Attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci, and Jeff Storms File Civil Lawsuit for Police Shooting Death of Amir Locke
Filing comes at the one-year anniversary of the 22-year-old’s death during a no-knock warrant
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, attorney Antonio Romanucci, and attorney Jeff Storms on behalf of the family of Amir Locke have filed a lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department officer involved in Mr. Locke’s death. In the early morning hours of February 2, 2022, Amir was awoken by a no-knock warrant executed by the Minneapolis S.W.A.T. team. Amir was not named in that warrant, not suspected of any crime, and was a guest in the residence where he was sleeping. Upon being woken up by the invading S.W.A.T. team, Amir reached for his handgun; demonstrating proper and responsible handling by keeping the handgun pointed down, keeping his finger off the trigger, and never raising the weapon in the direction of any officer. Minneapolis Police Officer Mark Hanneman, without warning and denying Locke the ability to assess the situation and disarm himself, fired three shots while Amir was still covered in a blanket on the couch where he had been resting peacefully. Within ten seconds of the S.W.A.T. team entering the apartment, Officer Hanneman shot and killed Amir.
The federal lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. The plaintiffs are Amir’s parents, Karen Wells and Andre Locke. The defendants named in the lawsuit are the City of Minneapolis, as the responsible party for the Minneapolis Police Department, as well as Officer Hanneman. The lawsuit states Hanneman was acting in his individual capacity, under the color of state law, and within the scope of his employment.
The complaint states that Mr. Locke was deprived, under the color of state law, of his clearly established rights as secured by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as state law. In addition to Officer Hanneman’s violations, the complaint also highlights systemic issues relating to improper policies, procedures, and training implemented by the City of Minneapolis. The complaint is seeking compensatory, special, and punitive damages and costs as defined under federal law in an amount to be determined by a jury. The complaint also asks for the appointment of a receiver or similar authority to ensure that the City of Minneapolis properly trains and supervises its police officers, and for any other additional relief that the Court believes is just and equitable.
The Plaintiffs are represented by Attorneys Ben Crump of Ben Crump Law, Antonio M. Romanucci and Sam A. Harton of Romanucci & Blandin, and Jeff Storms, Ryan Vettleson, and Naomi E.H. Martin of Newmark Storms Dworak.
“The City of Minneapolis, as we’ve seen clearly and painfully in recent years, has a history of using excessive and unjustified force, particularly against Black men. The Black community in Minneapolis is 19 percent of the population, but 63 percent of cases where Minneapolis Police use of force. Amir Locke should not have died one year ago, and we will use this lawsuit to fight for justice and for much-needed change in the way Minneapolis trains its officers,” said Attorney Ben Crump.
“No-knock warrants, like the one that resulted in Amir’s senseless death, are an issue that Minneapolis and our entire nation need to deal with. We’ve seen over and over again across the country ways in which these raids result in unnecessary damage, injury, and death. We call on our leaders to do the right thing and eliminate or significantly restrict this militaristic approach to policing our communities,” said Attorney Antonio M. Romanucci.
“Minneapolis has a responsibility to its citizens to ensure police officers are properly trained and understand how to de-escalate interactions with civilians and value human life. This tragedy was avoidable if the City abided by its promise to cease performing these dangerous and unnecessary no-knock warrants. Shooting Amir under these circumstances, without warning or opportunity to comply, is unreasonable force under the Fourth Amendment,” said Attorney Jeff Storms.
“Our hearts are broken, and there is nothing in the world that will make that better. Amir was a beautiful 22-year-old man with his whole life to be lived and we will never know how his contributions could have made the world a better place. We now fight for justice in his name and hope meaningful change will be his legacy,” said Karen Wells and Andre Locke, Amir’s parents.
Critical Problems with MPD Training
The complaint explains that the City of Minneapolis knew that excessive force on the part of the MPD was unconstitutional and that its officers were supposed to receive appropriate training. However, it had inconsistent policies, infrequent training, and minimal disciplinary actions to ensure the safety of its citizens. In fact, the complaint states that in each of the City’s documented incidents regarding the MPD’s use of excessive force, each incident “involved more than one officer at the scene and in each of those incidents, the non-participating MPD officers failed to intervene in the unconstitutional use of force against handcuffed, non-resisting citizens.”
The City Knew of the Increased Risk of Harm Involved in Executing No-Knock Warrants
The complaint illustrates the perils of no-knock warrants. Spurred on by numerous incidents of improperly-conducted, injurious or deadly no-knock raids, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey touted banning the use of no-knock warrants in Minneapolis during his re-election campaign. That “ban” however, had little effect, as over 87 no-knock warrants have been executed since the supposed policy change in February 2022. These no-knock warrants were overwhelmingly executed on people of color. Following Mr. Locke’s death, additional, unreasonable no-knock warrants conducted by the MPD continue to come to light, underscoring that the advertised ban on no-knock warrants was false. In fact, the complaint explains that even after Mr. Locke’s horrible and unnecessary death, Minneapolis ultimately lifted the moratorium on no-knock warrants in May 2022 and revised the policy to allow MPD officers the right to execute a no-knock entry if deemed necessary.
