from the maybe-just-don’t-partner-with-the-MPD-from-now-on,-St.-Paul-PD dept
The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota is temporarily ending the use of no-knock warrants following the killing of 22-year-old Amir Locke by Minneapolis police officers. The city’s mayor, Jacob Frey, has placed a moratorium on these warrants until the policy can be reviewed by Professor Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University and anti-police violence activist DeRay McKesson.
This comes as too little too late for Locke and his surviving family. The entire raid was caught on body cam and it shows Amir Locke picking up a gun (but not pointing it at officers) after he was awakened by police officers swarming into the residence.
Locke, who was not a target of the investigation, was sleeping in the downtown Minneapolis apartment of a relative when members of a Minneapolis police SWAT team burst in shortly before 7 a.m. Wednesday. Footage from one of the officers’ body cameras showed police quietly unlocking the apartment door with a key before barging inside, yelling “Search warrant!” as Locke lay under a blanket on the couch. An officer kicked the couch, Locke stirred and was shot by officer Mark Hanneman within seconds as Locke held a firearm in his right hand.
Locke was shot once in the wrist and twice in the chest. He died thirteen minutes after the shooting. As you may have noticed from the preceding paragraph, Locke was not a suspected criminal. And for those who may argue simply being within reach of a firearm is justification for shooting, Locke’s handgun was legal and he had a concealed carry permit. His justifiable reaction to people barging into an apartment unannounced is somehow considered less justifiable than the officers’ decision to kill him.
In most cases, that’s just the way it goes, which — assuming the warrant dotted all i’s and crossed all t’s — means the Second Amendment is subservient to other constitutional amendments, like the Fourth. Here’s how Scott Greenfield explains this omnipresent friction in a nation where the right to bear arms is respected… but only up to a point:
The Second Amendment issue is clear. Locke had a legal gun and, upon being awoken in the night, grabbed it. He didn’t point it at anyone or put his finger on the trigger, but it was in his hand. A cop might explain that it would only take a fraction of a second for that to change, if he was inclined to point it at an officer, put his finger on the trigger and shoot. But he didn’t.
This conundrum has been noted and argued before, that if there is a fundamental personal right to keep and bear arms, and that’s what the Supreme Court informs us is our right, then the exercise of that constitutional right cannot automatically give right to police to execute you for it. The Reasonably Scared Cop Rule cannot co-exist with the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
“Cannot co-exist.” This means that, in most cases, the citizen bearing arms generally ceases to exist (along with this right) when confronted by a law enforcement officer who believes they are reasonably afraid.
There’s another point to Greenfield’s post that’s worth reading, but one we won’t discuss further in this post: the NRA’s utter unwillingness to express outrage when the right to bear arms is converted to the right to remain permanently silent by police officers who have deliberately put themselves in a situation that maximizes their fears, no matter how unreasonable those fears might ultimately turn out to be.
But this is a situation that could have been avoided. A knock-and-announce warrant would have informed Locke (who was sleeping at a relative’s house) that law enforcement was outside. As the owner of a legal gun and conceal/carry permit, it’s highly unlikely this announcement would have resulted in Locke opening fire on officers.
It didn’t have to be this way, but the Minneapolis Police Department insisted this couldn’t be handled any other way.
A law enforcement source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case, said that St. Paul police filed standard applications for search warrant affidavits for three separate apartments at the Bolero Flats Apartment Homes, at 1117 S. Marquette Av., earlier this week.
But Minneapolis police demanded that, if their officers were to execute the search within its jurisdiction, St. Paul police first secure “no-knock” warrants instead. MPD would not have agreed to execute the search otherwise, according to the law enforcement source.
If it had been handled the St. Paul way, Locke might still be alive. There’s no evidence here indicating deployment of a knock-and-announce warrant would have made things more dangerous for the officers. If this sort of heightened risk presented itself frequently, the St. Paul PD would respond accordingly when seeking warrants.
St. Paul police very rarely execute no-knock warrants because they are considered high-risk. St. Paul police have not served such a warrant since 2016, said department spokesman Steve Linders.
Contrast that with the Minneapolis PD, which appears to feel a majority of warrant service should be performed without niceties like knocking or announcing their presence.
A Star Tribune review of available court records found that MPD personnel have filed for, and obtained, at least 13 applications for no-knock or nighttime warrants since the start of the year — more than the 12 standard search warrants sought in that same span.
This is likely an undercount, the Star Tribune notes. Many warrants are filed under seal and are still inaccessible. But it does track with the MPD’s deployment stats. According to records, the MPD carries out an average of 139 no-knock warrants a year.
This happens despite Minnesota PD policy specifically stating officers are supposed to identify themselves as police and announce their purpose (i.e., “search warrant”) before entering. That rule applies even if officers have secured a no-knock warrant. If officers wish to bypass this policy that applies to no-knock warrants, they need more than a judge’s permission. They also need direct permission from the Chief of Police or their designee. That’s because no-knock warrants were severely restricted by police reforms passed in 2020. But it appears those reforms have done little to change the way the MPD handles its warrant business.
We’ll see if the mayor’s moratorium is more effective than the tepid reforms enacted following the killing of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin. The undetectable change in tactics following the 2020 reforms doesn’t exactly give one confidence a citywide moratorium will keep MPD officers from showing up unannounced and killing people during the ensuing confusion. It only took nine seconds for officers to end Amir Locke’s life. Given what’s been observed here it will apparently take several years (and several lives) before the Minneapolis PD will be willing to alter its culture and its day-to-day practices.
Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.
Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.
While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.
–The Techdirt Team