Minneapolis police sought no-knock search warrant to ‘protect the public’
Raid led to the police killing of Amir Locke
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.
In seeking permission for a no-knock warrant for the raid that resulted in the fatal shooting of Amir Locke, police argued that the more surreptitious entry would be less risky for both police officers and the public, including other apartment residents.
Search warrants released Thursday revealed new details about the murder investigation that led to the Feb. 2 shooting of Locke by police in a downtown Minneapolis apartment.
The warrants were unsealed following the arrest and charging this week of Locke’s cousin, Mekhi Camden Speed. After being apprehended in Winona, Speed was charged Wednesday with two counts of second-degree murder in connection with the Jan. 10 shooting death of Otis Rodney Elder, 38, outside a music recording studio on Prior Avenue in St. Paul.
Warrants show how St. Paul homicide investigators tracked Speed and other suspects back to the Bolero Flats apartment in downtown Minneapolis. That is where Minneapolis police officers, armed with a no-knock warrant issued by Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, encountered and killed Locke, who was not named in any of the warrants.
The search warrants connected to the St. Paul homicide case show that St. Paul police initially obtained regular search warrants for three downtown Minneapolis apartments, but never executed them.
The initial warrants would have required police to knock first before searching the apartments during daylight hours. In executing no-knock warrants, officers don’t have to knock first but must announce their presence and purpose before crossing the threshold of the doorway.
After the Minneapolis Police Department insisted on using the more controversial entry method — according to a source who did not want to be named — St. Paul Police went back to Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill and obtained no-knock warrants instead. Cahill presided over former MPD officer Derek Chauvin’s trial, in which he was convicted of murdering George Floyd.
During the predawn Feb. 2 raid, Amir Locke, 22, was shot after a SWAT team entered a Bolero Flats apartment where he was lying under a blanket in the living room. Body cam video shows Locke had a gun in one hand right before Officer Mark Hanneman shot him three times. Police have said Locke was not the subject of the warrant, from which several juveniles’ names were redacted.
The warrants had been sealed to protect the investigation until after an arrest was made Monday in the homicide.
Police wrote that they found Instagram posts showing Speed and other suspects driving a stolen Mercedes-Benz, hanging out at the Bolero Flats pool, and flashing cash and several firearms, including a rifle and “possibly the murder weapon.”
Investigators recovered a .223 caliber spent cartridge case at the St. Paul homicide scene. Noting .223 caliber rifle rounds can penetrate police body armor, police told the judge that entering the apartments at night would allow police to get in without alerting the suspects. They argued this would protect the officers and reduce the risk of injury to suspects and other residents.
Rob Doar, senior vice president of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, tweeted that .223 rounds are traditionally used as ammunition in rifles and the casings from Locke’s gun would not match the one found at the St. Paul homicide scene.
Investigators told the judge they needed to do the more stealthy entry to “protect the public and searchers” and prevent the loss or destruction of evidence. They noted the suspects were involved in robberies, firearm incidents and fleeing police and had a history of violent crimes.
The search warrants say the suspects tried to rob Elder, the man who was killed in St. Paul, of money or drugs, and a large amount of cash was found inside and outside Elder’s vehicle, along with some narcotics.
No-knock warrants have come under increasing scrutiny after the fatal raid, with state lawmakers now considering additional restrictions on them.
The warrants released Thursday show police tracked the stolen Mercedes from the murder scene to the Bolero Flats apartments in downtown Minneapolis. Police say the Mercedes was stolen after a test drive on Nov. 27 and then used in armed robberies, a police pursuit and the theft of a Maserati. Police told the judge they lifted Speed’s fingerprints from the Mercedes after it was found abandoned in a downtown Minneapolis parking ramp.
Police connected photos of the suspects to two brothers who occupied a Bolero Flats apartment. The search warrants indicate two people involved in the case were arrested on Jan. 16, but their involvement in the case isn’t clear and their names were redacted from the warrants. One was wanted on numerous warrants, including aggravated robbery.
Police obtained permission to search apartment 701 — where Locke was shot — after telling the judge that Speed’s brother, Marlon Cornelius Speed Jr., lived there with his girlfriend, and Speed had obtained a fob for the apartment. The search warrant says Speed was transported by medics from the apartment on Jan. 22., but no reason was given for him requiring medical assistance on that date.
Under state law, no-knock warrants must be reviewed by senior police officials. The no-knock warrants were reviewed by St. Paul Deputy Chief Stacy Murphy and Sheila Lambie, senior commander of the SPPD homicide/robbery unit.
The documents indicate the search of apartment 1403 yielded clothing, an empty case for a Glock, computer, marijuana and phones. In apartment 701, police seized two computers, phones, a 9mm bullet from a laundry basket and suspected marijuana. And from apartment 1402, they seized phones, boxes of ammo, a blue Tommy Hilfiger coat (which investigators said was worn by a male with Speed when he returned to Bolero Flats after the Elder homicide), a black ski mask in a black duffel bag and suspected controlled substances in pill form.
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