American citizens,” family attorney Ben Crump said at the time. .
In explaining their decision not to press charges, authorities said police body camera video showed Locke “under cover holding a firearm that was initially held parallel to the ground before being dropped at an angle about 45 degrees, then raised in the direction of Officer Hanneman.” The statement said it constituted a “specifically articulating threat” that justified the use of lethal force under Minnesota law.
“The totality of the circumstances known to Officer Hanneman and the other officers at the time included that: 1) they were executing a search warrant related to a homicide in which high-powered cartridges were used; 2) the suspects were still at large; 3) the suspects were known to possess firearms and engage in violent behavior; and 4) an unidentified individual held a firearm pointed at at least one officer with other people present,” the statement said.
“These circumstances are such that an objectively reasonable officer in Constable Hanneman’s position would have perceived an immediate threat of death or grievous bodily harm which was reasonably likely to occur, and an objectively reasonable officer would not delay in using the lethal force.”
The statement declined to comment on whether the use of a no-knock warrant was warranted, writing that “it was not the role of our offices to assess whether the decision to seek a no-knock warrant was appropriate”. He said, however, that no-knock warrants are “highly risky and pose significant dangers to law enforcement and the public, including people who are not involved in any criminal activity.”
Mayor Jacob Frey said in March he would propose a policy to bar nearly all no-knock warrants, and that policy was implemented on Tuesday, CBS Minnesota reported.