The police killing of Amir Locke

Family of Amir Locke calls for ban on no-knock warrants

The parents of Amir Locke joined a state Capitol rally Thursday to demand that the Minnesota Legislature and Congress pass complete bans on no-knock warrants, invoking his name in a chant that echoed through the rotunda.

“Pass the Amir Locke Law now,” the crowd said repeatedly toward the end of a nearly two-hour rally and news conference.

Amir Locke’s father Andre Locke pushed back against talk of a new no-knock warrant policy change that allows those raids to occur in cases involving kidnapping, hostage situations and human trafficking.

“We can’t trust them to keep their word. Just ban them all,” Andre Locke said. 

Added Karen Wells, Amir Locke’s mother, “The system failed my son and the system got my son executed. So ban them across America, completely.”

A group of people talk to reporters.
Andre Locke, father of Amir Locke, and attorney Ben Crump speak during a press conference, calling for a ban on no-knock warrants.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

They and other families who had relatives killed in police encounters said a no-exceptions law would head off tragedies like the one in which a Minneapolis police officer fatally shot Locke as he was rousted awake in a Minneapolis apartment. Locke had his hand on a legally possessed gun but body camera footage shows his finger wasn’t on the trigger.

An outright ban on such warrants faces an uphill climb at the Legislature despite DFL Gov. Tim Walz saying he’d sign such a bill if it reaches his desk. House DFLers said they’ll advance a bill that significantly restricts but still allows the no-knock raids in some cases.

The Locke family and advocates for criminal justice changes said they want the measure to move on its own to keep the spotlight on the practice. DFL House Speaker Melissa Hormtan said she anticipates going the standalone route but with a measured bill.

“What is in the bill will be shaped by the testimony that we receive from community and from law enforcement,” Hortman said hours after the rally. “It’s very hard to imagine a situation where there be no exceptions if there’s a hostage situation or your child is behind that door. All those things will be discussed in committee hearings.”

Senate Republican leaders said they will examine changes but also have expressed skepticism about a total ban.

“If changes need to be made to policy, we want to make sure that citizens and law enforcement are safe,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller said Thursday. 

“We're certainly happy to listen and work together with stakeholders to make those changes,” Miller said. “At the same time, there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered. So we're looking forward to learning more about what went wrong with the Amir Locke situation. It was a tragedy, and it was a heartbreaking situation. And we certainly don't want a repeat of that.”

Minnesota passed a law last year that placed additional limits on no-knock warrants and required state reports when they are used. They could only be used during certain hours in most situations. Nighttime warrants were permitted to “prevent the loss, destruction, or removal of the objects of the search or to protect the searchers or the public.”

The warrant served on the apartment where Locke was sleeping on Feb. 2 was released Thursday. Locke was not listed as a target of the raid that was made in conjunction with a St. Paul murder investigation.

One new dynamic in this debate is the support for changes by a top gun-rights group in the state. The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus said no-knock warrants endanger legal gun owners who might reflexively reach for a firearm if startled by an intruder, as Locke’s family say happened with the 22-year-old who was known as a deep sleeper.

Ben Crump, an attorney for the Locke family, said it points to a possible alliance between gun owners and families pressing for criminal justice changes that could be potent.

“Maybe this is an opportunity for a new precedent where we can have the NRA and the gun lobby stand with us and say Black people, too, have a right to the Second Amendment and Black people, too, have a right to defend their homes when the police violate the Fourth Amendment,” Crump said. “We’ll see if that happens.”

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