Activists decry lack of charges, press for accountability in police killing of Amir Locke

Photo by Cole Miska Toshira Garraway Allen at the press conference

An emergency press conference was held Wednesday afternoon by a broad coalition of Twin Cities activist groups in response to Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman’s announcement that there would be no criminal charges filed against Minneapolis Police (MPD) Officer Mark Hanneman in the shooting death of Amir Locke.

Hanneman fatally shot 22-year-old Locke on Feb. 2. during an early morning no-knock raid at the residence of Locke’s cousin Mekhi Camden Speed, where Locke was sleeping.

When the police entered the apartment, Locke, shaken from his sleep, reached for his legally owned gun and was shot by Hanneman within nine seconds. Locke held a Minnesota permit to carry a gun. He was not the subject of the warrant and did not have a criminal record.

Speakers at the press conference expressed sadness over the death of Locke as well as disappointment and anger at local government, the system, and the police. According to the press release, the activists gathered to “demand justice for Amir and his family, demand that the police who killed Amir Locke be fired and charges be brought, and that Attorney Keith Ellison take over the case immediately.”

Founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence and NAACP Minneapolis organizer Toshira Garraway Allen opened the conference and introduced the speakers, which included Minnesota State Representative John Thompson; Communities United Against Police Brutality President Michelle Gross; Minnesota Justice Coalition President Johnathon McClellan; and Soren Stevenson, who lost his eye to a projectile fired by MPD in the aftermath of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd.

“What we know from past history is that those officers will face not one [bit] of discipline because all of the officers who cost us money in this city never face any discipline unless they are prosecuted,” Gross said. “This is a sad situation; it’s a sickening situation. We’re outraged by it, and we’re sick of it.”

The press conference was originally slated to take place inside the Hennepin County Government Center, but the county announced in a tweet Wednesday afternoon that the Government Center would be closing early. A reason for the closure was not given.

“They just put us out of Hennepin County [Government Center],” Garraway Allen said. “They locked all the doors and wouldn’t let us hold our press conference. We have to stand out in the cold and the rain as hurting, impacted families.

“But Mike Freeman could go in there and say whatever he wants to say. This is not right the way they treat us out here in the community that they are supposed to be standing up for. We pay the taxes for this building,” Garraway Allen said.

“We shouldn’t have to beg for justice, or plead for it, or die for it,” McClellan said. “Every person in the criminal justice system from judges to lawyers should be appalled at the state of affairs we find ourselves in and the length of time we have been fighting this battle. This should have been taken care of long ago, but it falls on us to fix our future.”

McClellan and Gross are currently working to get several bills through the State Legislature. Both expressed frustration with how the State Senate was able to agree to fully fund police departments but has yet to pass a police reform bill.

“When it comes to us passing common-sense reform that removes the pillars that law enforcement hides behind when they break the law, they won’t touch it,” McClellan said.

Locke’s family did not attend the conference. Locke’s mother Karen Wells spoke at a press conference Wednesday afternoon with civil rights lawyer Ben Crump.

“Be prepared for this family,” Wells said regarding Officer Hanneman. “Because every time you take a step, we’re gonna be right behind you. This is not over. You may have been found not guilty, but in the eyes of me, being the mother who I am, you are guilty. And I’m not gonna give up.”

“I am not disappointed, I am disgusted with the city of Minneapolis,” Wells added. “Very disgusted.”

Garraway Allen relayed that Locke’s Father Andre Locke, was absent from the press conference at the Hennepin County Government Center as he was too stricken with grief and needed time to process events before he would be able to speak with the media.

A march and protest were originally going to follow the press conference, but it was rescheduled due to the weather and a low turnout. A march is set to take place Friday, April 8 at 5 pm, starting on the south lawn of the Hennepin County Government Center.