Minneapolis police under fire for no-knock warrants after Amir Locke’s death

Minneapolis is again at the center of controversy after a young Black man, 22-year-old Amir Locke, was killed Wednesday by police as they executed what's called a "no-knock warrant." This killing is raising further questions about the tactic, and police policy more broadly. Associated Press reporter Amy Forliti joins William Brangham to discuss. Warning: Viewers may find some images disturbing.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The city of Minneapolis is once again at the center of controversy after a young Black man was killed Wednesday by the police as they executed what is called a no-knock warrant.

    This killing is raising further questions about that particular tactic and police policy more broadly.

    William Brangham has our report.

  • And a warning:

    There is some very disturbing video in this report.

  • William Brangham:

    It was early Wednesday morning when the Minneapolis Police Department's SWAT team executed a no-knock warrant as part of a homicide investigation.

    Police entered the apartment, announced their presence, and approached 22-year-old Amir Locke, who was sleeping under a blanket on a couch. Locke didn't live in the apartment. He was just visiting. And he wasn't even named on the warrant. But he had what his family says was his legal permitted handgun with him. And when police saw it in his hands, they shot and killed him.

    The whole event took just a few seconds. Police bodycam footage was not released until late last night.

    This is what it showed. And, again, some people may want to turn away for about 10 seconds.


  • Police Officer:

    Get on the ground! Get on the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) ground!


  • William Brangham:

    At a press conference last night, Minneapolis' interim police chief, Amelia Huffman, described how she interpreted the video.

  • Amelia Huffman, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Interim Police Chief:

    As they proceeded toward the back of the apartment, as you saw in the video, there was a couch.

    And you can see that there's a form under a blanket or comforter that begins to rise up. The officers were approaching. They were giving commands to show your hands, show your hands. And, as they got close, you can see, along with an individual emerging from under the blanket, the barrel of a gun.

  • William Brangham:

    Separately, Locke's distraught parents described their son today as a law-abiding citizen, a legal gun owner, and someone who had deep respect for law enforcement.

    Amir's mother, Karen Wells, spoke earlier today about her heartbreak and what she wants to see happen.

    Karen Wells, Mother of Amir Locke: I should not have to be here. I should be able to FaceTime with my son, like I did on — last Friday. I should be able to tell my son that I love you and he says, I love you, too.

    At the end of the day, I believe that he was executed by the MPD, and I want the police officer that murdered my son to be prosecuted and fired.

  • William Brangham:

    For more on this case, I'm joined by Amy Forliti. She is a reporter for the Associated Press based in Minneapolis, and she has been following all of this closely.

    Amy, thank you very much for being here.

    Could you just tell us what else we ought to know, what we do and do not know about this tragedy?

  • Amy Forliti, Associated Press:

    There are many unanswered questions still at this hour.

    A development that just happened recently is, we learned that the search warrants in this case that were being executed were — are now filed under seal in court. So that's not something we will have immediate access to. Where.

  • William Brangham:

    As we heard there, Amir Locke's mother saying she wants the police officer who shot her son to be arrested and prosecuted.

    I know there's an ongoing investigation. The state attorney general is involved. What else is that looking into specifically?

  • Amy Forliti:

    Well, that investigation will look into whether the officer was reasonable in his use of force, whether he perceived a threat, and, as the police chief, the interim police chief said yesterday, that the officer made a split-second decision when he saw that gun, and perceived there was a threat, and made the decision to shoot.

    And so that's something that the prosecutors will be looking at very carefully as they're trying to assess whether this officer should be charged. In Minnesota, officers are allowed to use deadly force if they have a reasonable reason to fear that their lives or the lives of others are in danger.

  • William Brangham:

    It seems that these no-knock warrants, where the police don't have to identify themselves until they are inside a building, seems to run headlong into the Second Amendment, which grants the right of people to have guns to defend themselves.

    I mean, if the police suddenly appear in your home, and you don't realize you're in the middle of a sleep, as it seemed to be in this case, I mean, there seems to be a real conflict there.

  • Amy Forliti:

    In fact, one gun rights group, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, released a statement saying that Amir Locke would have done what any gun owner would do in that situation.

    They said he legally had a gun. He was allowed to have it. He was awoken from what appeared to be a deep sleep. Someone kicked the place — the sofa that he was on. There was confusion, shouting all around him.

    He grabbed a legal means of defense and assessed the situation. And they say that that — he had every right to do that and it's something any gun owner would have done in a situation like that.

    Attorneys for Locke's family are saying that, unfortunately, in cases where gun owners are Black, it often ends in tragedy like this.

  • William Brangham:

    We have seen other instances where these no-knock warrants have turned deadly. And I know there was a lot of talk about trying to reform that practice. But it seems like there's certainly more to be done on this front.

  • Amy Forliti:


    And that's another thing that has come up today. The Minneapolis Police Department did update its policy on no-knock warrants after the may 2020 death of George Floyd. And they updated their policy to say when they execute a no-knock warrant, they have to first announce their presence at the threshold and continue to announce their president as they are searching a residence or an apartment.

    And they also have to give people time to respond to the fact that they're there. And statewide in Minnesota, there were also some limitations and restrictions placed on no-knock warrants. But, today, the governor and many other activists and law enforcement are saying that it's time to revisit that.

  • William Brangham:

    This terrible tragedy is happening, of course, as you well know, in Minneapolis, where the second trial of the police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd is going forward. There was the Daunte Wright case that just happened there. And now this tragedy happens.

    I'm curious, from your reporting, how is the community responding? Are people worried about protests or unrest happening?

  • Amy Forliti:

    Well, I think protests and unrest is — they're always a possibility.

    There are some protests planned. And, by all accounts now, those are likely to be peaceful. But activists who have spoken out already are saying that there's just this overwhelming sense of anger right now and a feeling that police are lying to the community yet again.

    And they say that, in this case, because of the narrative that came out initially, when police announced that this that this killing happened, their news release called Amir Locke a suspect at first, and they gave a narrative where they said that he was pointing a gun in the direction of officers.

    And when you look at the body camera video and a still image that was released alongside that, activists are looking at that and saying it doesn't look like he was pointing a gun at anyone.

    Now, the police are countering that by saying that the officer who he was pointing a gun at is not in the frame of the video. But for many people impacted by this, that just doesn't seem to be enough, and they're not buying it.

  • William Brangham:

    All right, Amy Forliti of the Associated Press, thank you so much.

  • Amy Forliti:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just moments ago, the mayor of Minneapolis imposed an immediate moratorium on no-knock warrants.

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