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Amir Locke's family, Minnesota Democrats push restrictions to no-knock warrants

Less than a week after Locke's shooting at the hands of Minneapolis police, lawmakers called for limiting instances when unannounced search warrants would be granted.

Locke family speaking about no-knock warrants
Amir Locke's cousin, Nneka Constantino, left, and aunt Neka Gray speak to reporters and Minnesota lawmakers during a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Democrats and family members of a 22-year-old man fatally shot by Minneapolis police said they'd push to restrict the use of no-knock search warrants statewide.

The effort comes less than a week after Minneapolis officers on Feb. 2 shot and killed 22-year-old Amir Locke during a St. Paul homicide investigation. Locke was not a suspect in the case and had just awoken to officers entering the apartment where he slept when he was shot multiple times.

Under the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-led proposal, law enforcement agencies would be able to obtain a warrant to execute an unannounced search only when they had proof that "a standard warrant would endanger a life."

The state's Peace Officers Standards and Training Board would also be able to suspend licenses of officers that knowingly use no-knock warrants in violation of the stricter standards.

House Democrats and Locke's relatives said the change was critical in preventing dangerous situations for Minnesota residents and ensuring their constitutional rights.

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"We're here as a united front for our family just wanting to make sure that there isn't another Amir, that another family doesn't have to go through what our family is going through right now," Locke's aunt Neka Gray said Tuesday, Feb. 8. "The no-knock warrants significantly need to be changed."

"You shouldn't be gunned down by the police in your home or in a place where you think you're safe, especially if you've broken a law or if you haven't done anything specifically to warrant that moment," she continued.

MORE ON AMIR LOCKE:

Locke's shooting death has fueled calls for police reform in the state's largest city and beyond. And law enforcement officials, along with city leaders, have come under scrutiny for allowing no-knock search warrants to take place after Minneapolis in 2020 rewrote its rules to require officers to announce their entry before crossing a threshold into someone's home.

"We are here to hopefully end no-knock warrants as the Minneapolis Police Department uses them," the bill's author, Rep. Athena Hollins, DFL-Minneapolis, said. "No-knock warrants are a tool in a tool box, but it's a tool that should only be used in the tiniest sliver of cases. ... Law enforcement has many tools, better tools at their disposal to fight crime."

Amir Locke.jpg
Amir Locke
Courtesy of the Locke family via Jeff Storms

Gov. Tim Walz has said he supports additional reforms to the use of no-knock policies. And House DFL leaders said they would move quickly to bring the proposal, and others related to police accountability, in the coming weeks.

Republicans at the Capitol and on the campaign trail have also expressed an interest in narrowing the use of unannounced searches in the wake of Locke's death.

GOP gubernatorial candidates Scott Jensen, Paul Gazelka and Michelle Benson have said the use of no-knock warrants should be reviewed. Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, on Tuesday said the state should collect community feedback on the searches to ensure there are "policies in place to protect the public and law enforcement."

But a key Republican gatekeeper has expressed skepticism about bans to no-knock warrants. Senate Public Safety and Judiciary Committee Chair Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, told reporters on Monday, Feb. 7, that he wouldn't support efforts to ban the unannounced searches altogether.

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"Police activity is very challenging, especially arresting a dangerous criminal," Limmer said. "There are times when you have to use extreme measures to make their arrest, otherwise the public is in danger."

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Several incumbent state legislators, particularly in the Senate, edged out competitors with more extreme views on COVID-19, election security and more.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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