Four Counts in the Complaint:
Count I – 42 U.S.C. §1983 – Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Violations against Defendant Hanneman
Hanneman acted under color of state law, as an agent of Minneapolis, wearing his official uniform and acting in the course and scope of his duties as a Minneapolis police officer at the time he shot and killed Mr. Locke.
Hanneman’s conduct was objectively unreasonable. The excessive use of unjustified, excessive, illegal, and deadly force caused Mr. Locke to experience pain, suffering, and death.
Hanneman deprived Mr. Locke of his rights in such a manner as to render him liable for punitive damages as a matter of federal common law.
Count II - 42 U.S.C. §1983 – Monell Liability against the City of Minneapolis
Minneapolis, with deliberate indifference to the rights of its citizens, tolerated, permitted, failed to correct, promoted, or ratified a number of customs, patterns, or practices that failed to provide for the safety of its citizens, including but not limited to engaging in racist policing and excessive force, such as the application for, execution of, and use of excessive or deadly force during no-knock warrants.
Minneapolis, with deliberate indifference to the rights of its citizens, tolerated, permitted, failed to correct, promoted, or ratified a number of customs, patterns, or practices that failed to provide for the safety of its citizens, including but not limited to executing no-knock warrants without regard for the rights of innocent third parties.
Minneapolis, with deliberate indifference to the rights of its citizens, tolerated, permitted, failed to correct, promoted, or ratified a number of customs, patterns, or practices that failed to provide for the safety of its citizens, including but not limited to failing to discipline officers who engage in unconstitutional or other misconduct.
Mr. Locke died as a direct and proximate result of the acts and omissions by Minneapolis.
Count III - 42 U.S.C. §1983 – Canton Liability against the City of Minneapolis
The City knew that training was necessary within the MPD in numerous areas to avoid its officers violating citizens’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, but with deliberate indifference failed to train its officers on not engaging in racist policing and excessive force, including but not limited to the application for, execution of, and use of excessive or deadly force.
Minneapolis was aware that deprivation of the Constitutional rights of citizens was likely to result from its lack of training and was deliberately indifferent and exhibited reckless disregard in failing to train its officers on high-risk warrant policies and procedures that are intended to avoid violating constitutional rights.
Minneapolis was aware of a need for more and different training, but with deliberate indifference failed to train its officers to understand the rights of innocent third parties during the execution of no-knock warrants.
Minneapolis’ deliberately indifferent failure to train, supervise, and discipline its officers was the moving force behind Mr. Locke’s death.
Count IV – Minn. Stat. §57302 State Law Wrongful Death against the City of Minneapolis and Mark Hanneman
Minneapolis officers, including but not limited to Hanneman, engaged in wrongful acts and omissions, including but not limited to constitutional violations, negligence, battery, and full and equal enjoyment of public services, directly and proximately caused Mr. Locke’s death.
Minneapolis is vicariously liable for all damages caused by its employees, and Hanneman acted with deliberate disregard for Mr. Locke’s rights so as to also render him individually liable for punitive damages.
About Ben Crump Law
Nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump and his national network of specialized attorneys have spearheaded a legal movement to better protect the rights of marginalized citizens. He has led landscape-changing civil rights cases and represented clients in a wide range of areas including civil rights, personal injury, labor and employment, class actions, and more. Ben Crump Law is dedicated to holding the powerful accountable. For more, visit BenCrump.com or call (800) 935-8111.
About Romanucci & Blandin, LLC
Romanucci & Blandin is a Chicago-based national trial practice committed to fighting for victims of negligence, abuse and wrongful death. For 25 years, we have secured more than $850 million in verdicts and settlements for our clients - many for millions of dollars and others record-setting awards. Our experience ranges from mass shootings, civil rights and police misconduct to medical malpractice, sexual abuse, motor vehicle accidents or workplace injury cases involving individual or institutional negligence. Romanucci & Blandin is a valuable legal resource to individuals and groups of people who have been injured by others’ wrongdoing. Referring attorneys and clients say several factors differentiate our firm: Our record of success, depth of experience, talented and dedicated legal team, tireless preparation and strategic use of communications to fight for the rights of those whose lives have been changed forever. We are different from other personal injury firms in that our work does not stop when a verdict or settlement is secured. We are often inspired by our clients’ experiences and commit resources to create change in our communities. For more information about Romanucci & Blandin, please visit www.rblaw.net or call (312) 458-1000.
About Newmark Storms Dworak LLC
Newmark Storms Dworak LLC is one of Minnesota’s premier boutique law firms. The Minneapolis firm regularly handles high-profile civil rights, medical malpractice, and sexual abuse claims. For more information, visit www.newmarkstorms.com.