An officer from a Minneapolis SWAT team shot a man to death while serving a Wednesday morning warrant in connection with a homicide investigation, and though the man who they shot was armed, he was not the target of the warrant, attorneys and police say.
The shooting by an officer on the SWAT team, which keyed into the apartment and appeared to announce their presence about the time they crossed into the apartment, in a city that came to represent ground zero for the police reform movement, raised questions from the man’s family and others about the city’s warrant policy. Video released by the police begins with the officer keying into the apartment.
In total, 14 seconds of real time video was released by the city. From the limited amount of video the city released, it’s not clear how they approached the apartment or how they reacted after the shooting.
It’s not clear what is contained in the warrant, and Minneapolis officials have said the totality of circumstances leading to their officer shooting Locke are now under investigation by the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. CNN has not obtained a copy of the warrant, which is currently under seal.
Interim Minneapolis police chief Amelia Huffman said at a Thursday news conference “both a knock and no-knock search warrant were obtained” for three locations within the building where the officer shot the man, but she did not elaborate.
The city garnered significant national media attention in November 2020 when it announced, amid a nationwide reckoning over police policies prompted in part by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the shooting of Breonna Taylor during warrant service in Louisville, it was changing its policy.
Some touted as an “accomplishment” that Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey banned no-knock warrants. But the city did not ban no-knock warrants, and like most police department policies, its policy gives wide leeway to field supervisors to make decisions based on conditions they encounter and allows for no-knock warrants in certain situations. Under the new policy, warrants must be approved by the chief.
As of Monday morning, language contained in Frey’s press release announcing the new procedure for having no-knock applications approved was not reflected in the Minneapolis Police Department’s policy and procedure manual.
The Minneapolis policy allows “unannounced entry” on high-risk warrants, which would “authorize officers to enter … without first knocking and announcing their presence or purpose.” A judge is supposed to indicate whether it is permitted.
The Minneapolis Police Department’s SWAT team is generally supposed to be used for “high-risk warrants,” as determined by an internal risk-assessment form.
“SWAT personnel shall be used in all other situations where a ‘preplanned’ entry in to a building or dwelling is necessary to arrest a suspect(s) who is believed to be armed and/or dangerous or when entry to the location may be hazardous or impeded because of warning systems, reinforced doors, or other impediments,” according to the policy.
The city’s warrant policy requires officers, in most cases, to announce “police” and “search warrant” before crossing the threshold of the door into a home, even on no-knock warrants. But a supervisor can decide whether it would “create an imminent threat of physical harm” and allow officers to enter without announcement.
When asked about the “imminent” circumstances in this particular case, a spokesperson for the city of Minneapolis told CNN, “this is part of the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.”
City officials haven’t released a copy of the warrant or a copy of any pre-warrant paperwork they may have completed, so it’s not known what went into planning. The current city policy has been in effect for about 14 months.
A Star Tribune review of available court records found Minneapolis police personnel have filed for, and obtained, at least 13 applications for no-knock or nighttime warrants since the start of the year – more than the 12 standard search warrants sought in the same span. At least another seven no-knock warrants have been carried out at Minneapolis addresses by other law enforcement agencies, notably the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.
A Minneapolis Police Department SWAT team served the warrant based on information from a homicide investigation in the neighboring city of St. Paul.
Minneapolis police department policy requires officers serving a warrant in another city to contact that city’s dispatchers and, “where the potential of deadly force is an issue and could be contemplated,” to defer to that city’s police department for “entry and securing the scene.” It’s not clear if St. Paul has a similar policy.