Amir Locke laid to rest

Amir Locke, an aspiring singer and entrepreneur who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on Feb. 2 during a no-knock raid, was remembered as sharp and charismatic at his funeral at Shiloh Temple International Ministries on Thursday.  

Karen Wells, Locke’s mother, remembered him during a speech to mourners. “My son called me big dawg, that was his nickname for me. But you know, what the dawg represents—loyalty, trustworthy and protection—that’s why he called his mama, big dawg,” said Wells.

“It took me 10 hours of labor to push him into this world,” continued Wells. “And on 2/2/22 those thugs that represent the Minneapolis Police Department executed my baby boy, a beautiful baby boy in less than nine seconds. How dare you.”

Locke, who planned to relocate last week to Dallas to be closer to his mother, had no criminal record, no outstanding warrants in the seven counties that make up the Twin Cities, and a permit to carry. 

The funeral, which started close to noon, was attended by close to 1,000 people, many of them family, and accompanied by scripture readings, songs, lamenting anti-Black racism and police brutality, and calls to pass a no-knock law at the Minnesota legislature.

Gov. Tim Walz was in attendance, as well as relatives of George Floyd and Botham Jean, who was killed by an off-duty Dallas police officer in 2018. Mayor Jacob Frey and Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman, both of whom have had their resignations demanded by activists, were not invited. 

Rev. Al Sharpton, who eulogized Locke, says this killing is the latest in a 400-plus-year history of Black people being treated as subhuman. “Every time I write my name, I’m writing the name of my slave master [whose name is Alexander Sharpton] because our names are our title of ownership,” said Rev. Sharpton. “That’s why it didn’t matter that Amir’s name wasn’t on the warrant, but we don’t have a right to a name in the eyes of some in this country. We are nameless suspects.”

Family and friends at the funeral say Locke didn’t stand a chance. Reginald McClure, a cousin of Locke’s who is a police officer in Texas and has experience in the military and federal law enforcement, said he had no idea what was going on. 

“I saw him [in the bodycam video] when they hit the lights, and you get startled outta your sleep; you don’t understand what’s happening,” said McClure. “But I know what he was affected by. And he didn’t understand. And he did not know what happened. And that’s why it hurts so bad. Because he left not understanding what happened to him.” 

Harry Kelly, a minister and grandfather of Locke’s cousin’s girlfriend who said Locke was staying over after a night out, agreed. “You know what, [Officer Mark Hanneman] just didn’t give the boy a chance. All you have to do is give him a chance. Should actually stand down [and say] drop that gun. You know, make sure he was woke. You know, he wasn’t woke. He never was given a chance,” said Kelly.

Locke’s uncle Andrew Tyler later recounted Locke’s father saying the size of the bullet holes on his body appeared to be as big as a Gatorade bottle cap, as he held up an approximately two-inch-wide disk for all to see. 

Family members are now calling for the passing of a bill to ban no-knock warrants in Minnesota. Said Locke’s aunt Linda Tyler, “You cannot continue to sanction laws like these no-knock warrants. Cannot. No-knock warrants have taken more lives than they have saved. And usually, those lives are people of color. It is by far the most intrusive form of government against us citizens, against us.”

Shortly after the funeral, the Minnesota House Committee on Public Safety and Criminal Justice reform passed a bill that would only allow no-knock warrants to be executed when an active hostage situation—not based on a police officer’s hunch—is in place. The bill now heads to the Minnesota House Judiciary committee. 

Family members also called for the resignation of Hanneman, the officer who killed Locke. Hours before the funeral, KSTP reported Hanneman conducted an illegal search during a different raid in November 2020 in South Minneapolis. According to KSTP, a SWAT officer held a gun to a person sitting on a couch and Hanneman proceeded to search him, even though he admitted the person did not pose a threat. 

This would be Hanneman’s second known illegal search; his first search involved stopping a person in Hutchinson who was driving a friend home. Hanneman, the other officers involved, and the City of Hutchinson lost a suit against the victim. 

“So you, [Hanneman], don’t need further training. You need to be fired. Because it is clear to all of us that you do not value Black lives,” said Linda Tyler. “You ambushed my nephew, you took his life, and, well, he didn’t matter to you.”

She added, “We don’t want to continue to hear about [how] being a police officer is a difficult job. ‘You have to make split decisions. You fear for your life.’ You’re not drafted into the police department, you chose that profession! And if you think being a police officer is a difficult profession, try to be a Black man.”

Updated 2/18/2022 to clarify the attribution of a quote by Linda Tyler.