Feb 7, 2022 - News

MPD shooting of Amir Locke renews no-knock warrant debate

protesters in downtown minneapolis after the shooting of amir locke

Demonstrators gathered outside the Hennepin County Government Center Saturday. Photo: Kerem Yucel / AFP

The fatal shooting of Amir Locke by Minneapolis police last week has reignited the debate over no-knock warrants in Minnesota.

The big picture: Locke's death during an early-morning raid on a downtown apartment building has sparked calls for reform from activists and lawmakers across the political spectrum.

What's new: On Friday, Mayor Jacob Frey announced a temporary "moratorium" on most no-knock warrants "to ensure safety of both the public and officers until a new policy is crafted."

  • The policy still allows officers to seek approval to use the tactic if the police chief signs off due to "an imminent threat of harm to an individual or the public."

Context: Locke was shot and killed seconds after an MPD SWAT team conducting a search warrant connected to a St. Paul murder investigation entered a downtown Minneapolis apartment and encountered him lying under a blanket on the couch. Video suggests he was asleep before the raid.

  • MPD's interim chief said officers made a "split-second" decision upon seeing a gun in his hand.

Of note: Locke, 22, was not named on the search warrant and has no known criminal record. His family said Friday he was a heavy sleeper and had legally purchased the gun to protect himself while working as a a delivery and ride share driver.

The issue, in brief: Critics say no-knock warrants lead to unnecessarily chaotic and dangerous situations, like the one that led to Locke's death.

The other side: Some law enforcement officials argue the element of surprise is sometimes necessary to preserve evidence and protect officer safety.

  • Documents explaining why MPD insisted on using the approach for Wednesday's search, which was connected to a St. Paul murder investigation, have been sealed.

Flashback: Calls to ban no-knock warrants increased across the c0untry after Breonna Taylor was killed by Louisville police in March 2020.

Yes, but: While some news reports and campaign materials backing Frey's re-election cast the change as a ban, court records reviewed by the Star Tribune and data released by MPD to MinnPost last fall suggest MPD has continued to use the warrants at similar levels as before.

  • MPD hasn't fulfilled Axios' request for a full account of no-knock warrants obtained and executed since November 2020.

What's next: Frey said the city will work with experts, including civil rights activist Deray McKesson, to craft a new permanent policy.

  • DFL Rep. Esther Agbaje, who lives in the apartment building where Locke was killed, said the Legislature's People of Color and Indigenous Caucus will push for a statewide ban at the Legislature this year.

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