For cops, it may have been a run of the mill “no knock” warrant in connection to a homicide investigation, but nine seconds after they entered a Minneapolis, Minnesota, apartment building with a key, 22-year-old Amir Locke, who was not involved nor the target of the search, was shot and killed by one of the officers.
Like countless other young, Black men killed by law enforcement, Amir’s life mattered. And to Karen Wells and Andre Locke, Amir’s parents, the young man was everything. All that a dad, a mom, brother, sister, and friend could ask for.
“Amir stood for love,” Andre Locke told The Final Call in an exclusive interview. “His name means prince in certain countries … king in other countries,” he said.
As a father describing a young life that had purpose, he said Amir was respectful and embodied being both a prince and a king like his name. “He believed in God because his mother, as well as myself … believe in God and keeping God first with everything,” he said.
Amir like his father was into music and aspired to a career in the music industry. The elder Locke is a recording and hip-hop artist known as “Buddy Mclain” in the industry. He was formerly known as “Lil’ Buddy Mclain” and under the advice of Amir he dropped “Lil” from the name. “Amir told me to recreate myself and I dropped the Lil’ and now they just call me Buddy Mclain,” he reflected.
He said his son’s ambitions wasn’t limited to music alone. Amir was passionate about helping and creating something for youth. He wanted to change and drive the Black community to do other things than focus on music. “Amir was focused on business. He admired Jay-Z and the business that he does,” said Andre Locke. Amir also admired popular motivational duo Wallo and Gillie of the Million Dollars Worth of Game podcast, his father added.
Even at 22-years-old Amir was on “top of everything” and “sharp” on things like credit repair and business lines of credit. He invested time developing himself and studying successful people and becoming empowered. “He just believed in his ambition to drive young people that was around him to do things that are right,” said Andre Locke.
The third oldest in his family of siblings, Amir had a strong family unit. He had strong men in his life and although his parents were divorced and both remarried, they co-parented in agreement with how to raise him.
“We co-parented with our presence,” explained Andre Locke. “So, he didn’t come from a broken home … he came up with strength on both sides of his family,” he stated.
It was this bright light that police extinguished in the early morning hours of February 2.
Amir Locke was killed when a heavily armed Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) force entered the seventh-floor apartment in the Bolero Flats, where he was sleeping. Seconds after entering, the police officers shot Amir who was under covers asleep, then startled awake in the chaos of yelling cops and flashlights on him. In the body cam video released by the Minneapolis Police Department, there was no time to respond or ascertain if it was a home invasion or not, so he grabbed his weapon, which he is licensed to own.
The police drew anger from critics over their initial story that criminalized Amir Locke by releasing a police report that included a photo of Mr. Locke’s gun and ammunition yet failing to mention the gun was legally licensed to the young, Black man.
Officials said the warrant was part of a St. Paul, Minnesota, homicide investigation. Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman later confirmed Amir Locke was not named in the warrant.
Now another Black family grieves, and a weary community is seeking justice in a nation reckoning with its unchanging disease of racism and disregard for Black lives.
No-knock warrants have come under heavy scrutiny recently. The tactic resulted in the killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2020. Her death sparked debate on the issue and mass protests. Several cities have banned no-knock warrants and Minneapolis restricted its use in 2020.
“As we know (no-knock) is executed disproportionately against Black people,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump, told The Final Call. “We’re pushing for outright abolishment,” he added.
Mr. Crump is representing the Locke family who is seeking a total abolishment of “no-knock” warrants on the state and federal levels.
Atty. Crump said the Locke’s will be joined by Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, and demands that Mark Hanneman, the officer who pulled the trigger, be terminated and held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Public employment records show Mr. Hanneman has been a cop since 2015. While Amir’s dreams were cut short and his parents suffer the aftershock of losing their son, Mr. Hanneman was placed on administrative leave and retains his near $60,000 yearly pay.
The family attorney said he believes the city of Minneapolis and the police department were negligent. “We’re looking to hold the city accountable for their flagrant irresponsible policy that they said they had banned,” said Atty. Crump. “Had they done so, Amir Locke would be here today,” he added.
Atty. Crump was referring to a false re-election claim by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey that his administration barred no-knock warrants. Amir Locke’s killing exposed the lie. Although Mayor Frey modified policy on no-knock or “unannounced entry” warrants in 2020, they were never banned. He won re-election last November. With renewed crisis and growing calls for his resignation, Mayor Frey announced a moratorium on the deadly warrants Feb. 8.
White America destroys Black lives
“I was devastated to learn of the killing of this 22-year-old beautiful, young, Black man,” said Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad, National Spokesperson of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
“From all appearances he has a beautiful family and had his whole life in front of him,” she said, reflecting on the situation as a mother and grandmother herself. Student Minister Ava Muhammad was also struck by the fact it happened in Minneapolis where she said inherent racism is more subtle than in the Deep South.
For her, these types of events remind her of what Minister Farrakhan warned Black people about when they became fixated on the issue and destruction of confederate flags and history.
“He pointed to the American flag and said if you have a problem, that’s the flag that all of this occurred under,” said Student Minister Ava Muhammad. “They make mischief by means of the law,” she added. “White America takes Black lives, destroys Black lives like some used tissue paper,” she explained.
