EXPLAINER: Amir Locke case shines light on no-knock warrants

7 months ago

MINNEAPOLIS -- The death of a young Black man at the hands of a Minneapolis police SWAT team is shining new light on how police carry out no-knock warrants.

Attorneys and the family of 22-year-old Amir Locke said Friday that officers basically “executed” Locke, and that they were "flabbergasted” that Minneapolis police haven't learned from the botched no-knock raid in Louisville, Kentucky, in which Breonna Taylor was killed. And they were dismayed that Locke died at police hands in the city where George Floyd's killing in 2020 sparked a nationwide reckoning with racial injustice.

Body camera video shows that the SWAT team, dressed in tactical gear, used a key to enter a downtown apartment shortly before 7 a.m. Wednesday. Not until after they push the door open do they shout, “Police, search warrant!” They also shout “Hands!” and “Get on the ground!”

The video shows an officer kick a sectional sofa, and Locke, who was wrapped in a blanket on the sofa, begins to move, holding a pistol. Three shots are heard, and the video ends.

On Friday evening, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey imposed a moratorium on no-knock warrants. While that's in place, the mayor and police leaders will work with experts who helped shape Breonna's Law, the ban that was imposed in Louisville in 2020.


No-knock warrants are orders by judges that allow police to enter premises without notifying residents, such as by ringing the doorbell or banging on the door. They've been blamed in several killings of Black people, some of which have led to criminal prosecutions against officers, and prompted bipartisan calls across the country to curtail their use.


Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman said at a news conference Thursday night that the SWAT team had both a regular and a no-knock search warrant. She didn't specify whether the officers carried out a no-knock entry.

But John Baker, an assistant professor of criminal justice studies at St. Cloud State University, said the body camera video makes clear that it was indeed a no-knock entry.

Though no-knock entries have sometimes had deadly results, Baker said there are important and necessary reasons for police to have them as an option — including the possibility that they are going into a dangerous situation, or that evidence may be destroyed if an announced entry gives a person time to do so. In the Locke case, he said, authorities haven't disclosed what intelligence the officers had before they went in.


The Minneapolis Police Department restricted their use as part of a wide-ranging set of reforms following the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. Under the policy, which took effect in November 2020, officers were required in most cases to do a “knock and announce” by announcing the...

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