Minneapolis Police officer Mark Hanneman shot and killed Amir Locke while serving a no knock warrant on his home a couple days ago. Body camera footage has since been released (embedded below) showing police open the front door with a key, yell "police search warrant" several times, Locke who'd obviously been sleeping under a blanket on his couch appeared to have been startled by the intrusion, grabbed his gun, and was shot dead. At no point did Locke point his gun at officers or otherwise attempt to use it against them. Locke seemed like somebody that responded defensively to being suddenly woken up in the worst possible way before he could possibly figure out what was really going on. Officers yelled commands including "show me your hands" and "get on the ground" but never told him to drop his gun. Still, it will be difficult to hold any of these officers accountable in a court of law.
Hanneman's Likely Defense
We think we already know what defense Hanneman is going to raise if by some slim chance he is criminally charged. He will say that he was asked to assist fellow officers with serving a search warrant, that he encountered an armed man during service of the warrant, the man did not comply with orders to show his hands or get on the ground, and he didn't have time do anything else before being forced to choose between opening fire and giving Locke the opportunity to shoot him. Claims against officers are legally required to be viewed from the point of view of a reasonable officer at the time without the benefit of hindsight. That means that you have to put yourself in Hanneman's shoes at the time he pulled the trigger and anything Hanneman should but didn't know about Locke at the time cannot be considered. Certainly someone should have done their homework and that person is more to blame for this than Hanneman.
Whose Fault is This?
We don't know who the target of the search warrant was, but the media has reported that the warrant itself was linked to a homicide case in a neighboring jurisdiction and Locke was not the target. The warrant itself has not been released to the media and we are not sure whose apartment it was. We don't think it was Locke's apartment mainly because the media keeps referring to the scene of the crime as "a downtown apartment" and never call it "his apartment." The fact that Locke appears to have been spending the night on the couch supports the theory that it was not his apartment because he would have been sleeping in bed if that were the case (unless he had a girlfriend that made him sleep on the couch of course). This will make it harder to blame investigators because although they are expected to figure out who lives in a dwelling and how that dwelling relates to their investigation before asking a judge for a search warrant, they are not expected to know if there is a random dude on the couch. If the investigator can show that the warrant was valid he too is probably off the hook. We honestly don't know if it was a valid warrant or not. Thus far the media does not seem to be alleging that officers had the wrong house. They're just saying that the victim was not named in the warrant or otherwise expected to be there. One might wonder if police had conducted better surveillance they might have known that there was a random dude in the apartment and wait for him to leave or at least make sure to keep him safe upon entry.
Again, the courts are required to view this from the point of view of a reasonable officer at the time. That goes for Hanneman as well as the investigator(s). That said did Hanneman have other means to subdue Locke? Could he have used a taser or other less than lethal weapon? We don't think a taser is sufficient for dealing with someone armed with a gun. Using a taser in a gun fight is like brining a knife to a gun fight. Everything happened so quickly that Hanneman can probably say honestly that he did what he was trained to do. A SWAT officer is not like a normal officer. They are trained that the situation they're going into is probably more dangerous than most. They are basically assault teams that should not be deployed unless absolutely necessary, but police departments still use them liberally for things like no knock warrants or protests even when there are no known dangers. You can't blame a wolf for eating everything in a hen house because he is just being a wolf, but if someone put that wolf in there you can certainly blame them. Perhaps the true culprit here is police policy.
We believe that the no knock warrant contributed more to Locke's death than officer Hanneman personally. We say that because had Hanneman knocked on the door it would have woken Locke and Locke would have likely done everything he could not to appear threatening. You can't blame someone who is suddenly woken from a deep slumber for reaching for a gun or not being able to promptly follow police commands. At the same time it is difficult to blame an individual officer that was in a situation that would make any reasonable person fear for their safety. The question for us then turns to the cause of the no knock warrant and the policy of allowing them in the first place.
The judge issued two warrants. One was a no knock warrant and the other was a regular warrant, so who decided to use the no knock warrant instead of the regular one? If that person was Hanneman then he has some serious explaining to do and we would say that his incompetent decision to use the no knock warrant was the driving force behind him shooting of an innocent person, so he should be liable for his death. However, the decision was probably made by someone further up the chain of command.
If no knock warrants are to be allowed at all then heightened scrutiny must be required. Officers should not be able to obtain a no knock warrant unless they can demonstrate to the court a credible threat to their safety that would make knocking exceptionally dangerous. They should not be passed out like Halloween candy to any officer that might want the option of not knocking.
