In wake of shooting, GOP candidates signal interest in scrutinizing no-knock warrants

Protesters call for justice for Amir Locke
Protesters gather in front of the downtown Minneapolis police precinct during a march on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, calling for justice for Amir Locke, a Black 22-year-old man fatally shot by Minneapolis police on Feb. 2.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Two top Republican members of the Minnesota Senate signaled there may be bipartisan support to reevaluate no-knock warrants. 

In a statement posted on social media, GOP State Senator Paul Gazelka, who is seeking his party's nod to run against Gov. Tim Walz, said that the practice needs “immediate review.” 

The statement from Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, comes after a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed 22-year-old Amir Locke. Police were serving a no-knock search warrant in a downtown apartment when the fatal shooting occurred. Locke was holding a handgun, which his family said he legally possessed.

Locke’s death spurred protests over the weekend and renewed interest in ending the practice of police acting on warrants without knocking first. 

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On Friday night, Walz said he'd sign a ban on no-knock warrants if the Legislature passed one. 

“I think these things have such potential to go bad, like we saw in this case with Amir Locke,” he said on TPT’s Almanac. “I think the Legislature needs to buckle down on this.” 

Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, who is also running to unseat Walz, said in a statement that police should have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.

“However, no-knock warrants have given rise to the death of citizens not subject to the warrant. These procedures require tough conversations to review the circumstances in which no-knock warrants can and should be used. I look forward to helping lead that conversation,” Benson said.

Former GOP State Senator Scott Jensen, who is also seeking to run against Walz this fall, said the practice deserves scrutiny. In a video posted to social media, he said leaders need to ensure the rights of both citizens and law enforcement are protected.

“What we have is a policy that needs to be scrutinized under the light of day, the no-knock warrant policy. We have a policy that may well be putting police in harm's way as they try to do their best work,” he said. “The no-knock policy is fraught with danger.”

Both Gazelka's and Jensen's statements echo a press release issued by the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, which pointed out that Locke was not named in the search warrant. 

“The tragic circumstances of Mr. Locke’s death were completely avoidable,” said Rob Doar, Senior VP, Governmental Affairs. “It’s yet another example where a no-knock warrant has resulted in the death of an innocent person. In this case, as in others, the public should expect and receive full transparency and accountability from law enforcement agencies that serve and protect our local communities.”

During the last legislative session, lawmakers stopped short of banning no-knock warrants.

Instead, they compromised by placing restrictions on the practice including explicit justification why a conventional warrant won’t work, and sign-offs from the agency’s chief law enforcement officer or designee and a second senior officer. Agencies will also have to submit data to the state on their use of no-knock warrants, which will release a report to lawmakers once per year.