Feb 4 (Reuters) – (Editor’s note: This story contains a quote in fourth paragraph contains offensive language, and video footage and pictures show violent images)
A 22-year-old armed Black man was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police SWAT team during a raid on his apartment on Wednesday, video recorded by a police body camera showed.
The Minneapolis Police Department released the video and a still image on Thursday showing the man, Amir Locke, held a gun in his hand as he twisted round beneath a blanket after being roused by police, with several armed officers looming over the sofa where he lay.
The incident will inevitably stoke memories of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed in the same city almost two years ago by a white officer who knelt on his neck for over nine minutes during an arrest. Outrage over Floyd’s death sparked a mass movement challenging police brutality and bias in the U.S. criminal justice system.
The video shows police unlocking Locke’s apartment with a key, and officers shouting “police, search warrant, get on the ground, get on the fucking ground,” as they went in.
An officer then kicks at the couch that Locke was lying on, and as Locke turns, one arm comes out from beneath the blanket, the hand holding a gun.
Almost immediately three shots were fired, and Locke sprawls back, still twisted up in the blanket.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Minneapolis Police Department said that the man had a “handgun pointed in the direction of the officers.”
During a press conference on Thursday interim Minneapolis Police Department chief Amelia Huffman said the county’s attorney will review the facts, in response to a question pointing out that the video appeared to show that Locke’s gun was pointed towards the floor.
“As there’s a gun emerging in your direction, you are forced to make a split second decision on when it’s a threat,” Huffman added.
Locke was taken to the Hennepin County medical center after the shooting, where he died on Wednesday.
Ben Crump and Jeff Storms, lawyers representing Locke’s family in the case, compared the killing to Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and said that the available information reflected that Locke was not the subject of police’s warrant.
Huffman confirmed that Locke was not named in the search warrant issued in relation to Saint Paul’s police homicide investigation.
“It is unclear at this time how he or if he was connected to the Saint Paul’s investigation,” Huffman said.
She went on to say that officers from the Saint Paul’s Police Department were at the scene later and had recovered possible evidence for the homicide investigation.
According to the lawyers, Locke had no criminal history and legally possessed a firearm at the time of his death.
“In the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the City of Minneapolis told the public that it was limiting the use of no-knock warrants to ‘limit the likelihood of bad outcomes.’ Less than two years later, Amir Locke and his family needlessly suffered the worst possible outcome,” Storms said in a statement.
Taylor, a Black woman was shot and killed when armed police raided her Kentucky apartment in March 2020. Floyd was killed in May 2020.