No charges filed against police officer in killing of Amir Locke

Photo courtesy of Locke family Amir Locke

The Offices of Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman announced Wednesday morning that officer Mark Hanneman would not be criminally charged in the fatal shooting of Amir Locke.

Locke was shot by Hanneman on the morning of Feb. 2. 2022, during a no-knock raid while sleeping at his cousin’s apartment. Locke, who was a legal holder of a permit to carry, was not wanted under any criminal charges and had no criminal record.

According to Freeman, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, and retired Police Captain Jack Ryan, who was hired as an independent expert, each independently came to the conclusion that charges could not be brought against Hanneman. 

“The role that County Attorney Freeman and I took on was to determine whether the current law permitted us to file criminal charges in Amir’s death and in so doing we had to evaluate all the evidence to Minnesota’s use of force statute, which is rooted on a 33-year-old Supreme Court precedent called Graham v. Connor,” Ellison said. “As we announced this morning, we have determined that under the precedent and the laws that we have, we cannot file criminal charges.”

Ellison noted during a Wednesday morning press conference that current legal precedent only allows the State to look at the case from the view of “a reasonable police officer,” and that the victim’s perspective cannot be considered when deciding whether to press charges.

“With all the available evidence, we would not be able to prove in court that Officer Hanneman’s use of force was not authorized under the law beyond a reasonable doubt,” Ellison said.  “It would be unethical for us to file charges in a case in which we know that we will not be able to prevail because the law does not support the charges.”

Ellison spoke in support of the total ban of no-knock warrants for the future, noting that St. Paul had not used one since 2016. He also advocated for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would establish stricter rules on police conduct and give grants to State attorney generals to investigate police misconduct.

On Tuesday evening, Mayor Jacob Frey announced the implementation of a total ban on the execution of no-knock warrants. Frey has been criticized for a previous policy by his office that was said to ban no-knock warrants, but only restricted them.

“This death is a tragedy and was not necessary,” Freeman said. “But we are honor-bound under our ethical rules only to charge cases in which there is sufficient permissible evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt and we believe it’s there. To charge a case like this would simply be wrong.”

Some community members were not satisfied with the decision to not bring charges. Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) blasted Freeman and Ellison’s decision in a released statement.

“Their specious explanation is they would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hanneman had committed a crime in violation of Minnesota law,” read the CUAPB statement. “However, that same consideration was not given when Freeman went forward with a prosecution of Jaleel Stallings, a victim of excessive force by police. Thus, it appears that these kinds of legal standards are only applied to police deadly force incidents.”

Ellison and Freeman declined to comment on what circumstances charges against officer Hanneman would have been appropriate. 

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