In the two months since Amir Locke was shot and killed by Minneapolis Police Officer Mark Hanneman, our community has awaited the decision of the Hennepin County Attorney's Office regarding accountability for his death. Yesterday’s decision to not file charges is another failure of our criminal legal system, and it is another blatant example of the disparate treatment that low-income people and people of color experience everyday.
The statement released by the County Attorney’s Office rings hollow. The platitudes about this being a tragic killing and finger pointing to other justice system stakeholders deflects from the power and responsibility of the Office in deciding on charges in this case. As the chief prosecutor for the county, in partnership with the state’s chief prosecutor, County Attorney Freeman has an obligation to seek justice for our community, to be an advocate for the public, to protect the innocent. Amir Locke was an innocent man, with a future and a family, who was startled as a troupe of screaming people woke him up with conflicting commands. The individual officers and leadership of the Minneapolis Police Department should be held accountable for taking his life. The county attorney has a role in this.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office prosecutes thousands of Black and Brown people every year, and rarely takes the time to determine whether they will have sufficient admissible evidence before bringing charges. Over and over again, our attorneys challenge the weak evidence used to justify the aggressive prosecution of low-income people of color. Even when charges are dismissed, this overzealous prosecution leads to lifelong consequences. But Mark Hanneman is a white man and a police officer, so he was afforded lengthy investigation and consideration before a charging decision was made. As we noted when Derek Chauvin was convicted for the murder of George Floyd, our criminal legal system is not designed to hold white police officers accountable for killing Black people. We need systemic change.
We stand with community members demanding that County Attorney Mike Freeman file charges related to Amir Locke’s killing. As we move forward, we also see the upcoming county attorney election as an opportunity for Hennepin County voters to elect a leader whose values and actions reflect the type of community we want to live in. One where there is meaningful accountability for all. Yesterday’s announcement highlights the power and influence of the county attorney in these decision making spaces, underscoring the importance of the upcoming race this fall. We also support efforts to ban no knock warrants and call on state and local leadership to end their use.
We are disappointed today, but know that justice is still possible. The Legal Rights Center stands in solidarity with all communities and allies seeking transformative change in our legal system and with the family of Amir Locke.
LRC staff include attorneys and advocates from a range of background and lived experiences.
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