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Words of reassurance, fury at Amir Locke funeral in Minneapolis

The midday funeral service was preceded with a viewing of Locke's open ivory casket that was draped with dozens of red roses on top. Gov. Tim Walz was among the many who walked to the casket's edge and viewed Locke's body.

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From left, Amir Locke's father Andre Locke, mother Karen Wells, the Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump at Amir Locke's funeral services in Minneapolis on Thursday.
Screenshot via live feed via MPR News
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Family, friends and community members gathered Thursday in a north Minneapolis church where a funeral service celebrating the life of Amir Locke, fatally shot by police two weeks ago, began with songs of blessed reassurance before shifting to words of fury aimed at police.

"Amir was not guilty of being anything but being young and Black in America," the Rev. Al Sharpton declared in his eulogy as the 22-year-old Locke was being remembered during the 2 1⁄4 -hour service at Shiloh Temple International Ministries on West Broadway.

Sharpton reached back five centuries to slavery's beginning in America and the nameless mass of Black humanity that was shipped to the continent.

"We are the survivors of the worst condemnation in history," Sharpton said, "and that's why this is just a tragedy that we are here."

Sharpton said Locke "didn't have one scar to his name" and described him as a "clean, stand-up young man."

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Locke's mother followed and was direct in her sentiments toward the Police Department that carried out the raid that left her son dead.

Karen Wells recalled how it took her 10 hours of labor to bring her son into the world before pointing out that "those thugs that represent the Minneapolis Police Department executed my baby boy in 9 seconds. The law ... y'all are going to pay (for) the disrespect that you did to my son."

Wells then directed more comments to the city's police and Mayor Jacob Frey, although they were not on hand to hear what she said: "When you go to bed, I want you to see his face" as well as at other times during each day.

Locke's father, Andre Locke Sr., noted how his son was shot while covered and on a couch, then said, "when they pulled back that sheet, they knew they messed up."

The midday funeral service was preceded with a viewing of Locke's open ivory casket that was draped with dozens of red roses on top. Gov. Tim Walz was among the many who walked to the casket's edge and viewed Locke's body.

At the outset of the service, mourners were invited to stand as an organ led a gospel ensemble in "Soon and Very Soon" and "I'll Fly Away." Moments later, the choir led the assembled in "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

Relatives of Locke followed and recited scripture passages. "Rest in spirit, Amir. I love you, baby," the second of two readers said.

The sanctuary soon echoed with an a cappella rendition of "Hold on Just a Little While Longer" by four female members of the Sounds of Blackness.

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Soon after Locke's family arrived about an hour before the service, Sharpton led Locke's loved ones and others in prayer. He also cautioned them to act with dignity throughout the service, saying, "This is not a rally, this is a funeral."

However, once the introductory music concluded, one of Amir Locke's aunts was the first to set aside that message, and chastised police and political leaders for what she called the execution of her loved one.

"Stop the rhetoric that police officers need more training," Linda Tyler said, drawing increasingly boisterous cheers and applause from the now-standing attendees. "We just ask that you resign today, as you resigned another sister or brother to the grave. You cannot train away racism ... If you think being a police officer is a difficult profession, try being a Black man."

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Protesters march through downtown Minneapolis, stopping to listen to speakers outside of a Minneapolis police precinct on Feb. 5, in response to the police killing of Amir Locke on Feb. 2.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

A program for attendees listed the active and honorary pallbearers, and it included a message from Locke's parents: "Everyone has been so beautiful that no words can quite express that special concern you showed us that brought us comfort and rest. And though we just say 'Thank you' that is the very smallest part. We appreciate your visits, cards, calls and flowers from the bottom of our hearts."

The church parking lot was full well before the funeral's start. At least two community-based street patrol organizations were visible around the temple building. The bishop said he was expecting roughly 1,500 attendees.

Among those on hand were two relatives of George Floyd, who died while in police custody while under the knee of officer Derek Chauvin in May, 2020. Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd, and nephew Brandon Williams met with Sharpton before services began and prayed with the family.

Ben Crump, the attorney who has represented numerous Black families that have lost loved ones to police actions, gave what he termed a "call to justice" during the service.

Crump listed off the many Black people around the country over the past several years who were killed during encounters with police — Philando Castile, George Floyd and Daunte Wright in the Twin Cities included. When Crump said that each died "while," those before him replied "Black."

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He saved for last the death of the man who was being mourned at the north Minnepolis church: Locke. "He was just sleeping while," and "Black" came the full-throated reply.

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Amir Locke
Courtesy of the Locke family via Jeff Storms

Crump made short work of his comments to make way for Sharpton, who's become the nation's eulogizer for many Black people who have died at the hands of law enforcement.

Missing from the gathering was Frey, who said Wednesday without explanation that he would not be attending. Shiloh Temple Bishop Richard Howell Jr. said the Locke family did not extend an invitation.

Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman also will not be at the service. Howell said Huffman and the Police Department as a whole were not welcome to attend, given the circumstances of Locke's death.

Locke was shot by police officer Mark Hanneman while a Minneapolis SWAT team executed a "no-knock" search warrant in connection with a St. Paul homicide case.

Hanneman shot Locke in the early-morning raid as Locke emerged from under a blanket on a couch while holding a gun. Police were not searching for Locke, and he was not named in the warrants.

The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating Locke's death, and will turn over its findings to the state Attorney General's Office, which will decide whether the shooting was legally justified or whether Hanneman should be charged with a crime.

The predawn raid stemmed from the fatal shooting of 38-year-old Otis Elder during an apparent drug transaction Jan. 10 outside a music recording studio in St. Paul. The latest court filings accuse Locke's 17-year-old cousin, Mekhi Speed, and others with him of "attempting to rob (Elder) of money and/or drugs."

Speed, of Minneapolis, was charged last week with second-degree murder in connection with Elder's killing. He remains in custody before a court hearing March 16 to address the request from the Ramsey County Attorney's Office to move his case to adult court.

©2022 StarTribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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