A coalition of mostly Black mothers gathered Monday at City Hall in Minneapolis, where they called for the firing of the police officer who fatally shot Amir Locke, as well as for the firing or resignation of the interim police chief.
Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by Minneapolis police Wednesday as officers served a no-knock warrant at an apartment shortly before 7 a.m.
Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and activist who confronted Mayor Jacob Frey and interim Minneapolis Police Chief Amelia Huffman at a news conference Thursday, listed the group's demands.
"I'm honored to stand in solidarity with the family of Amir Locke, but the reality is that we should not have to be here," said Armstrong, who was surrounded by women holding signs with Locke's photo and the words "Justice for Amir Locke." "How many more Black lives have to be lost and needlessly taken by those who are supposed to protect and serve?"
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She demanded that Frey immediately fire Mark Hanneman, the Minneapolis police officer who she said fatally shot Locke, as well as called for the immediate firing or resignation of Huffman, who she said has proven herself unfit to lead the department.
"She failed — miserably," Armstrong said. Huffman failed to "speak truthfully and candidly" about what transpired at the apartment and to take accountability, Armstrong said.
"We do not want a chief who continues with business as usual," Armstrong said. "Even after the body camera footage was released, she continued to distort the truth," to pretend that Locke was a suspect and to focus on a gun he had a license to carry, she said. She also questioned Huffman's recent appointments, some of whom, Armstrong said, "had long disciplinary records."
"So we ask that Mayor Jacob Frey step up to the plate immediately," Armstrong said. "No more excuses, no more hiding behind policies that do not fully get implemented."
Frey said in a statement Friday that no-knock warrants would not be allowed while the city reviewed its policy. A spokesperson for Frey and for the police department did not immediately return requests for comment about the group's demands.
Hanneman joined the department in 2015. Huffman was appointed interim police chief in December, replacing Medaria Arradondo, who announced his retirement that same month after a three-decade career in public service. Huffman joined the department in 1994.
The coalition also called on Frey to fire or discipline the other SWAT team members.
A brief and graphic police body camera video released by the department Thursday shows the officers using a key to quietly enter the apartment. They then file in and begin to yell. One of the officers kicks the couch Locke's parents have said he was sleeping on. Armstrong said the kick awakened Locke, who was wrapped in a blanket, "and within two seconds he was dead." Locke had a gun in his hand, but it is unclear whether he was aware that police officers had entered the apartment.
"So it wasn't just one officer working alone," Armstrong said. "They were working in concert, and they need to be held accountable."
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In a news release Wednesday, Minneapolis police described the handgun as having been "pointed in the direction of officers." However, in the footage it's not clear whether that was the case.
Locke had been working for the food delivery service DoorDash and was a week away from moving to Dallas, where his mother, Karen Wells, lives. Nneka Constantino, a cousin of Locke's who spoke at the gathering Monday, said "the Second Amendment is for Black people, too."
"Our family is not naive," Constantino said. "So we understand that it was not necessarily a person but a system of injustice that has killed Amir Locke."
She said her family was hurting and in severe pain and that Locke's parents had raised him to be polite, respectful and responsible.
"And I think what the family is reconciling is knowing that if he was a white child with a firearm, he would not have been shot within a second," she said. "We believe he would have been told to drop your weapon, to drop your firearm."
Constantino said the family knows police are trained and have demonstrated that they are able to disarm people and de-escalate situations, "but that's only deployed with non-Black people."
She said Locke had been unfairly painted as a suspect, which she attributed to an "old, racist playbook of yesteryear" and said was in contrast to the truth.
Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney representing Locke's family, has compared Locke's killing to that of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by police in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 2020 during a botched raid on her apartment.
"If we learned anything from Breonna Taylor, it is that no-knock warrants have deadly consequences for innocent, law-abiding Black citizens," Crump said at a news conference Friday.
The Minneapolis Police Department's SWAT team had been carrying out a warrant for the St. Paul Police Department's homicide unit.
Huffman said Friday that officers had a warrant for three locations in the apartment complex and that Locke was not named in the original search warrant. She said it was unclear whether he was connected to the St. Paul police investigation and that both a no-knock and a knock search warrant were obtained for the three locations.
The entire encounter lasted less than 10 seconds. Locke's parents have said he was executed after he was startled from a deep sleep.
"It was hurtful. It hurt deep to see my son executed, to see our son executed," Locke's father, Andre Locke, said at a news conference Friday. "But the part that struck me the most was that he never got a chance to see or to know who killed him."