Amir Locke remembered as a law-abiding, ambitious young man

Photo by Henry Pan Karen Wells, mother of Amir Locke speaks at a press conference addressing her son’s killing.

How Locke handled gun when confronted by officers will be central in ensuring accountability

Amir Locke’s family remembered him in two press conferences organized by their legal counsel as an athletic, law-abiding person raised in a family with law enforcement ties. He had ambitions to sing, own property, and mentor youth, according to the family.

Locke, 22, was killed by Minneapolis police officer Mark Hanneman during a pre-dawn, no-knock raid while executing a search warrant. Minneapolis police said he was pointing a gun. Activists and family say he was a deep sleeper, had a permit to carry, and noted the body camera video showed that he was following his training. 

“I should not have to be here. I should be able to FaceTime with my son like I did on last Friday. I should be able to tell my son that ‘I love you’ and he says, ‘I love you too’. But now I have to do that in spirit,” said Amir’s mother Karen Wells.

Amir was to join Wells next week in Dallas, where he planned to start a career in music and real estate, with dreams of moving back to the Twin Cities if he made it big. 

Saint Paul School Board member Chauntyll Allen, who once had Locke as a student while she taught at Como Park Senior High School, remembered his athleticism. “He was an athlete, he was a good athlete. When he broke his collarbone, it kind of caused issues in the team; they didn’t quite have the strength that they needed. And unfortunately, [they] didn’t defeat the North Pole (North St. Paul High School) that year,” said Allen. 

In light of Wednesday’s killing of Locke, Mayor Jacob Frey issued a moratorium on no-knock warrants. This is different from the supposed banning of no-knock warrants that happened in November 2020 and was touted by the independent expenditure committee All of Minneapolis as an achievement by Mayor Frey.

Additionally, MinnPost reported in September 2021 that Minneapolis police obtained 90 no-knock search warrants since the ban went into place. A Star Tribune reporter also found Minneapolis police filed requests for at least 13 additional no-knock warrants since Locke was killed. 

Mayor Frey also hired Dr. Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, as well as activist and former Minneapolis Public Schools administrator DeRay McKesson, to advise on policy changes because of their experience developing Breonna’s Law. McKesson’s involvement may prove controversial as he is embroiled in a scandal over his involvement with the police reform organization Campaign Zero.

Related Story: ​Minneapolis police release bodycam footage of Amir Locke killing

Activists, including Nekima Levy Armstrong, continued to demand the resignation of Mark Hanneman, the officer involved, as well as interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman over their handling of the incident. They ventured to Mayor Frey’s office door after the two-hour-long, in-person press conference in hopes of having him come out to speak. He reportedly declined to speak with the activists but spoke with Levy Armstrong over the phone about the demands. 

Earlier on Friday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced a collaboration with Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office to review the case for charging. This is a departure from past practice, where the county attorney referred cases out to other county attorneys to avoid conflicts of interest, such as the case of Dolal Idd, Daunte Wright, and Winston Smith.

Wright’s case was subsequently transferred to the MN Attorney General’s Office after activists protested at the home of the Washington County Attorney in Stillwater demanding murder charges. 

Also on Friday, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner released preliminary findings from Locke’s autopsy. His death was ruled a homicide as the cause was multiple gunshot wounds. It remains unclear if those wounds were survivable. 

The MSR is learning more about the officers involved in the killing of Locke. The Minnesota Reformer reports that two officers involved in the raid were also involved in firing 40-millimeter rounds at civilians from a van during the unrest days after George Floyd’s murder, which culminated in the brutalizing of a military veteran and gun permit holder Jaleel Stallings of St. Paul. 

Both the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus and the Socialist Rifle Association released statements decrying Locke’s killing, with the national SRA organization saying in a tweet “Legal ‘gun rights’ are meaningless if racist police have the power to kill people with no repercussions just because ‘He had a gun!’”

Photo by Henry Pan  Marques Armstrong demonstrates gun safety to help the media understand how Amir Locke was handling his gun in the body camera video.

Locke got a gun and permit to carry because he was doing DoorDash and was worried about being victimized, given the string of carjackings in the city as of late. To ensure he handled his gun safely, his family said he was mentored by a cousin, who now works for the Department of Homeland Security. 

Marques Armstrong, who owns a gun and a permit to carry, demonstrated before the media during the press conference what he learned during his training. He pointed out the position of Locke’s hand on the gun meant he did not intend to shoot; rather, it was meant to safely carry his gun without hurting anyone.

“What I saw is that, that young man paid attention closely. I didn’t even know him. But I saw that just in an image, so it took discipline to be startled out of your sleep. Dead sleep. With screaming and yelling, and lights and guns and men standing over, you still didn’t—again, he held his gun, like this … the trigger finger was outside of the trigger guard,” said Armstrong. 

“For me to see where his finger was on the gun alongside the barrel with his thumb up, I said, ‘We’ll get justice, Amir,'” said his father Andre Locke.