A year after a 22-year-old Black man was shot dead by police serving a no-knock warrant, Amir Locke’s parents on Friday sued the city of Minneapolis and the officer who fired the fatal shot in federal court.
“We all saw that horrific video where Amir Locke didn’t even have a chance … He was practically in slumber when the police did what they do so often with Black people – they shoot first, and ask questions later,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Friday in announcing the suit.
Court action over Locke’s death comes on the heels of the deadly police beating in Memphis of a 29-year-old Black man, Tyre Nichols – a case that swiftly yielded murder charges against five officers and renewed calls for policing reform nationwide. Prosecutors in Locke’s case declined in April to file charges against any officers.
The Locke family lawsuit renews a spotlight on no-knock warrants, in which high-risk warrants are served at homes without giving occupants a chance to open the door. The practice – also at issue in the botched 2020 police raid that left Breonna Taylor dead in Kentucky – is inappropriate in almost all circumstances, leaders and advocates have said.
“This has got to stop,” Locke’s mom, Karen Wells, said Friday. “Amir will be the face of banning no-knock warrants. He will not die in vain.
The lawsuit asks the court to appoint a monitor to make sure that the city carries out a ban on no-knock warrants, as well as money damages for the Locke family.
Long before Locke’s killing – as the nation was reeling from another Minneapolis officer’s murder of George Floyd – the city in late 2020 announced it was changing its policy on no-knock warrants. But the option wasn’t banned outright: Like most police department policies, the policy gives wide leeway to field supervisors to make decisions based on conditions and allows for no-knock warrants in certain situations.
That change was a focus Friday of Locke’s parents’ lawyers.
“Why were they (the local government) misleading us to believe that no-knock warrants had been banned?” Plaintiffs’ attorney Jeff Storms said at the news conference. “They told us there was a ban when there wasn’t.”
The city did not immediately have a comment on the suit, noting it “will review the Complaint when it receives it.”
A Minneapolis officer shot Locke just before 7 am on a weekday last February as he emerged from a couch with a handgun and raised it toward an officer while a SWAT team yelling commands executed a warrant linked to a homicide probe, prosecutors have said.
Locke was not named in any search warrants, police have said. He was in legal possession of his firearm, which he used as protection while working as a food delivery driver, his mother and attorneys for his family have said.
Locke might still be alive “absent the no-knock warrant used in this case,” Attorney General Keith Ellison and then-Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said in announcing no charges against officers, noting their role was not to evaluate the use of the warrant.
In passionate remarks Friday, those who spoke at the news conference – their voices often shaking – intoned the exhaustion and fury still simmering since Floyd’s 2020 death sparked a reckoning over US police use of force, especially against people of color.
“We keep seeing this brutality all over America, this excessive use of force whether shooting or brutalization of Black people by police officers who are supposed to protect and serve them,” said Crump, who also represents Nichols’ family.
“But you don’t see that in those videos with Amir Locke. You don’t see that in these videos with George Floyd. You don’t see that in these videos with Andre Hill in Ohio. You don’t see that in these videos that we see with Tyre Nichols, the latest America tragedy of police brutality against black people in America.”
No family mourning a loved one slain by police – while also mounting a battle for justice – has asked for this, Locke’s father said.
“We should not be here. We don’t want to be here. We didn’t ask to be here this is something that we were forced into,” Andre Locke said.
“Listening to the reports and everything that’s taken place in this country, this here will not be swept under the rug. I’ve said this before: This is not the 1920s, not the 1930s, the 1950s or ’60s or ’70s. We stand for something different. No disrespect to those who have walked the way for us and for us to be here, to have a voice. And we’re absolutely thankful. But we’re not going – at all. We’re not going.”
The defendants in the federal lawsuit are the city of Minneapolis, as the responsible party for the Minneapolis Police Department, as well as Officer Mark Hanneman. It seeks compensatory, special and punitive damages and costs in an amount to be determined by a jury.
Floyd’s death prompted the US Justice Department in 2021 to launch a federal civil investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis to determine whether its police department has “a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. It includes a “comprehensive review” of the department’s “policies, training, supervision and use of force investigations,” Garland said at the time.
The probe is ongoingaccording to the city.
Meanwhile, Nichols’ death in Memphis has renewed calls to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The legislation, introduced in 2020 and again in 2021, would set up a national registry of police misconduct to stop officers from evading consequences for their actions by moving to another jurisdiction.
President Joe Biden has referenced the failed legislation comments about Nichols.