Minnesota prosecutor says no charges in police raid that killed Amir Locke

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April 6 (Reuters) - A Minneapolis police officer will not face criminal charges for fatally shooting a 22-year-old Black man during a no-knock raid on an apartment in February, state and local prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Even though the dead man, Amir Locke, was a victim, there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Mark Hanneman, the member of the Minneapolis SWAT team who fired the shot, according to a statement from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman.

The state also lacked evidence to prove criminal wrongdoing by any of the officers involved in the planning and execution of the Feb. 2 raid, it said.

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The killing, one in a nationwide string of incidents that has prompted outrage over law enforcement's treatment of racial minorities, highlighted the potential for violent interactions when no-knock warrants are issued.

Ellison, a former U.S. congressman, called on lawmakers at the local and national levels to consider whether to ban no-knock warrants because of the inherent risks.

Under current law and precedent, "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,” he said at a media briefing to discuss the decision.

Locke's shooting revived community calls for a ban on no-knock warrants, prompting Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to place a moratorium on the practice in February. Strict limits on the practice are set to go into effect this week, local media reported.

In the Locke case, a judge approved the warrant on the apartment as part of an investigation into a previous fatal shooting in neighboring St. Paul, saying it was necessary to protect officers searching the property.

Locke, who was sleeping on a couch when police entered, was not a suspect in the crime under investigation or named in the warrant.

In the days after Locke’s killing, police released video footage of the raid. Peaceful protests in downtown Minneapolis have drawn hundreds of demonstrators to demand justice and a ban on no-knock warrants.

The incident followed two other police killings of Black men in the Minneapolis area - George Floyd in 2020 and Daunte Wright in 2021 - that commanded national attention and amplified calls for reforms against police brutality and treatment of minorities.

The Locke case also prompted comparisons with the 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who police fatally shot during a no-knock raid on her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment.

One of the officers involved in the Taylor incident was acquitted by a jury on charges of endangering her neighbors with gunfire. The verdict in March cleared law enforcement of all criminal liability in a case that rocked the United States in 2020.

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Reporting by Brendan O'Brien and Tyler Clifford; Editing by Bill Berkrot and David Gregorio

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