Police Really Need To Stop Breaking Into Black People’s Homes And Killing Them

Police Really Need To Stop Breaking Into Black People’s Homes And Killing Them

Amir Rahkare Locke was fatally shot in his home last Wednesday when Minneapolis police burst into his home shortly before 7 a.m. They were executing a no-knock warrant, but wound up executing Locke. Interim police Chief Amelia Huffman said the officers used a key fob to enter the apartment and that they’d announced themselves as the police. (That usually involves a lot of shouting and tough guy speak.) The cops' original statement was that Locke pointed a gun at the officers, so Officer Mark Hanneman opened fire. This all happened in fewer than 10 seconds.

It’s not a shock that the police’s original statement didn’t match the bodycam footage. The cops did announce themselves, but it’s not clear Locke was even awake to hear them. He was lying on a couch under some blankets. An officer kicked the back of the couch, the worst wake-up call ever. This revealed the gun, but Locke didn’t point it at anyone, which is somewhat of a key point. The police’s original statement also described Locke as a “suspect,” but he wasn’t named in the search warrant. The more accurate description for the person the police killed was “apartment resident.”

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The Minneapolis police released a similarly self-serving statement after George Floyd’s murder. The original statement this time said, "Approximately nine seconds into the entry, officers encountered a male with a handgun pointed in the direction of officers.” This implies Locke was lying in wait for them like a gangster, rather than just lying on the couch like someone who’d fallen asleep watching Netflix.

This keeps happening. Breonna Taylor was killed in her sleep when police burst into her home. Her boyfriend also had a gun on him. Guns make everything worse. However, it is legal for Americans to own them, and unannounced home invasions startle most people. After all, bluntly put, these no-knock warrants are often served in areas where residents have a legitimate reason to fear violent crime. No one would voluntarily choose to live next door to a drug dealer, but their financial status puts them at greater risk of the cops screwing up and killing them.

Police in Raleigh, North Carolina, executed a no-knock warrant in 2020 on Yolanda Irving’s home, just as she was settling in to watch a TV cop drama. Instead, she received a live performance. Her 12-year-old screamed “SWAT! SWAT! SWAT!” and ran under his bed to hide. The police had grabbed and handcuffed another teen in the house.

“When I look to the left, that is when I see the SWATs pointing their guns at me, telling me to get down,” she said. For two hours, police swarmed the apartment, searched three of her five children — including her partially paralyzed son — and threatened their dogs, said Irving, who drives a bus for special needs and homeless children for Wake County.

About a dozen officers picked apart their home looking for money and drugs, Irving said, while she and two of her children sat on the floor with their backs against the wall. Police let her now 23-year-old son sit in his wheelchair, she said.

They found nothing, she said.

Turns out the police had the wrong house. Whoopsie! This isn’t like the Instacart driver dropping your groceries off at the wrong house. These “mistakes” are traumatic at best and lethal at worst. Omar Abdullah, the police detective in charge of the raid on Irving’s home, was later accused of framing more than a dozen Black men in a fake drug scheme.

Friday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey imposed a moratorium on both the request and execution of no-knock warrants.

“No matter what information comes to light, it won’t change the fact that Amir Locke’s life was cut short,” Frey said in a statement. “To ensure safety of both the public and officers until a new policy is crafted, I’m issuing a moratorium on both the request and execution of such warrants in Minneapolis.”

There is, of course, an exception to the moratorium, and that’s when there is “an imminent threat of harm to an individual or the public.” This is perversely circular logic. No-knock warrants are the imminent threat and they need to end before another Black person is killed.

[New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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