On no-knock warrants and the ensuing debate around it, Student Minister Ava Muhammad, who is also an attorney, said such deaths are always encircled with legal language. “We’ve been hearing it since 1555,” she said, “but intensified beginning in 2012 with Trayvon Martin,” she added.
“You’re pulled down into the weeds of these irrelevant details and legalities which are used to justify murdering our children,” argued Student Minister Ava Muhammad. She explained by nature a no-knock warrant actually creates a violent confrontation. By virtue of a person’s door being kicked in, it arouses their survival instinct. “To me, the question is at what point are we going to accept the reality that we cannot live with White people in peace?”
It’s an “unachievable goal” and “a fantasy” and “it’s not healthy to fantasize,” she added.
For Black people, these killings are the same script on repeat.
“The question is which Black family is going to take the hit? The only thing real in it is the loss of life … the destruction of a family and the pain of a community,” stated Student Minister Ava Muhammad. “Separation is the best and only solution,” she said.
For longtime Minneapolis activist Spike Moss, he also sees the focus on no-knock warrants as going down a rabbit hole. The issue is the killing is not ceasing. “Be careful of White folks spinning the narrative,” said Mr. Moss. “They’re spinning the narrative as if the problem is the no-knock law,” he said.
Mr. Moss argues the issue is: “You murdered an innocent man that had nothing to do with what you were doing there.”
It’s clear they have not learned from the long history of violating Black life or George Floyd, the Black Minneapolis man suffocated to death by convicted cop Derek Chauvin in 2020. His killing sparked worldwide demonstrations and calls for police reform.
The policy issues around no-knock warrants can be handled in the courts and the county, argues Mr. Moss. “They’re willing to do that; they are not willing to talk about the murder of a child who was innocent. We have to do that,” said Mr. Moss.
There is nothing new about such killings, considering Mr. Floyd, Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, and Philando Castille and the list goes on. In light of the pattern of racial animus and Blacks being killed by law enforcement, the number one issue in Minnesota should not be about no-nock laws, critics argue.
“No, its White people who may or may not be members of Aryan race groups … Klan … Skin Heads … Nazis who are joining law enforcement across this country and can’t wait to harm us,” said Mr. Moss.
Policy, prevention and protests
“The problem is twofold. It’s partly policy and it’s also the continuation of shoot first and formulate a reason later which is what we see time and time again,” said Cheryl Dorsey, retired Los Angeles Police Department sergeant and author.
“For me this is very frustrating because I’m the mother of four Black men, and that could have been my son and I don’t see any end to this,” said Ms. Dorsey.
The 20-year police veteran doesn’t see policy makers as serious about change in policing.
“They placated and strung Black folks along, dangling the George Floyd Justice and Reform Act in our face, knowing full well … they had no real desire, no real appetite to make it legislation,” she said.
Ms. Dorsey isn’t optimistic about serious change occurring in her lifetime. With the pattern of police killing Black people, comes the reaction, the promises and then the broken promises for change, but nothing changes. Ms. Dorsey said Black folks cannot sit and wait and expect other people to change the situation for them. They must engage the political process for legislative change. “I believe all politics are local,” Ms. Dorsey said.
Black folks must have legislators and people in positions of authority like judges and police chiefs, who serve at the pleasure of mayors, governors, district attorneys and sheriffs, who are elected officials. “Until we start looking for folks who have the same type of quality-of-life concerns in these communities, and get them appointed to these positions, we’re going to continue to be victimized,” said Ms. Dorsey.
She pointed to how the GOP and Whites have been relentless in positioning people in power to make decisions, that not only affects them, but adversely affects Blacks. Ms. Dorsey also advocates that more Black people join police forces as an avenue to address issues of police misconduct concerning Blacks.
Ms. Dorsey told The Final Call she’s been met with opposition to the idea of Blacks joining police departments for reasons of not wanting to be part of a system that oppresses. She pointed out other groups like neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan are on record infiltrating law enforcement.
“We have to have that same mindset and until we’re ready to do that hard work, we’re going to continue to be victimized,” said Ms. Dorsey.
The deadly actions of the Minneapolis police against Amir Locke are a part of a sordid history, said Houston-based attorney Pamela Muhammad. “I think that the mindset where Black life is just devalued is what we’re living under,” said Atty. Pamela Muhammad.
She attributed Mr. Locke’s killing to a “reckless police culture” where they break into Black folks’ homes and communities. It’s an “abuse of authority” behind the mechanism of no-knock warrants.
“It makes me want to say, we have to make our communities a safe and decent place to live,” said Atty. Pamela Muhammad. “When we have the opportunity to police, we can avoid as much as possible the intrusion into our community,” she reasoned.
Amir Locke’s death sparked rounds of protests in a city still reeling from the aftermath of the police murder of George Floyd. Despite the brutal cold and snow, days of action and demonstrations grew in mass over the killing. Images flooded social media of an estimated 1,000 students who staged school walkouts demanding justice.
There were posters and photos of the 22-year-old Amir Locke with hashtags in support and placards reading, “We are Skipping Our Lessons Today, to Teach You One!” Others read “Justice for Amir” and “We deserve to Live.”
For the families that have gone through this experience and may go through it, Andre Locke said “enough is enough” of the excuses.
“Amir Locke will be the difference,” he said.