Cop safety cited in no-knock warrant before Locke’s death
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Authorities searching the Minneapolis apartment where Amir Locke was killed by a SWAT team member said a no-hit search warrant was needed to protect the public and officers as they were looking for firearms, drugs and clothing worn by people suspected of a violent murder, according to documents released Thursday.
Requests for search warrants executed at the apartment complex on February 2 were released the same day Locke’s family renewed a call for a ban on no-knock warrants.
Although some names are redacted, Minneapolis police said Locke, 22, who was black, was not named in the warrants. Locke’s 17-year-old cousin, Mekhi Camden Speed, was named and arrested this week and charged with two counts of second-degree murder.
In the search warrant applications, St. Paul Police Officer Daniel Zebro asked that officers be allowed to conduct the search without knocking and outside of the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. because the wanted suspects in the Jan. 10 murder of Otis Elder had a history of violence. Zebro also noted that Elder was killed with a .223 caliber firearm, which he said could pierce body armor.
Amir Locke’s 17-year-old cousin has been arrested in connection with the homicide investigation that led to the fatal shooting. (WCCO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPT., FAMILY HANDOUT, CNN)
“A no-knock warrant allows officers to more safely execute the warrant by allowing officers to enter the apartment without alerting suspects inside,” Zebro wrote. “This will not only increase officer safety, but it will also reduce the risk of injury to suspects and other nearby residents.”
Locke was killed seconds after the SWAT team entered the apartment where his family said he was staying. Body camera video shows an officer using a key to unlock the door and enter, followed by at least four officers in uniforms and protective vests, time stamped at approximately 6:48 a.m. As they enter, they repeatedly shout : “Police, search warrant!” They also shout “Hands!” and “Get down!”
The video shows an officer kicking a sectional couch, and Locke is seen wrapped in a quilt, holding a gun. Three shots are heard and the video ends.
Minneapolis police say Locke was shot after pointing his gun in the direction of officers, but Locke’s family questioned that.
Locke’s death sparked protests and an immediate review of arrest warrants without firing a shot. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced a moratorium on such terms last week while the city brings in outside experts to study its policy. Some lawmakers are pushing for a statewide ban, except in rare circumstances.
Locke’s parents and relatives of others who died in encounters with police showed up at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul on Thursday to pressure lawmakers to ban no-knock warrants anywhere. the state. Locke family attorney Ben Crump recalled how he and others believed things would change after the murder of George Floyd brought new attention to police brutality.
“Even though we thought we were being heard, our proclamations rang hollow when we called for better policing, more restraint, constitutional protections against excessive use of force,” Crump said. He also called on President Joe Biden to ban the use of no-knock warrants by federal agents “in the name of Amir Locke” and said states should follow suit.
Crump, who also represented Floyd’s family and reached a $27 million settlement with the city of Minneapolis over Floyd’s death, led those gathered at the Capitol to shout, “If the knocking ban was in force, let’s be clear, Amir Locke would still be there. They also chanted, “Pass the Amir Locke law now!”
The search warrants were executed as part of an investigation into Elder’s death. Elder, a 38-year-old father, was found shot dead and lying on the street on January 10 in what police believe was an apparent robbery. Drugs and cash were found in Elder’s SUV, according to court documents.
As they investigated the murder, police applied for warrants that would have required them to knock on multiple locations, as well as warrants that would have allowed them to enter unannounced. In the no-knock warrants application, Zebro said it was necessary “to prevent the loss, destruction or removal of the objects of the search or to protect the searchers or the public.”
In support of the no-hit entry, Zebro said Elder’s murder was violent and the suspects, including Speed, were later seen entering the Minneapolis apartment complex. He also said the surveillance video captured Speed trying to conceal an object, which Zebro claimed was the murder weapon.
Warrant applications indicate that Speed and others — some who are named and some who are not — also have histories of violent crimes, including robberies, incidents involving firearms and police officers in leak. He wrote that investigators were also monitoring their “Instagram and Facebook social media accounts, where suspects post videos and photos while holding various firearms.”
Associated Press/Report for America reporter Mohamed Ibrahim in St. Paul, Minnesota, contributed to this report.
Find full AP coverage of Amir Locke’s death at: https://apnews.com/hub/amir-locke
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