The killing of a black man by Minneapolis police serving a search warrant has angered his family and activists and questioned the credibility of a department widely criticized for its initial portrayal of George Floyd’s death.
Amir Locke, 22, was shot dead just before 7 a.m. Wednesday after officers sneaked into a downtown apartment with a key, then loudly announced their presence, kicked a sofa where Locke was under a quilt, then shot him dead when he showed a gun – all within seconds.
Activists were angered by a police department statement that evening that called Locke a “suspect” – even though police later said a search warrant did not name Locke as such. They questioned the same statement for saying the gun was “pointed in the direction of the officers” when police body camera video was unclear. They denounced the police for posting photos of a gun and bullets, calling it an assassination of Locke, who they said had a license for the weapon.
And they highlighted an officer kicking the couch just seconds after entering, which they say likely awoke a sleeping Locke to a confusing assault by gunmen. His parents, Andre Locke and Karen Wells, called it an “execution.”
The department received similar criticism for its initial depiction of Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, when its first statement said Floyd died after a “medical incident during a police interaction.” A bystander’s video quickly told another story – Floyd died face down, handcuffed with a police officer’s knee to his neck – and a spokesperson then said the first report was based on a briefing from supervisors who were not on the scene.
After body camera video showing Locke’s shooting emerged on Thursday night, activists angrily confronted Mayor Jacob Frey and Acting Police Chief Amelia Huffman at a press conference.
“It’s what I would call the anatomy of a cover-up,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a prominent civil rights lawyer who Frey appointed to a community safety task force last year. “This is unacceptable.”
On Friday, Locke’s aunt, Linda Tyler, attacked parts of the initial police statement.
“He didn’t point the gun,” she told reporters at a City Hall news conference. “So change the narrative. You must understand the story well. You won’t smear my nephew’s name.
Locke’s uncle, Andrew Tyler, said the officers clearly woke Locke up by kicking the couch.
“You can’t kick under me and expect me to do the right thing,” Tyler said. “What are you looking for? You’re looking to incite someone, you’re looking for a reaction. Not only are you looking for a reaction, you’re looking for time to kill. He did that.
Tyler also dismissed police warnings, saying they were already inside the apartment when they shouted.
“It’s a lie,” he said. “It’s a lie from the start.”
On Friday night, Frey announced an immediate moratorium on no-knock warrants, along with a plan to consult with national experts to review department policy.
Distrust within the black community of the police department goes back far beyond Floyd’s death. The unrest following the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 fueled the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was behind the protests following the police killing of Jamar Clark in 2015, including an 18-day siege to the police. station on the heavily black north side of Minneapolis.
Other killings of black men by police followed in Minnesota, including the deaths of Philando Castile in 2016 and Daunte Wright last year.