Amir Locke’s Death Should Incense Anyone Who Cares About Gun Rights

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An officer with the Minneapolis Police Department SWAT team shot and killed a 22-year-old man early Wednesday morning during the execution of a no-knock raid, reinvigorating debate around a law-enforcement tactic that many say is ripe for abuse.

The victim, Amir Locke, who appeared to be asleep on the couch that morning, was not named on that warrant. In a matter of about three seconds, body camera footage shows the man—buried under a thick white blanket—stirring to the sound of the cops’ entry with his hand on the barrel of a firearm. Officer Mark Hanneman then shoots him three times.

Interim Minneapolis Police Chief Amelia Huffman initially said that Hanneman shot Locke because Locke pointed his gun “in the direction of officers.” But the footage released by the government appeared to contradict that: Locke’s gun was pointed to the side, and his hand was on the barrel of the weapon, not the trigger.

He owned the gun legally and had a concealed carry permit, according to his family’s legal representation. “My son was executed…and now his dreams have been destroyed,” said Locke’s mother, Karen Wells, at a press conference Friday. “They didn’t even give him a chance,” echoed attorney Ben Crump.

Locke’s death is likely to exert further scrutiny on no-knock raids, which have come under fire in recent years for their dire unintended consequences. In this case, the St. Paul Police Department requested that the SWAT team use a knock-and-announce warrant, but the Minneapolis officers reportedly countered that they would only move forward with a no-knock raid.

The March 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor sparked a great deal of debate over police tactics after the 26-year-old woman died when Louisville Police shot her during the execution of a drug raid targeting her boyfriend. But the raid itself is not the only circumstance Taylor and Locke’s cases have in common. In Taylor’s case, her partner, Kenneth Walker, exited the bed, retrieved a gun, and fired one shot upon hearing someone barge into Taylor’s apartment. He told authorities he thought it was her ex-boyfriend breaking in. The police responded, shooting Taylor five times.* Walker was subsequently charged with attempted murder, though that was ultimately dismissed in May 2020.

Walker also had a license to carry.

Taylor’s story gained widespread traction in the media. Here’s one that didn’t: Andrew Coffee IV of Gifford, Florida, was recently acquitted of murdering his 21-year-old girlfriend, Alteria Woods. But no one—including the state—posited that he’d shot Woods. Deputies with the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office shot her 10 times during a raid that targeted Coffee IV’s father. Coffee IV opened fire after cops threw a flash-bang grenade into his room and smashed his window. The state charged him with the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer along with the felony murder of Woods, a controversial rule that allows the government to charge someone with a homicide they didn’t carry out if it took place during a related offense.

During his trial, the defense argued that he believed the cops to be intruders and shot in self-defense, an argument that ultimately persuaded a jury.

Locke’s scenario should bother just about anyone who supports the right to carry a firearm. The Second Amendment does not discriminate, nor does it evaporate as soon as the government enters the premises, particularly when considering that the Founding impetus behind it was to protect against a tyrannical state.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), the country’s premier gun advocacy group, has yet to make a statement on the killing. They’ve struggled with this before. Consider Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by St. Anthony Police Department Officer Jeronimo Yanez in 2016 during a routine traffic stop after Castile calmly indicated he had a firearm in the vehicle. (St. Anthony is a suburb of Minneapolis, located about five minutes across the Mississippi River.)

The NRA remained silent for quite a while until August 2017 when then-spokesperson Dana Loesch said that the organization declined to defend Castile because he had marijuana in his car at the time of his death. As of this writing, no NRA spokesperson has responded to Reason‘s request for comment.

*CORRECTION: The original version of this article misstated where Taylor was positioned when police shot her.

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