A Minneapolis SWAT team serving a warrant that led to an officer shooting Amir Locke was looking for his teenage cousin and two others in connection with a homicide investigation, according to the court documents released Tuesday.
Authorities linked Locke’s cousin, 17-year-old Mekhi Speed, to a homicide in St. Paul, Minnesota, through surveillance footage and a “distinct” car that investigators suspected to have been stolen, and that was allegedly used as a getaway car in the homicide, according to court records made public Tuesday in connection with Speed’s arrest.
Minneapolis police were executing a search warrant in connection with the cousin of Amir Locke and two others, prosecutors say, when police killed Locke in early February. At the time, Locke’s cousin was among three people wanted in connection with a homicide, according to court documents released Tuesday.
The arrest and criminal complaint released by prosecutors provide a detailed timeline of the alleged crimes that were committed that led authorities to obtain warrants for three apartments in the building where Locke was shot last Wednesday.
Attorneys for the Locke family released a statement Tuesday confirming Speed was Locke’s cousin, reading in part, “His cousin was not present in Unit 701,” the statement began. “We must remain focused on the fact that Amir was an innocent young man of a raid gone terribly wrong, who is now the latest statistic and victim of the dangerous and intrusive no-knock warrant techniques that must be banned.”
Prosecutors say the allegedly stolen car, a Mercedes-Benz with front-end damage and a lit front emblem, was believed to have been tied to an armed robbery in early December; an armed robbery, attempted robbery and gun report on the same date in late December; and a suspected vehicle theft in early January, all before the homicide on January 10, according to court documents.
Teen faces murder charges
Speed faced two counts of second-degree murder. Prosecutors said they plan to petition the court to try the 17-year-old as an adult. The charges stem from a January 10 incident, prosecutors say, when St. Paul police officers responded to a report of a man – Otis Elder – who had been shot. Elder, 38, later died.
Investigators tracked the Mercedes-Benz, prosecutors say, from the scene of that crime to the Bolero Flats apartment complex in Minneapolis. According to the petition filed, both St. Paul and Minneapolis Police obtained search warrants for apartments 701, 1402, and 1403 at the complex and had what the court documents describe as “probable cause pick up and holds” for Mekhi Speed and two associates, meaning police established cause to make an arrest.
When Minneapolis Police executed its warrant on apartment 701, Locke appeared to be lying on the couch under a blanket when they keyed into the apartment, yelling commands, according to court records and body camera footage.
Police were looking for Speed, court documents say. After entering the apartment, police kicked the couch where Locke was lying down, according to body camera footage. As Locke began to get up, holding a gun his family says he legally owned, Officer Mark Hanneman shot him, according to the city of Minneapolis. Locke later died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Hanneman has been placed on administrative leave, as is policy, pending the ongoing investigation. The Minneapolis Police Officers Federation released a statement, reading in part, “Officers were obviously prepared for a very dangerous and high-risk situation. During the event, as shown in the body-camera footage, Officer Hanneman quickly encountered Mr. Locke who was armed with a handgun and made the decision to use deadly force.”
“No officer goes into a dangerous setting like this wanting to use a weapon. That decision was not taken lightly, and the impact of the use of deadly force will affect these officers, their families, and the family of Mr. Locke for the rest of their lives,” it continued.
Two types of warrants were issued
At a news conference the day after the shooting, interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman said, “Both a no-knock and a knock search warrant were obtained for those locations so that the SWAT team could assess the circumstances and make the best possible decision about entry.”
Speed’s brother along with his brother’s girlfriend were also present when the warrant was executed, according to court documents.
Two other people were listed as being detained that morning at that address by a Minneapolis incident detail report.
Police also executed warrants at another apartment in the same complex, where prosecutors said he was listed as a resident, but they said Speed was not there at the time. However, police seized a black hat and duffle bag that prosecutors said matched those seen the night of the killing. Speed’s friend was associated with apartment 1403, prosecutors allege, but someone else was there when officers executed the warrant, according to court documents, and a “large amount of marijuana” was seized.
Officers eventually located Speed in Winona, Minnesota, about 100 miles southeast of Minneapolis. He was arrested with a loaded gun, and in what appeared to be the same black jacket worn by the person shown in the videos from the scene when Elder was shot, according to prosecutors. Speed attempted to flee, but was arrested, according to the document.
Speed was expected to make his initial court appearance at the Ramsey County Juvenile and Family Justice Center on Tuesday afternoon.
Another day of protests
In Minneapolis, hundreds of people marched downtown on Tuesday night to protest last week’s fatal shooting.
Protestors could be heard chanting slogans calling for police accountability and shouting, “What’s his name? Amir Locke! Say his name. Amir Locke!”
Organizers spoke to the crowd through a sound system in a vehicle and invoked the names of other Black men from the area who were killed by police: George Floyd and Philando Castile. They pledged to return Wednesday as the march ended.
In neighboring St. Paul, demonstrators marched to the state capitol.
Earlier on Tuesday, hundreds of Twin Cities students walked out of class in protest of no-knock warrants, calling for justice for Locke.
“It shows we’re not just little kids. If we know we can make a change, we’re more than happy to do it,” high school senior Nevaeh Wiley told CNN affiliate WCCO. “It is truly traumatizing to know I have brothers, uncles, friends that could have their lives taken in a matter of seconds.”