Amir Locke, the innocent Black man slain by Minneapolis Minnesota Police executing a “no-knock” raid was laid to rest before 1,000 mourners. Family, friends, and a wider public tried to make sense of his senseless death at the Feb. 17 celebration of life service for the 22-year-old aspiring musician and entrepreneur.
Tributes in song were performed by Grammy Award-winning group Sounds of Blackness, including their song “Black Lives Matter.” Strong challenges to a shattered system where Black life hasn’t mattered, calls to action, and demands for justice filled the sanctuary of Shiloh Temple International Ministries in North Minneapolis.
“Amir Rahkare Locke was born on 11/11/99 … and it took me 10 hours of labor to push him into this world,” said Karen Wells, Amir’s mother. “And on 2/2/22, those thugs that represent the Minneapolis Police Department executed my baby boy, my beautiful baby boy, in less than nine seconds. How dare you! You’re not above a higher power,” she said.
Addressing the Minneapolis mayor, chief of police, and the S.W.A.T. officers involved, she assured they will never forget her son. “When you go to bed at night … when you wake up in the morning … when you take a shower … I want you to see his face,” said Ms. Wells, in the strength of a warrior. “Because what y’all done to him, it has already been done to you,” she said. Quoting Malcolm X, she added: “Understand MPD and the Twin-Cities … the chickens are coming home to roost.”
Ms. Wells echoed the call to ban the no-knock warrants used to enter the apartment her son was staying in. Mr. Locke’s name doesn’t exist anywhere on the warrant or in documents police submitted to obtain it. The no-knock warrant was signed by Judge Peter Cahill, the judge who presided over the trial of ex-cop Derek Chauvin, convicted of murdering George Floyd.
According to the warrant documents made publicly available, the Bolero Flats Apartment was rented by Tatyana Henderson, a girlfriend of Amir Locke’s cousin and older brother of Mekhi Speed, 17, a target of the warrant.
Mr. Speed was later arrested in the homicide investigation related to the warrant. The documents said police targeted the seventh-floor apartment and another apartment in the building based on information provided by Bolero Flats personnel.
Amir Locke has no criminal record and was a registered gun owner. He brought the weapon out of concern about car-jackings as a driver for Door Dash, according to family.
Before a large-sized photo of Amir Locke and an ivory-colored casket embellished with a bouquet of red roses, people celebrated the best that Amir represented in life and lamented yet another name added to the long list of Black people felled by police bullets.
Amir was only guilty of being Black in America, said Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network in his eulogy. In his comments, Rev. Sharpton described the historical context of Black marginalization and devaluation going back to slavery.
“Our names are our title of ownership. That’s why it didn’t matter that Amir’s name wasn’t on the warrant. Because we don’t have a right to a name in the eyes of some in this country. We are nameless suspects,” said Rev. Sharpton.
He explained how during slavery Blacks were stripped of their names and declared those days are over, “our names matter” and “Black Lives Matter.” He later tweeted “AMIR IS NOT THEIR NAMELESS SUSPECT!”
The shooting is under review by the office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, the Hennepin County attorney’s office, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). An autopsy report published on February 4 by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner classified Amir Locke’s death a homicide due to gunshot wounds. He was shot twice in the chest and once in the wrist.
Along with the family, there are growing calls for the termination of Mark Hanneman, the shooting officer who was placed on paid administrative leave. Personnel records released by the police department showed Mr. Hanneman had three undefined complaints against him—all closed without disciplinary action.
At the funeral, relatives of George Floyd, murdered by Minneapolis police in 2020, and Botham Jean, killed by an off-duty Dallas police officer in 2018, were in attendance. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz was present.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott was present less one year after attending services in the same church for 20-year-old Daunte Wright, killed by former officer Kim Potter, who claimed she confused her handgun for her Taser. She was given a two-year sentence Feb. 18.
Visibly absent was Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman who activists have demanded should resign.
Mayor Frey is under fire for deceptive re-election claims that his administration abolished the use of “no-knock” warrants back in 2020. The killing of Amir Locke exposed the lie. The mayor was forced to admit that 2020 policy changes did not eradicate the practice. In the aftermath of Mr. Locke’s killing, and under public pressure Mr. Frey placed a moratorium on no-knock warrants, which change advocates argue is not enough.
At the funeral, family and lawyers called for passing a law against no-knock warrants at the Minnesota legislature and on a federal level.
Ben Crump, an attorney representing the family, chided Mayor Frey for not banning no-knock warrants. “If you would have followed your ban on no-knock warrants like you said, let’s be clear, Amir Locke would still be here,” said Atty. Crump.
On the same day of Amir’s funeral, the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee heard state legislation that would significantly limit the use of no-knock warrants. The proposed bill is not an eradication, but a modification, now only allowing such warrants in limited circumstances, such as kidnapping and human trafficking.
“We all have some blood on our hands,” said Rep. Athena Hollins representing St. Paul and Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, who authored the bill. “I was before this committee last session with a different no-knock warrant ban bill, and we allowed it to be watered down to the point where this could happen again,” she said.
The law would require a higher burden of proof on the judge when issuing a warrant. It requires proof that using a standard warrant would endanger a life. The bill, which was fully signed by Democrats, absent any Republican support was sent to the House Judiciary Committee for another hearing. Once it passes the House, the bill must pass a Republican-controlled Senate before going to the governor’s desk to be inked into law.
Days earlier Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, whose district Amir Locke was killed in, announced federal legislation she is developing against no-knock tactics. “Far too often, no-knock warrants have severe and deadly consequences, resulting in property damage, trauma, and death,” tweeted Rep. Omar on Feb. 15. She told Joy Reid on MSNBC Feb. 16 that she is in solidarity with the Locke family on legislation in the name of Amir Locke that would inhibit the use of no-knock warrants.
“It is unconscionable that no-knock warrants continue to be in effect with little to no restrictions,” she tweeted. Rep. Oman said the community is in pain and reminded that the same police force that took Mr. Locke’s life, is the same one that murdered George Floyd in 2020.
But it may be an uphill battle for Rep. Omar pushing for anti-no-knock legislation in an environment that has balked at police reform and passing the stalled George Floyd Justice and Reform Act.
Straight words were delivered to the Minneapolis police by Linda Kay Tyler, Amir Locke’s aunt.
“We don’t want to continue to hear about being a police officer is a difficult job. ‘You have to make split decisions. You fear for your life.’ You’re not drafted into the police department; you chose that profession!” she remarked.
“And if you think being a police officer is a difficult profession, try to be a Black man,” said Ms. Tyler.