Minneapolis Limits No-Knock Warrants As Prosecutors Decide Cop Can’t Be Charged For Killing Amir Locke During A No-Knock Raid
from the cops-no-longer-able-to-create-the-danger-they-need-to-justify-killing-someone dept
On February 2, 2022, Minneapolis PD officers executed a no-knock raid on an apartment. Officer Mark Hanneman then summarily executed Amir Locke within seconds of his entry into the apartment.
The Minneapolis PD suggested Amir Locke had plenty of time to realize police officers were in the apartment. The body cam time stamps showed something completely different: officers making entry at 06:48:02 and Hanneman opening fire at 06:48:11.
It didn’t have to go this way. The Minneapolis PD was carrying out a warrant obtained by the St. Paul Police Department. The warrant obtained by the St. Paul PD was a regular warrant: one in which officers would have knocked and announced their presence. The Minneapolis PD decided it didn’t want to handle it that way and sought permission to perform a no-knock entry. When Locke reached for the weapon he legally owned, he was killed. Given the time stamps on the body cam recording, it would have been impossible for Locke to rouse himself from his sleep and be fully cognizant of the situation. The officers created the danger that allowed Officer Hanneman to kill Amir Locke.
But that’s the way the MPD does business. The Star Tribune reported that the MPD preferred to use no-knock warrants, even though those are supposed to be limited to extreme cases necessitating unannounced entry. According to the Star Tribune, since the beginning of 2022, the MPD had obtained 13 no-knock warrants and only 12 regular search warrants.
The MPD — which cannot seem to stop killing or steer clear of controversy — won’t have this option in the future. Or, at least, it won’t be able to maintain its absurdly high no-knock/regular warrant ratio.
The new policy prohibits Minneapolis police officers from applying for no-knock search warrants, which would allow them to enter a location without first knocking or announcing their presence. It also prohibits them from asking other agencies to “execute” a no-knock search warrant on their behalf, or executing them for other agencies.
There are, of course, exceptions to the new rule.
Officers can still apply for “knock and announce” search warrants — which would generally require them to wait 20 seconds before entering a location during daylight hours and 30 seconds before entering during nighttime hours (between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.). Those requirements, however, can be waived if there are “exigent circumstances.” The city says officers may enter immediately “to prevent imminent harm or to provide emergency aid,” to prevent “imminent destruction or removal of evidence” (except narcotics), to prevent “imminent escape of a suspect” or when in “hot pursuit.”
So, not much of a change, really. This appears to be mostly how the MPD handled things before the policy change. The only thing that might limit the use of no-knock warrants in the future is the exemption of narcotics from the list of evidence that must be no-knocked to save from “immediate destruction and removal.” And, according to an MPD spokesperson, officers will still be able to make their own discretion to convert regular warrants to no-knock warrants during warrant service if they decide the unfolding situation can be described as exigent.
The more useful portion of the new policy requires the PD to develop and maintain a “public-facing, online dashboard” that tracks forced entries performed by officers, including no-knock warrants. This dashboard will include demographic info, time/date data, and whether or not officers deployed force against the residence or the residents.
Unfortunately, the Minneapolis PD won’t learn much from the Amir Locke tragedy. Officers seeking no-knock warrants may be slightly inconvenienced by the new rules governing no-knock warrants, but the policy, as written, doesn’t seem capable of deterring abuse of these warrants. And the officer who decided Amir Locke was a threat worth killing less than ten seconds after crossing the apartment threshold won’t be facing anything more than public damnation.
In a joint statement from the offices of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, the prosecutors noted that Locke “should be alive today, and his death is a tragedy,” but that “the state would be unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements of MInnesota’s use-of-deadly force statute.”
Unfortunately, this is how the law works. The MPD raid team told itself (and a judge) the situation would be dangerous — dangerous enough to justify an unannounced entry. The moment officers saw a person with a gun in their hand, the killing was lawful. In essence, the PD had its cake and ate it, too. It created the danger and then exploited it. When cops create their own danger, the public loses 100% of time, as Scott Greenfield points out:
Officer Hanneman was not unreasonable in believing that the sleeping guy in an apartment being raided under a judicially authorized no-knock warrant presented an imminent risk of death, and so he shot first and killed him. This is what the law permits, making a choice favoring police over the non-cop when the decision is made whether to pull the trigger. This situation is untenable. The outcome is bad. What it was not is criminal.
If the new rules for no-knock warrants even slightly reduce the MPD’s use of them, it will save lives. And that’s worth it, even if it’s clear the new no-knock rules are mostly window dressing that look like reform but hardly change anything.