Hundreds of people gathered to mourn Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man who was shot dead by police during a raid on his apartment, the latest in a series of killings by law enforcement that sparked outrage over police treatment of Black Americans.
Prominent civil rights activist the Reverend Al Sharpton delivered Locke’s eulogy on Thursday, after a public viewing at a church in Minneapolis, a metropolitan area where two high-profile killings of Black men attracted national attention in the past two years.
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“Amir was not guilty of anything other than being young and Black in America,” Sharpton said. He said if Minneapolis had banned no-knock warrants “we wouldn’t be at a funeral this morning”.
“Officers do not need more training, they need to be relieved of their duty,” Linda Kay Taylor, Locke’s aunt said.
“You cannot train away racism,” Taylor said. “You cannot train somebody to be empathetic about Black and brown lives.”
“It’s either in you or it’s not,” she said.
A large portrait of Locke was at the front of the church as people streamed inside to pay their respects. Locke’s body was in a white coffin topped with roses and multiple bouquets of flowers nearby.
At Shiloh Temple Ministries preparing to eulogize #AmirLocke. This is the same church where we laid Daunte Wright to rest, another young black man killed unjustly by police in Minneapolis. This has to stop, the laws must be changed and the officers must be held accountable. pic.twitter.com/CLWb9aHZWN
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) February 17, 2022
Locke’s death has been compared with the killing of George Floyd, who died when a Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground in May 2020. Floyd’s death, captured on a video that went viral, sparked a summer of protests over racial injustice across the United States and abroad.
The circumstances around Locke’s fatal encounter with police also mirrors that of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman fatally shot by police during a raid on her Kentucky apartment.
In Locke’s case, he was shot dead by police who obtained a no-knock warrant to search the apartment as part of a homicide investigation. He was not named in the warrant.
Days after his death on February 2, police released video footage of the raid. It showed Locke holding a gun as he twisted beneath a blanket on a sofa after being roused by officers. Police say he pointed the gun at officers before they opened fire. Locke’s family disputes that.
Protests in downtown Minneapolis have drawn hundreds of demonstrators demanding justice and a ban on no-knock warrants.
Activists at the protests said Locke had a right to possess a weapon in his home and was never given the chance to disarm himself in the chaotic moments as police stormed into his apartment without warning.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has placed a moratorium on such searches and some state lawmakers are seeking to enact legislation to limit them.