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No-knock for police; no chance for Amir

Black people aren’t supposed to have guns. And if we do, we are automatically deemed a threat. But let’s be real, we’re deemed a threat with or without the gun.

A demonstrator holds up a sign at a February 4 protest in downtown Minneapolis for Amir Locke, who was shot and killed by Minneapolis Police’s SWAT team.
A demonstrator holds up a sign at a February 4 protest in downtown Minneapolis for Amir Locke, who was shot and killed by Minneapolis Police’s SWAT team.
REUTERS/Tim Evans

Be thankful it’s not 40 degrees outside instead of the minus 12 it was on Wednesday and the minus 7 forecasted for tonight.

The city could very well be on fire.

A 30 degree or so swing in the temperature outside and we’re probably reporting a different story. If it’s May (see the murder of George Floyd), April (the murder of Daunte Wright) … even November (the killing of Jamar Clark), and we would likely see thousands in the streets – day and night – decrying the killing of yet another young Black man by police. And given recent history, we can imagine with vivid detail the possible outcomes. I’m not saying that’s right, I’m saying that’s reality.

Early Wednesday morning, Feb. 2, Minneapolis police along with St. Paul police, executing a no-knock search warrant, used a provided key and entered into an apartment in downtown Minneapolis where 22-year-old Amir Locke was shot and killed within seven seconds — seven seconds — of police entering the apartment. Locke was apparently sleeping, covered under a blanket, on a couch that was facing away from the front door. In the police body camera footage released Thursday, it can be seen that Locke does appear to have a gun. It also appears that he never pointed the gun at any of the officers.

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It should be pointed out, 22-year-old Locke was not the subject of the no-knock search warrant. I point it out to underscore the tragedy, but not to say that had he in fact been the subject of the warrant, the snuffing out of his life within seven seconds of the encounter still does not meet the standard of justification.

Amir Locke was not a felon, and therefore, under Minnesota law, he was within his rights to possess a handgun inside a residence. Similarly, Philando Castile was a legal gun owner when he was killed, shot seven times by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez on July 6, 2016. 

But I get it. Black people aren’t supposed to have guns. And if we do, we are automatically deemed a threat. But let’s be real, we’re deemed a threat with or without the gun. The gun is the prop in the scene that’s allowed to steal the thunder of the true plot.

I have never said publicly what I’m about to reveal: I’m a licensed gun owner, and like some nearly 360,000 Minnesotans, I have a permit to carry. And as a Black man, it’s just as dangerous to be with a gun as it is to be without one. I don’t carry where I would violate any work policy in any capacity of my many public duties, but in my home, lying on the couch, I’ve been with a gun in hand on more occasions than I’d like to recall. Having so-called stature in the community does not inoculate me from the realities of urban violence that unfortunately hits way too close to home far too many times.

Harry Colbert
Harry Colbert
I can only imagine how I would react to being violently awakened by an intruder (police or not, under the circumstances of a no-knock entrance, they were intruders nonetheless). 

Not only did the actions of the intruding officers lead to death for Amir Locke, they endangered the lives of residents in other units (the building is home to, among others, Minnesota State Rep. Esther Agbaje). They also put themselves in harm’s way. It is likely that last part will make up the defense of Mark Hanneman, the officer who is said to have fired the three fatal shots. 

What value was served in this – or any – no-knock warrant? What tactical advantage was gained? Have we learned nothing from the killing of Breonna Taylor? Have we learned nothing from the killing of George Floyd? Police, have you learned nothing from the killing of Daunte Wright

It’s clear Yanez’ acquittal in the killing of Castile and the refusal to even charge the officers who killed Clark gave the thumbs up to business as usual as to how police view and interact with Black subjects … wait, Black people. It’s so bad that even I have to keep reminding myself of my own personhood … my own humanity.

Normally I’m adverse to the cold, I find myself thankful for the current chill. It’s one of the few times I don’t curse the forecast and scream for warmer temperatures. My screams are reserved for something else. Today I scream for my humanity, I scream for my sanity. I scream for the gone-in-7-seconds life of 22-year-old Amir Locke. 

Harry Colbert is the managing editor of MinnPost.