United States: Protests erupt after cop kills Black man as he slept

February 14, 2022
Justice for Amir Locke
Black Lives Matter activists are calling for the defunding of police and shifting of resources to help save Back lives.

Protesters again took to the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota — where George Floyd was murdered by cops in 2020 — demanding justice for a young Black man killed by the police.

Twenty-two-year-old Amir Locke was sleeping on a couch in his cousin’s apartment on February 2 when he was shot by SWAT officers during the execution of a “no-knock” warrant. Locke was not named in the warrant, nor was he a suspect in the case being investigated.

Protesters demanded the cop — now on paid leave — be dismissed and prosecuted for Locke’s murder.

After the shooting, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey put a pause on “no-knock” warrants in the city. After Floyd’s murder, promises were made to reform the police.

Black Lives Matter activists are calling for the defunding of police and shifting of resources to help save Back lives. The mayor and other politicians, including President Joe Biden, oppose these demands.

The Hennepin County attorney’s office is reviewing the shooting, along with Minnesota’s attorney-general Keith Ellison. Ellison is African American and spearheaded the prosecution of former cop Derek Chauvin for Floyd’s murder. Chauvin was only arrested and charged after massive protests in 50 states demanding justice.

Locke’s murder took place while Chauvin’s three former colleagues are being tried. They watched and assisted as Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, causing his death.

Legal gun owner

Locke had a registered gun by his side. That gun has become the justification for his murder, which occurred within 10 seconds of the police entering the apartment, just before 7am.

The initial police report said Locke was armed with a handgun pointed in their direction. The police media release announcing the independent investigation into the shooting included photos of the gun allegedly pointed at cops by the “male suspect”.

Body-cam footage, however, shows some inconsistencies with the original police report.

The Hennepin County medical examiner released its official findings on February 4, ruling Locke’s death a homicide. The Minneapolis Police Department also released body-cam footage from the shooting the same day.

The first 10 or so seconds of the raid appear in the released footage, which ends abruptly after shots are fired. The officer who shot Locke appears to be just out of frame, and the moments just before the shooting have been slowed down.

The footage shows police entering the apartment, and announcing their presence once they are inside. A cop kicks the couch where Locke is sleeping, prompting him to wake up, seemingly confused. Wrapped in a white blanket, you can see Locke holding a gun, though it does not appear to be pointed at any officers in the frame, nor does it seem that Locke is even aware he is surrounded by police.

Breonna Taylor was killed during a similar “no-knock” warrant police raid, in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2020.

A statement released on behalf of Locke’s family said Locke’s and Taylor’s killings show “a pattern of no-knock warrants having deadly consequences for Black Americans”.

Parents demand prosecution

Locke’s parents confirmed he owned a legal firearm. Karen Wells, Locke’s mother, told CNN that her son “made sure that he did his research, everything was going to be legal”. Wells said she worried about Locke owning a gun, specifically because of what the police might do if they saw him with it.

In response to the release of the police body-cam footage, Locke’s father Andre said: “He never even got the chance to get the cover off his head. He was startled. He did what any reasonable law-abiding citizen would do. White or Black.”

He added: “We’re not against police officers. We just want accountability.”

Minnesota governor Tim Walz issued a statement supporting a potential review of the “no knock” warrant policy, in order to “ensure the safety of both residents and law enforcement”.

Other politicians are calling for more permanent change. Minnesota State Senator Omar Fateh — a member of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party — told the Daily Beast at a protest that “with this break-in and murder that we witnessed on camera” he hoped that “we can at least ban no-knock warrants” in the state.

Cori Bush — an African American congressperson for St Louis, Missouri — called on the US Senate to act on no-knock warrants, noting that in the two years between Taylor and Locke’s deaths “the Senate didn’t even bring the bill to ban no-knock warrants to a vote”.

“The entire system is guilty,” said Bush.

Biden’s pro-police response

The Biden administration has failed to protect Black victims of police violence. His administration defends the current police system, saying only that there are a few bad cops. He advocates a law-and-order agenda, while supporting modest changes and publicly opposes reducing police budgets as a way to protect Black lives.

Biden recently visited the new Black mayor of New York City, Eric Adams — a retired police captain — following the death of a police officer in a domestic shootout.

Adams opposes liberal bail reform and supports incarceration, including the use of long-term solitary confinement.

Responding to comments by BLM leaders, he once cynically told journalists that far more Black American lives are lost due to eating “bad food” than from “mass incarceration”.

Following his election, Adams announced plans for a plain-clothes anti-gun unit to return to patrol the streets, targeting gangs in communities of colour.

Biden’s vice president, Kamala Harris, a former attorney general in California, also supports Adams and opposes demands to defund the police and other radical reforms to protect the African American community.

The protests sparked by Locke’s murder show that people in their thousands are not waiting for the Democrats — including Black elected officials — to bring about fundamental change so that Black men and women are not killed by the police.

Mass protest is the only power the Black community has to win allies and pressure governments and the institutions of the state to act.

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