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US police killing reignites national debate on no-knock warrants

A demonstrator holds a photo of Amir Locke at a rally in protest of his killing outside the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Feb. 5, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

A national debate over no-knock police warrants has been reignited by another police killing of a Black man.

Amir Locke was fatally shot last week during a pre-dawn no-knock search on his apartment in Minneapolis.

Proponents of the no-knock search warrant argue the element of surprise is necessary for law enforcement in some instances; however, critics argue the no-knock police tactic poses an inherent threat to both citizens and officers alike.

“I think what we’re seeing right now is innocent people are dying because of the use of no-knock warrants.” said Rob Doar, senior vice president of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, a gun rights advocacy group.

“If we have to pick between no-knock warrants being utilized at all or innocent people being killed simply because there’s evidence that police want to gather, we would much rather err on the side of the citizen, and prohibit the use of no-knock warrants,” he said.

Nila Bala, a senior staff attorney at the Policing Project, said "no-knock warrants are extremely dangerous and should be used sparingly.”  

However, Minneapolis Police Department interim Chief Amelia Huffman, defended the police conduct.

She said the police officer who shot Locke had to make a “split-second decision” when realizing he was armed.  

However, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced a moratorium on no-knock warrants in the city after the incident to “ensure safety of both the public and officers until a new policy is crafted.” 

Locke was not the subject of the warrant used to enter the apartment, and he had no prior police record and was in possession of a legal firearm. 

A police bodycam video shows a police officer opened the apartment door using a key and then a SWAT team entered the apartment while shouting, "Police, search warrant!" They opened fire as soon as Locke, sleeping on a couch, started to rise from beneath a blanket, with a gun in his hand.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis is still reeling from the 2020 police killing of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.

Floyd was killed by a white police officer kneeling on his neck.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was later found guilty of murder, knelt on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes while the Black man was handcuffed and lying face-down in the street.


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