Locke’s 17-year-old cousin charged in St. Paul homicide

By: - February 8, 2022 1:15 pm

The scene outside Bolero Flats Apartment Homes in downtown Minneapolis where a man was shot by Minneapolis police on Feb. 2, 2022. Photo by Claude Peck.

Amir Locke’s 17-year-old cousin was arrested Monday afternoon in Winona on suspicion of killing a Minneapolis man in St. Paul on Jan. 10. 

Minneapolis police searched three apartments downtown last week in connection with the St. Paul homicide investigation, leading to a predawn raid in which Locke, 22, was shot and killed.

Mekhi Camden Speed, Locke’s cousin, was arrested and charged Wednesday with two counts of second-degree murder by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office in connection with the shooting death of Otis Rodney Elder, 38. 

Investigators say Speed lived in the downtown Bolero Flats building with his mother, Cheryl Chiquata Locke, in apartment No. 1402. Locke was shot in apartment No. 701, where Speed’s brother stayed with his girlfriend. 

Minneapolis police searched both of the apartments, and a third where Speed’s associate lived, as part of the homicide investigation, according to the charging document

Speed’s brother, his girlfriend and Locke were present when the warrant was executed on Feb. 2, according to court documents.

Body camera footage shows officer Mark Hanneman shot Locke less than 10 seconds after entering the apartment where he had been sleeping on a couch. 

The killing set off days of protests and renewed focus on no-knock warrants, with Democratic state lawmakers calling for a ban on them and several Republicans calling for the practice to be scrutinized

On Friday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced a “moratorium” on no-knock warrants while he studies the issue, although no-knock warrants may still be executed in dangerous scenarios. The mayor has come under fire in recent days for campaigning on banning no-knock warrants last year in his race for re-election. 

The Locke family’s legal team released a statement Tuesday saying “all available information confirms that Amir was never a target of that investigation or those search warrants.”

“We must remain focused on the fact that Amir was an innocent young man of a raid gone terribly gone, who is now the latest statistic and victim of the dangerous and intrusive no-knock warrant techniques that must be banned.”

St. Paul Police were called to Prior Avenue at 9:32 p.m. on Jan. 10 after Elder was shot and found lying on the ground near a 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe. The driver’s side was open and there was loose cash and what appeared to be marijuana, with a spent shell casing on the ground near the driver’s door. 

Elder’s friend at the scene told police he was inside a nearby business when Elder was shot, and he ran outside to see someone standing outside Elder’s vehicle. Another person who had been talking to Elder on the phone at the time of the shooting told police it sounded like Elder was “conducting a drug transaction” with someone. 

The witness said they heard Elder say, ”you can sit in front” and then what sounded like a struggle before he heard a male voice say, ”If you do not give it up, pop the “******” before the call ended. 

Elder was transported to Regions Hospital and declared dead at 10:04 p.m. on Jan. 10. He had a gunshot wound to his right lower back.

On Jan. 12, a witness told an investigator he saw a male shoot Elder while standing outside Elder’s car door, while another male sat in the passenger seat of Elder’s vehicle. He said he saw a silver Mercedes-Benz speed away from the scene, running a stoplight.

Investigators suspect the Mercedes-Benz — which had damage to its front end and a lit front emblem — was involved in multiple crimes after being stolen on Nov. 27. 

On Jan. 21, a Minneapolis police officer spotted the stolen Mercedes-Benz in the Leamington parking ramp in downtown Minneapolis. The next day, investigators obtained videos of the Mercedes being left at the parking ramp four hours after Elder’s killing by four people, all male, who took items out of the trunk, including a large black duffle bag with a white logo.

Investigators obtained video of Elder’s killing, in which they say the Mercedes parked near Elder and one person got in his car and the other approached the driver’s side and shot him. 

Investigators say state Department of Transportation cameras tracked the Mercedes to Bolero Flats in Minneapolis, where three people went into the apartment building, including the two police say were at the scene, with one of them concealing something in the front pocket of his sweatshirt.

Investigators identified the shooting suspect as Speed, who lived in apartment 1402 with his mother. Speed also had a key for apartment 701, where his brother lived. Investigators were told that a person who returned to the building with Speed was associated with apartment 1403. 

On Feb. 2, the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments obtained search warrants for all three apartments, and secured ”probable cause pickup and holds” to arrest Speed and two of his associates for killing and aiding an offender after the fact. 

Asked whether Locke was believed to be one of the other people who aided and abetted Speed, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said he didn’t know.

The St. Paul Police Department requested the MPD execute the search warrants of the apartments since they are in their jurisdiction. MPD insisted that they have a no-knock warrant, according to KARE 11, although St. Paul’s police did not think one was necessary and hasn’t requested one since 2016. The warrant has not yet been released to the public.

Speed’s brother’s girlfriend was the registered occupant of apartment 701, and his brother also stayed at the apartment. Investigators seized a black Canada Goose jacket with fur that police say appeared to be the jacket worn by Speed after leaving the stolen Mercedes-Benz at the parking ramp on Jan. 11. They also recovered a bullet, the gun in Locke’s possession and marijuana.

When they searched apartment 1402, neither Speed nor his mother were there, but investigators seized a black hat, a black duffle bag with a white logo, tennis shoes, pants and a dark blue Tommy Hilfiger jacket they say appeared to be that seen in videos.

When they searched apartment 1403, they did not find Speed’s associate but someone else. Investigators said they seized a large amount of marijuana from the apartment. 

The St. Paul Police Department Forensic Unit said it lifted a latent print of Speed’s from the right front door of the Mercedes-Benz .

From Jan. 24 to Feb. 5, law enforcement officers looked for Speed, before finding him Monday in Winona, where he tried to run away before an officer grabbed his black jacket. They found a loaded gun in his jacket, according to the charging document. He has refused to speak with investigators. 

He was arrested at about 3:45 p.m. Monday by the Southeast Metro Task Force, the Ramsey County Violent Crime Enforcement Team and members of the St. Paul Police Department Special Investigations Unit.

Speed is being held in the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center and will make his initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon at the Ramsey County Juvenile and Family Justice Center. Prosecutors said they will file a petition to certify Speed to stand trial as an adult.

This story was updated at 3:43 p.m. to include the Locke family attorneys’ comments.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs.