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Family of Amir Locke files lawsuit against city of Minneapolis: 'He will not die in vain'

Locke was fatally shot by Minneapolis police during a predawn, no-knock raid last year. Now his family has filed a civil lawsuit against the city, alleging that his civil rights were violated.

Standing in a crowd, a person, seen from behind, has a portrait printed on textile pinned to his back, saying: Justice for Amir Locke.
A person wears a portrait of Amir Locke outside the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis in April 2022. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The family of Amir Locke, the 22-year-old fatally shot by Minneapolis police in a predawn, no-knock raid last year, has filed a civil lawsuit against the city, alleging that his civil rights were violated and that the no-knock warrant is consistent with the city's "custom, pattern and practice of racial discrimination in policing."

In an emotional press conference Friday, a day after the anniversary of his death, Locke’s parents vowed to secure justice for their son.

“No mother should get the call that their son was executed by the hands of anyone,” Karen Wells, his mother, said, her voice wavering as she fought back tears. “I am angry, I am mad, I am pissed. And I’m going to get justice for mine. … He will not die in vain.” The 35-page federal complaint, which was filed Thursday by a team of attorneys including civil rights attorney Ben Crump, alleges that Locke was unjustly deprived of his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights under the Constitution: the rights of citizens to be secure in their homes and to have equal protection under the law. It also calls into question systemic issues in the police department stemming from improper policies and procedures in its training.

“Amir Locke didn’t even have a chance,” Crump said, adding that police around the country too often “shoot first and ask questions later” in their interactions with Black people. The lawsuit, he said, challenges the implicit bias he said is systemic in police culture.

As Ben Crump speaks, Karen Wells, Amir Locke's mother, listens.
Attorney Ben Crump at a press conference in New York City on April 6, 2022, joined by Karen Wells, the mother of Amir Locke. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“We keep seeing this brutality all over America — this excessive use of force — whether it’s shooting or [the] brutalization of Black people by police officers who are supposed to protect them,” he said, listing the names of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman who was killed by police after a similar no-knock warrant in Louisville, Ky., in 2020, and George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man who was murdered by Minneapolis police just two months later.

“Amir Locke will go down as a martyr in Minneapolis to advance civil rights and make the promise of civil rights under the law real,” Crump said. “Minneapolis is still ground zero.”

Nearly a year ago to the day, Locke was asleep on the couch in his apartment just before 7 a.m. when a SWAT team burst through the front door and into the living room. Jolted out of his sleep, Locke grabbed his legally registered handgun and was shot three times by Officer Mark Hanneman.

Police say they “loudly” announced their presence, but also admit that only nine seconds elapsed between the time they entered the apartment and when Locke was shot. Footage from one of the officers' body cameras showed police delicately unlocking the apartment’s door with a key before yelling, “Search warrant!” Police had been searching for a homicide suspect who was not in the home at the time. Locke was not involved in the investigation at all.

A bodycam image shows three officers wearing uniforms marked Police pointing a flashlight onto a bed in the dark. The image is time-stamped: 2022-02-02 06:48:09.
In this image from Minneapolis Police Department body camera video, police enter an apartment on Feb. 2, 2022, moments before shooting Amir Locke. (Minneapolis Police Department via AP)

To date, no charges have been filed against Hanneman or any other Minneapolis officers in Locke’s death, as both Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison resolved that there was "insufficient admissible evidence" to do so.

After the shooting, Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis instituted a ban on no-knock search warrants for the city's police department. Locke’s family and attorneys argue that the ban came too late and the city hasn’t gone far enough.

As part of the suit, the family is seeking compensatory damages, in addition to the appointment of a new official, to ensure that the city of Minneapolis properly trains and supervises its police officers.

“This will not be swept under the rug,” Locke’s father, Andre Locke, said. “We are not standing for that. … The truth needs no support. Our son’s rights were violated.”

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Cover thumbnail photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images