Updated 2 p.m.
The Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Amir Locke in February will not face criminal charges, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said Wednesday.
In a joint statement, the prosecutors cited “insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges” against officer Mark Hanneman under a state statute that gives officers wide discretion to use deadly force if there's a threat of death or great bodily harm given what the officer knew at the time.
Speaking to reporters later, Ellison and Freeman said their offices and a consultant all independently arrived at the decision not to charge officers in Locke's killing. They described Locke as a victim and called his death a tragedy.
In their report, Freeman and Ellison said Locke’s reaction to reach for his weapon as police entered was “not per se unreasonable” and emphasized that Locke was not connected at all to the case that led to the no-knock entry.
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
Under the state statute, however, "Mr. Locke’s thoughts or intentions are not the crux of the legal analysis,” they added.
Asked whether the statute governing police use of deadly force in Minnesota needs to be revised, Freeman said it’s complicated because officers must go toward danger, but he added that criminal justice reforms need to continue to be considered.
A brief body camera excerpt released by the city after the shooting showed officers opening the door of the apartment where the 22-year-old Locke was staying. Officers did not knock before entering. With the door open, they can be heard shouting “police” and “search warrant.”
Seconds later, Locke is seen stirring from underneath a blanket and holding a handgun just before Hanneman shoots him.
According to his family, Locke had no criminal record and was a legal gun owner. The family said Locke bought a gun because he feared for his safety while working as a food delivery driver.
They said he was likely startled awake and grabbed his gun out of fear, pointing it at the ground in keeping with owner training.
Locke was not named in the search warrant, which was part of a St. Paul homicide investigation. Police later arrested Locke’s 17-year-old cousin, who’s charged with murder in the case.
Locke’s killing drew attention to the dangers of no-knock warrants and led some lawmakers to propose a statewide ban.
On Tuesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said he’s enacted a new policy mostly prohibiting the use of no-knock warrants.
Under the new rules, police would have to wait 20 seconds before entering during the daytime and 30 seconds for nighttime searches. Searches would be classified by their relative risk. Frey said officer training will begin immediately. The new policy officially takes effect on Friday.
Citing the long, strained relationship between Minneapolis police and people of color (Amir Locke was Black), Ellison told reporters it was clear that changes need to be made in the department.
Attorneys representing Amir Locke’s family said in a statement they were “deeply disappointed” in the decision not to prosecute Hanneman and that they would pursue justice through civil litigation and continue to seek state and federal legislation against the use of no-knock warrants.
Later Wednesday, Locke's mother Karen Wells expressed her dismay with the decision at a news conference with her attorney in New York.
"The spirit of my baby is going to haunt you for the rest of your life,” she said of the police. “I am not disappointed. I am disgusted with the city of Minneapolis."
Watch Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman speak on the decision not to file charges in the killing of Amir Locke: