The killing of a Black man by Minneapolis police serving a search warrant left his family and activists angry and questioning the credibility of a department that was widely criticized for its initial portrayal of George Floyd’s death.
Amir Locke, 22, was shot just before 7 am Wednesday after officers quietly entered a downtown apartment with a key, then loudly announced their presence, kicked a sofa where Locke had been under a comforter, then shot him when he showed a gun — all in the span of a few seconds.
Activists were angered at a police department statement that evening that called Locke a “suspect” — even though police later said a search warrant didn’t name Locke as such. They questioned the same statement for saying the gun was “pointed in the direction of officers” when police body camera video was less than clear. They denounced police for releasing photos of a gun and bullets, calling that a character assassination of Locke, who they said had a license for the gun.
And they highlighted an officer kicking the couch just seconds after entry, which they said likely awoke a deep-sleeping Locke to a confusing assault from men with guns. His parents, Andre Locke and Karen Wells, called it an “execution.”
The department took similar criticism for its initial representation of Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, when its first statement said Floyd died after a “medical incident during a police interaction.” Bystander video quickly told another story — Floyd died while facedown in handcuffs with a police officer’s knee on his neck — and a spokesman said then that the first report relied on a briefing from supervisors who weren’t on the scene.
After the body camera video showing the Locke shooting was released Thursday night, activists angrily confronted Mayor Jacob Frey and Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman at a news conference.
“This is what I would call the anatomy of a cover-up,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a prominent civil rights attorney whom Frey appointed last year to a community safety work group. “This is unacceptable.”
On Friday, Locke’s aunt, Linda Tyler, attacked parts of the initial police statement.
“He didn’t point the gun,” she told reporters in a news conference at City Hall. So change the narrative. You guys need to get the story right. You will not smear my nephew’s name.”
Locke’s uncle, Andrew Tyler, said officers clearly started Locke awake when they kicked the couch.
“You can’t kick anything under me and then expect me to act right,” Tyler said. “What are you looking for? You’re looking to incite someone, you’re looking for a reaction. Not only are you looking for a reaction, you’re looking for time to kill. That’s what he did.”
Tyler also dismissed the police warnings, saying they were already effectively inside the apartment when they shouted out.
“It’s a lie,” he said. “It’s a lie from the get-go.”
Late Friday, Frey announced an immediate moratorium on no-knock warrants, as well as a plan to consult with national experts to review the department’s policy.
Mistrust within the Black community of the police department goes back well beyond Floyd’s death. The unrest that followed the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 fueled the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was behind protests that followed the 2015 police killing of Jamar Clark, including an 18-day siege at the police station on the heavily Black north side of Minneapolis.
Other police killings of Black men followed in Minnesota including the deaths of Philando Castile in 2016 and Daunte Wright last year.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.