City Restrictions of No Knock Warrants
The city of Minneapolis recently implemented a new policy restricting the circumstances under which no knock warrants can be used. The statutory requirements state that in order to obtain a no knock warrant officers must explain:
(1) why peace officers are seeking the use of a no-knock entry and are unable to detain the suspect or search the residence through the use of a knock and announce warrant;
(2) what investigative activities have taken place to support issuance of the no-knock search warrant, or why no investigative activity is needed or able to be performed; and
(3) whether the warrant can be effectively executed during daylight hours according to subdivision 1.
(c) The chief law enforcement officer or designee and another superior officer must review and approve each warrant application. The agency must document the approval of both reviewing parties.
(d) A no-knock search warrant shall not be issued when the only crime alleged is possession of a controlled substance unless there is probable cause to believe that the controlled substance is for other than personal use.
Under that policy, Minneapolis Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman or her designee must personally approve every application for a no knock warrant to make sure the above criteria is met. This means that either someone lied to her (or her designee) to make her (or her designee) think the requirements were met or she (or her designee) recklessly approved the warrant. The former is quite common in law enforcement because cops often lie to make requirements appear met when they know that nobody can prove they knowingly lied or they don't think anyone will call them out for it. If the chief's approval process is nothing more than a rubber stamp then she (or her designee) is more to blame for Locke's death. The rubber stamp theory would explain why the MPD seeks so many no knock warrants. The lower level liar theory would put blame for Locke's death on someone further down the chain. That person could be identified simply by following the paper trail to the first person to write down the false information, but if asked that person would probably claim to have been given the information orally by someone else whose identity they cannot recall. In that case the public will never know whose fault this is.
We would really like to know why Judge Peter Cahill issued the no knock warrant (https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2022/02/05/sources-judge-peter-cahill-signed-no-knock-warrant-that-ended-in-police-shooting-of-amir-locke/). If that name sounds familiar that is probably because Cahill presided over the trial of Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. There are two likely reasons why Cahill issued the warrant. First, he might be just another rubber stamp in which case he is to blame for Locke's death because rubber stamping warrants is reckless. Second, the search warrant application contained false information that tricked Cahill into thinking the requirements were meant in which case a lower level liar is to blame.
The Prime Suspects
Since we don't know exactly which person or persons are primarily to blame for the death of Amir Locke, here are our three prime suspects. Officer Mark Hanneman, Interim Chief Amelia Huffman, and Judge Peter Cahill. If all three of them were to come together in support of transparency and tell the public why they approved the search warrant it would be much easier for us to determine exactly who is most to blame. Until then we will do all we can to make our voices heard and help others make theirs heard by publishing whatever we find as we figure out exactly who these people are.
Who is Mark Hanneman?
According to public records, Mark Thomas Hanneman is a 34 year old resident of Hutchinson, Minnesota. Our background check service provider lists him as owning the home at 16707 206th Circle, but they list 46 Grove Street SW as his current home address even though it appears to be owned by different people. Hanneman registered to vote at the Grove Street address in 2016 as a non-partisan. Our background check service has been known to give us outdated information in the past, but not too out dated, so usually unless someone has moved in the past 6-12 months or less it is accurate. We are including these addresses because we think they could be really useful for peaceful protesters that want to make their voices heard. We've learned over the years that just being there at the home of a government official is enough to know that they can hear you and it is not necessary to do anything beyond that. You don't need to break anything or hurt anybody to get the satisfaction that you've forced them to hear you. We ask as always that nobody use this information for any criminal purpose. Nobody has ever suffered physical injury or property damage as a result of having their address posted on this website and we don't want that to change.
Who is Interim Chief Amelia Huffman?
According to public records, Amelia Faye Huffman is a 49 year old resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her last known home address is listed as 2798 Dean Parkway. You can find her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ameliahuffman where she used the email address blueskympls[at]gmail.com to create her account. The email address ahuffman[at]mn.rr.com is also linked to her. We are sharing this lawfully obtained publicly available information about Huffman for the same reasons we did so with Hanneman. Likewise we ask that nobody use this information for any unlawful purpose.
Who is Judge Peter Cahill?
Peter A. Cahill has done a good job removing his information from online public records. We found an address posted somewhere, but couldn't verify it.
Someone is to blame for the wrongful death of Amir Locke, but we are not sure who that is? Most people blame the trigger man, but we think somebody needlessly put him in that situation in the first place.