Today’s decision not to charge MPD Officer Hanneman with killing Amir Locke on the basis that an “objectively reasonable officer” could believe that such use of force was necessary is troubling and highlights the need to change a state law too often used to justify failures to charge or convict police who use violence. That the current law could be construed by some as justifying the killing of Locke is strong evidence that the time for change has come.
The ACLU of Minnesota renews our call for Officer Hanneman’s firing. We’re troubled that instead of terminating his employment, MPD reportedly returned him to duty. We believe he acted unreasonably in killing Amir Locke, in violation of MPD policy and state law.
Under MPD Policy, the officer must be able to articulate with specificity why they believed that Locke was going to shoot them. The officer’s actions were not objectively reasonable under the circumstances. None of the other officers held this same belief or acted in the same manner. Only one of the officers shot their gun – that officer should be fired.
The mere fact that Locke owned, possessed, held, or otherwise handled a gun in the presence of officers does not in itself justify his killing. MPD officers might have felt threatened or genuinely feared for their lives when encountering Locke because he had a gun, but that belief or fear was not objectively reasonable under the circumstances. A Black man in America is entitled to the same gun rights and privileges afforded to white people, to every person. It seems to us, however, that Locke was killed because he was a Black man with a gun. If the officer prioritized the “sanctity of life” as set forth in MPD policies, Locke would likely still be alive today. Locke unnecessarily and prematurely lost his life. The officer who killed Locke should lose his job.
While we believe Minneapolis’ new warrant policy is a step in the right direction, we renew our concerns about other potential loopholes that could lead to more killings by police. The new policy still allows police to enter immediately if there are “exigent circumstances,” a category that leaves too much discretion to police. ACLU-MN also requests more details about how MPD will establish containment of an area, direct occupants to a secured location, and what specialized equipment and technology will be in place to do so.
No-knock warrants, and knock-and-announce warrants that still allow immediate entry, have injured and killed too many people, especially people of color. The ACLU-MN renews its call on the state of Minnesota to ban no-knock warrants.
We agree with the Minnesota Attorney General and County Attorney that this tragedy may not have occurred without the no-knock warrant used in this case. Amir Locke was not named in the search warrant, was not a suspect, and didn't even live in the apartment where police killed him.