In a joint statement, Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison recognized that while Locke’s death was a "tragedy" and he was not the subject of the search warrants, "there is insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges in this case."
"Specifically, the State would be unable to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements of Minnesota’s use-of-deadly-force statute that authorizes the use of force by Officer Hanneman," the statement said. "Nor would the State be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a criminal charge against any other officer involved in the decision-making that led to the death of Amir Locke."
Locke was not the subject of the search warrant, which centered around a St. Paul homicide investigation into the Jan. 10 shooting of 38-year-old Otis Elder. Days after the raid that killed Locke, his 17-year-old cousin was arrested and charged in Ramsey County with Elder’s murder. Another teenager, a 16-year-old suspect, was also later charged in connection to the killing of the suspected drug dealer.
The 20-year-old Locke, however, was seen on video "moving around under a blanket and held out a firearm that was pointed in the direction of at least one officer" before Officer Mark Hanneman fired, prosecutors said.
"This constitutes a specifically articulable threat. Officer Hanneman perceived that Mr. Locke’s movements and production of a firearm presented a threat of death or great bodily harm that was reasonably likely to occur and to which the officers had to respond without delay," Freeman and Ellison noted. Locke’s family has said that he was registered as a legal gun owner.
Locke's family is "deeply disappointed" with the decision, attorneys Ben Crump, Jeff Storms and Antonio Romanucci said.
"The tragic death of this young man, who was not named in the search warrant and had no criminal record, should never have happened," Crump, Storms and Romanucci said in a statement.
"Today only deepens the resolve of Amir’s family and its legal team," the attorneys representing the family wrote. "We hope this deepens the resolve of the community at large as well. This is only the latest reminder that we must work even harder to protect and obtain equal justice and accountability for our communities of color. No family should ever suffer like Amir’s again."
"Amir Locke’s life mattered," Freeman and Ellison said, mirroring the rally cry "Black Lives Matter."
"He was a young man with plans to move to Dallas, where he would be closer to his mom and – he hoped – build a career as a hip-hop artist, following in the musical footsteps of his father," they said, describing Locke as a victim. "He should be alive today, and his death is a tragedy."
Freeman and Ellison said they met with the Locke family Wednesday morning and offered condolences, adding: "This tragedy may not have occurred absent the no-knock warrant used in this case."
After Locke’s death prompted protests and rioting in February, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey issued a moratorium on no-knock warrants. In requesting the no-knock stipulation, a detective argued it could protect officers’ safety and noted how the teenage suspects in Elder’s murder had been seen flashing different firearms to include a rifle in social media posts and were linked to a string of carjackings.
Fox News Digital previously confirmed that the no-knock warrant was signed off by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, the same judge who presided over the trial for former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
Prosecutors outlined how, at the request of St. Paul police, a Minneapolis SWAT team executed a no-knock search warrant on an apartment unit in downtown Minneapolis on February 2, 2022.
Police body-worn camera footage showed nine officers entered the apartment unit before 7 a.m., each announcing "police, search warrant" as they entered. Locke is seen looking over the back of a couch at the officers, ducking down and beginning to move under a blanket as officers move into the apartment.
Video shows that officers yelled additional overlapping commands such as "show your hands" and "get on the ground" as they entered the apartment, according to prosecutors. Locke is seen under the blanket holding a firearm that was initially held parallel to the ground before being dropped to about a 45-degree angle, then being raised again in the direction of Officer Hanneman.
Officer Hanneman then fired three shots, killing Locke.
While acknowledging it was not part of their role to determine whether a no-knock warrant was appropriate, Freeman and Ellison doubled down on their criticism of the law enforcement tool.
"No-knock warrants are highly risky and pose significant dangers to both law enforcement and the public, including to individuals who are not involved in any criminal activity," they said. "The fact that it is standard practice for paramedics to stand by at the scene when no-knock warrants are executed speaks to the foreseeably violent nature of this law enforcement tool."
"Local, state, and federal policy makers should seriously weigh the benefits of no-knock warrants, which are dangerous for both law enforcement and the public alike," the prosecutors added. "Other cities, like Saint Paul, and some states, have ended the use of no-knock warrants entirely."