Moments before expressing solidarity with the family of Amir Locke — the 22-year-old Black man fatally shot during a no-knock search warrant operation last week — the families of other Black men killed by police huddled in prayer, clutching photos of their own lost loved ones.
Then one by one, they stepped forward from their support group, Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, and demanded justice for Locke's killing. Through fatigue and tears, they drew connections between their own grief and that of Locke's family.
"They've killed so many of our children, we have lost count and we can't remember the names," said Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by a St. Anthony police officer during a 2016 traffic stop. "Our children's lives mattered. Don't think for one second that I didn't love my son. … You love your children, and so did we."
The mothers joined thousands who have spoken out, marched and protested since the Feb. 2 death of Locke, who was not the target of the investigation. He was sleeping in the downtown apartment of relatives when a Minneapolis police SWAT team burst in shortly before 7 a.m. The case has revived intense debate about the use of no-knock search warrants, which critics say unnecessarily escalate police encounters.
Video from an officer's body camera showed police quietly unlocking the apartment door with a key before rushing inside, yelling "Search warrant!" as Locke lay under a blanket on the couch. An officer kicked the couch, Locke stirred, holding a firearm in his right hand. He was shot by officer Mark Hanneman, the fatal moment happening within seconds.
On Tuesday, Mekhi Speed, 17, of Minneapolis, was charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 10 death of Otis Elder in St. Paul — the underlying case behind the no-knock warrant. Police were looking for Speed, who is Locke's cousin, on the morning Locke was shot. St. Paul police initially applied for a standard search warrant for the apartment, but they resubmitted the request after Minneapolis police insisted on a no-knock operation, according to sources.
George Floyd's girlfriend Courteney Ross pointed to the fact that two men were killed by police during the trials related to Floyd's killing: first Daunte Wright during the murder trial of Derek Chauvin and now Amir Locke during the federal civil rights trial of J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
"When are the police departments of Minnesota going to learn?" she asked. "Like our families keep saying, we can't take much more. The pain and trauma that Amir's family is experiencing right now is also being felt by all of our families."
Katie Bryant, whose son Wright was killed last April by Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter, echoed the group's call for police officers to be held accountable: "We have to make sure that the person that is supposed to protect and serve our family protects and serves instead of shoot and kills."
Later Wednesday afternoon, about 75 North Community High School students left class to meet at Minneapolis City Hall, where they also called for justice for Locke and shared their own stories of being Black in Minneapolis.
The demonstration came a day after hundreds of students walked out of class to join a rally and march in St. Paul, organized by the student group MN Teen Activists.
After sitting in silence for 10 minutes, dozens of students spoke, repeating the question written on many of their signs: "When will enough be enough?"
North High Principal Mauri Friestleben sat with the students, wiping away tears during the minutes of silence.
Khadija Ba, a senior at North, said she's tired of protesting after Black men are killed by police in Minnesota. "I don't want to have to keep doing this over and over again," she said. "But until there's change, we'll keep doing it."
Later Wednesday, DeRay Mckesson and Katie Ryan of Campaign Zero, a nonprofit dedicated to ending police violence, laid out their plan in a virtual news conference to change the department's no-knock warrant policy.
Mckesson said police don't need no-knock warrants to conduct no-knock raids. "No-knock" warrants and "knock and announce" warrants can both "be functionally used to raid people's homes," he said.
"Part of our work is to restrict the executions of all search warrants in ways that they do not turn into no-knock raids," he said.
McKesson, who said the work began after the killing of Breonna Taylor in 2020 by Louisville police following a raid, said Campaign Zero members have since worked with six states to reduce the use of no-knock warrants. Using their own 15-point scale, they've determined that Maryland has the most progressive set of laws with a 9.5. As it stands, Minneapolis' current policy is at a 5.5.
Ryan said recommendations include narrowing the 10-day window during which a search warrant can be executed. Recommendations for execution include requiring officers to be readily identifiable as police, ending nighttime raids with slim exceptions, and 30-second wait times before entering.
"This is particularly relevant in the case of Mr. Locke," she said. "We know that if someone in the household had had an opportunity to go to the door, and that includes a short window, 30 seconds again being the floor, that his life would have been preserved."
On Wednesday, Mayor Jacob Frey said the city's no-knock moratorium instituted after Locke's killing will remain in place until a permanent policy is enacted.
The move comes after the November 2020 announcement by Frey and then-Police Chief Medaria Arradondo that they would restrict the use of no-knock warrants, and that police would have to identify themselves as "police" executing a search warrant before entering any home, regardless of whether a judge gave them permission to enter unannounced.
In the past month, the Minneapolis Police Department obtained more than a dozen no-knock warrants — more than the number of standard warrants issued — according to a Star Tribune review of court records.