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The no-knock search warrants in the raid that killed Amir Locke have been released. Here’s what they show

By Omar Jimenez and Bill Kirkos, CNN

Authorities have released the no-knock search warrants for the raid that led to 22-year-old Amir Locke’s killing earlier this month — and the documents show St. Paul police argued the controversial method was the safest way to execute their search, for both officers and suspects.

“A no-knock warrant enables officers to execute the warrant more safely by allowing officers to make entry into the apartment without alerting the suspects inside. This will not only increase officer safety, but it will also decrease the risk for injuries to the suspects and other residents nearby,” St. Paul police Sgt. Dan Zebro wrote in his warrant application.

Police requested those warrants as they zeroed in on a Minneapolis apartment building in their hunt for suspects — including Locke’s teenage cousin — and evidence connected to a St. Paul homicide. Locke was not named in any of the warrants and his family has now called for the abolition of no-knock warrants.

The search warrant applications, made public Thursday, were approved by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, the same judge who presided over the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.

Here’s what the documents show:

  • A 10-page application for a no-knock warrant for the apartment Locke was sleeping in said officers believed this was the safest option and that their “investigative activities” supported a no-knock entry. That’s because police had reviewed the suspects’ criminal histories and “reports relating to crimes” they were allegedly involved with and saw social media videos “where the suspects (were) posting videos and pictures while holding various firearms,” Zebro wrote.
  • Zebro also wrote that rounds from a .223-caliber firearm — what was used in the St. Paul homicide — can penetrate police body armor, arguing it would be safest for officers not to alert suspects inside when entering.
  • That application asked for an unannounced entry between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. and a nighttime search outside those hours, saying that was necessary to “prevent the loss, destruction, removal of the objects of said search, or to protect the safety of the searchers or the public.”
  • Police believed they would find evidence tied to blood staining, firearm use, electronic devices, clothing and more and that some of the property police would find was used as a means to commit a crime or “tends to show that a particular person has committed a crime,” the application says.
  • Both no-knock and standard search warrants were requested and approved, not just for the apartment in which Locke was shot, but two other apartments in the building authorities believed were related to the St. Paul homicide.
  • The warrants were ultimately for property and not for a particular suspect.
  • Cahill’s approval of the no-knock warrants echoed what interim Minneapolis Police Chief Amelia Huffman said earlier in February: that both kinds of warrants were obtained so the SWAT team could assess the circumstances and decide what was best.
  • The judge who this week authorized the documents’ release determined the details in them were of public interest amid renewed debates about whether the benefits of no-knock warrants outweigh their dangers.

Family wants a no-knock warrant ban

In a Thursday news conference, Locke’s family called on President Joe Biden to push a national ban on no-knock warrants in the name of their son.

His death is the latest example of such warrants ending in tragedy, with law enforcement making split-second decisions that result in the loss of life. In 2020, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was shot and killed while Louisville police executed a no-knock warrant.

“All I have is the memories,” Locke’s mother, Karen Wells said Thursday. “I should not have to bury a 22-year-old child.”

Officers were looking for Locke’s cousin, 17-year-old Mekhi Speed, and two others when they burst into the apartment where Locke was sleeping. Police had linked Speed to the homicide through surveillance footage and a “distinct” car authorities suspected was stolen, court records showed.

Speed was eventually located and arrested in Winona, Minnesota, about 100 miles southeast of Minneapolis. He has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder and prosecutors have motioned the court to try Speed as an adult. He made his initial court appearance Tuesday and was remanded to remain in custody. His defense attorney is listed as “tbd” but his next hearing is scheduled for February 15.

CNN has attempted to reach Speed’s mother, Cheryl Locke, but has not received a response.

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