The Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot 22-year-old Amir Locke during a SWAT raid in early February will not be charged with a crime, Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman and Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Wednesday. .
Calling Locke a “victim” and urging lawmakers to reexamine the police tactic of warrants, Ellison said his and Freeman’s offices and an independent investigator reviewed the case and determined there is not enough evidence to prove further. reasonable doubt that Officer Mark Hanneman violated Minnesota’s use-of-force statute.
“Current law only allows us to review the case from a ‘reasonable police officer’ perspective,” Ellison said at a virtual news conference Wednesday morning. “It would be unethical for us to press charges in a case where we know we will not be able to prevail because the law does not support the charges.”
Lawyers for the Locke family said their clients are “deeply disappointed in the decision” not to charge Officer Mark Hanneman, 34, vowing to continue the fight for justice in civil court and advocating for stronger legislation to hold accountable to the police.
“The tragic death of this young man, who was not named on the search warrant and had no criminal history, should never have happened,” the statement from civil rights attorneys Ben Crump, Jeff Storms and Antonio Romanucci said. “This is just the latest reminder that we must work even harder to protect and gain equal justice and accountability for our communities of color. No family should ever suffer like Amir’s again.”
The Minnesota Federation of Police Officers, the MPD’s rank-and-file union, said in a statement that it agreed with the decision not to press charges, explaining that “Officer Hanneman was faced with a deadly threat and had to split “. -second decision to use deadly force to protect self and others from death or great bodily harm.”
On Feb. 2, just before 7 a.m., Minneapolis SWAT teams raided a seventh-floor unit of the Bolero Flats Apartments at 1117 Marquette Ave. looking for suspects linked to a homicide in St. Paul a month earlier. Officers unlocked the door with a key provided by the building manager and yelled “police, search warrant” as they entered, according to body camera footage.
Locke, who was staying at his cousin’s apartment and not subject to the warrant, got up from the couch under a blanket and held a gun, pointing it in Hanneman’s direction when he was shot, according to prosecutors.
“At that point, I feared for my life and the lives of my teammates,” Hanneman told investigators, according to a joint report released by prosecutors Wednesday. “I was convinced that the individual was going to fire his weapon and that I would suffer great bodily harm or death. At that point I felt that if I didn’t use deadly force, I would probably be killed. There was no opportunity to reposition or retreat. There was no way to deescalate this situation. The threat to my life and the lives of my teammates was imminent and terrifying.”
Hanneman shot Locke in the face, shoulder, and chest. The chaotic encounter lasted less than 10 seconds. Locke was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Ellison confirmed that Locke was never a suspect in the crime under investigation, as Minneapolis police initially labeled him in a press release.
“Our investigation found no evidence that he had any role in the homicide investigation that brought police to his door,” Ellison said. “Amir was a victim. He should never have been called a suspect.”
He said that Locke appeared to be pointing the gun in Hanneman’s direction, but not pointing it at anyone. Still, pointing the gun at the officer “constitutes a specifically articulated threat,” according to Freeman and Ellison. “Officer Hanneman perceived that Mr. Locke’s movements and production of a firearm presented a threat of death or great bodily harm that was reasonably likely to occur, and to which officers needed to respond without delay.”
‘Trauma once again’
Coming less than two years after the murder of George Floyd, another Black man, Locke’s death and Minneapolis police incorrectly labeling him a suspect have reinvigorated the push for greater law enforcement accountability.
“Communities have been shattered by trauma once again,” Ellison said. “And the life of a police officer has also changed forever.”
Ellison urged Congress to pass the Justice Law in George Floyd Policea package of federal policies that would make it easier to charge and convict police officers in federal court of misconduct, restrict the use of some police practices, require data collection, and establish new training requirements.
He said “the area of warrants without notice needs reform,” and this policing tactic, popularized during the drug war, often presents unnecessary dangers to officers and the public. Ellison said some states and cities, including St. Paul, have banned unannounced warrants altogether “without harming public safety.”
Freeman said he spoke with Locke’s family on Wednesday morning. “They, like us, believe that if a warrant had not been used, Amir Locke might as well be here today,” she said.
The report released by prosecutors confirms that St. Paul police did not initially request an arrest warrant. Minneapolis Sgt. John Sysaath and SWAT Lt. Thomas Campbell told St. Paul police that they would only assist in searches at Bolero Flats if the warrants were rewritten as no-knock. They cited several “risk factors” associated with the search, “specifically, that the apartment was associated with a homicide suspect, that the firearm used in the homicide had not been recovered, that the suspect was seen on social media in possession of multiple firearms, that the vehicle used in the homicide was associated with other armed robberies, and that the apartment units in question may be occupied by other suspects or associates.”
Less than 24 hours before this week’s free announcement, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey issued a special order solidifying a proposal it submitted last month to restrict the use of arrest warrants.
Under the new policy, Minneapolis police cannot request or execute warrants, even when assisting other law enforcement agencies. Under “compelling circumstances,” police can still break into a residence without waiting the 20 to 30 seconds required in the policy, which some critics speculate could be abused as a loophole to circumvent the new order.
Frey called the policy “one of the most comprehensive and forward-looking in the nation and will help keep both our residents and officers safe.”
Mother ‘upset’ by decision
Karen Wells, the mother of Amir Locke, responded to the ad from New York City along with civil rights activist Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump. “I’m not disappointed. I’m disgusted with the city of Minneapolis,” she said, saying her son was carrying a gun “thinking he had to protect himself from all the crime that’s out of control,” said Mayor Frey, the mayor of Minneapolis, who you can’t control.”
Sharpton called Locke’s behavior self-defense and said he would push for the Justice Department to review the case. “This is not over,” he said. “We will fight, with this family, for a federal investigation into this case.”
The Minnesota US Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
Hanneman was placed on paid administrative leave shortly after the shooting. Minneapolis Police Department spokesman Howie Padilla said Tuesday night that Hanneman is now back on duty.
The Minneapolis city attorney’s office said in a statement that it “has received no action” related to Locke’s murder and “cannot comment” on whether negotiations are underway.
Locke’s cousin, Mekhi Speed, aged 17., and another teen have been charged in the January St. Paul murder that sparked the raid that ended with Locke being shot. The man who died in the St. Paul shooting while sitting in his vehicle was Otis R. Elder, 38.
The partnership between the Freeman and Ellison offices in the Locke case was also used after fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with murder and convicted of killing George Floyd in May 2020 and again after he Fired Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter was charged with involuntary manslaughter. and convicted of killing Daunte Wright in April 2021.
Star Tribune staff writer Liz Navratil contributed to this report.