The Minneapolis police officer who killed Amir Locke in a no-knock raid in February will not face criminal charges, Minnesota prosecutors said Wednesday, citing "insufficient admissible evidence" in the case.
"We have an ethical obligation as prosecutors to only bring criminal charges which are supported by sufficient admissible evidence to sustain a conviction," Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said in a statement. "Under current law – and as awful as the circumstances of this tragedy are – there is not sufficient admissible evidence to support a criminal charge."
Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, was fatally shot within seconds of police busting down the door of a Minneapolis apartment in a no-knock warrant raid on the morning of Feb. 2. He was lying on the couch when police stormed in, and body camera footage shows the officers yelling "Police! Search warrant" and "Get on the fucking ground!"
Police video shows Locke holding a handgun that was initially pointed to the ground before it was raised in the direction of Minneapolis officer Mark Hanneman. Hanneman then fires three shots at Locke, killing him.
Locke was not named in the search warrant and he was not a suspect in the investigation. His family has said that he owned the gun and had a permit for it, even though a permit to carry is not required inside a home. Locke's mother called his death an "execution."
Minnesota prosecutors said they said they would not have been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hanneman violated the state's use-of-deadly-force statute, nor would they have been able to prove a criminal charge against another officer "involved in the decision-making" that led to Locke's killing.
His death led to an outpour of anger in Minneapolis, particularly against Mayor Jacob Frey, who months prior to the shooting incorrectly claimed that he banned no-knock search warrants as part of his reelection campaign. Rather than ban the practice altogether, Minneapolis required officers to announce their presence while executing a no-knock warrant. Frey was later forced to walk back his claim and said his language in describing the city's policy on no-knock warrants was too "casual."
After Locke was killed, Frey again proposed another change to the policy: Police would be required to announce their presence at least 20 seconds before entering, but could still enter immediately if there were "exigent circumstances."
Ben Crump, who is representing Locke's family, said they will continue to pursue "justice in the civil court system."
"Today only deepens the resolve of Amir's family and its legal team," Crump said.
At a press conference Wednesday, Locke's mother Karen Wells said she was "disgusted" by the decision to not bring charges against Hanneman.
"Right now the Minneapolis police that executed my baby boy on [Feb. 2], be prepared for this family because every time you take a step, we're going to be right behind you. This is not over," she said. "I am not disappointed. I am disgusted with the city of Minneapolis."
In their statement declining to charge Hanneman, prosecutors acknowledged the dangers of no-knock warrants to law enforcement officials and the public.
"The fact that it is standard practice for paramedics to stand by at the scene when no-knock warrants are executed speaks to the foreseeably violent nature of this law enforcement tool," they said.
The statement said Locke was a "victim" and called his death a "tragedy" that may not have happened if the officers did not use a no-knock warrant.
"Amir Locke’s life mattered," prosecutors said. "He was a young man with plans to move to Dallas, where he would be closer to his mom and – he hoped – build a career as a hip-hop artist, following in the musical footsteps of his father."