A teenager has admitted to being an accomplice in a shooting death in St. Paul that put in motion a predawn raid in a downtown Minneapolis apartment that ended with Amir Locke's killing by police.
Feysal J. Ali, 18, of Minneapolis pleaded guilty Monday in Ramsey County District Court to being an accomplice after the fact to second-degree murder in connection with the death of Otis R. Elder, 38, on Jan. 10, 2022, as Elder sat in his vehicle.
Sentencing for Ali is scheduled for March 27. He remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.
Elder was shot in the back during a suspected drug transaction outside a music recording studio in the 500 block of N. Prior Avenue. He died about 30 minutes later at Regions Hospital.
The shooter, Mekhi C. Speed, now 19, was sentenced in July 2022 to a term of more than 16 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. Speed is expected to serve roughly 10½ years in prison and the balance on supervised release.
Speed was 17 when Elder was killed, and Ali was 16. Both were prosecuted in adult court.
At the time of the shooting, Speed was living in a unit of the Bolero Flats Apartment Homes at 1117 S. Marquette Av. and also had access to a different unit where police barged in on Feb. 2, 2022, and shot the 22-year-old Locke, who was sleeping on the couch and emerged from under a blanket with a gun in his hand. Speed and Locke are cousins.
Investigators alleged that Ali's cellphone was at the scene of Elder's shooting and near the apartment building where Locke was shot, according to the charges. The charges also said police found Ali's fingerprints on a stolen vehicle that he and Speed used to flee to downtown Minneapolis after the shooting.
Also, his DNA was recovered from a jacket that investigators say was being worn by someone sitting next to Elder when he was shot, the charges added. The DNA matched a sample on file in a convicted offender database, the charges continued.
According to Ramsey County prosecutors:
On the night of Jan. 10, officers answered a 911 call and found Elder in the street wounded in the back. A person speaking with Elder on the phone just before he was shot told police that "it sounded like Elder was conducting a drug transaction [and] the phone call then abruptly ended," according to the charges.
As their investigation progressed, St. Paul police filed applications for search warrant affidavits for three Bolero Flats apartments.
Locke, who was not a target of the investigation, was sleeping in the apartment of relatives when a Minneapolis police SWAT team burst in shortly before 7 a.m. on Feb. 2.
Video from an officer's body camera showed police rushing inside and 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, within seconds of police entering.
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated Locke's death. The county attorney at the time, Mike Freeman, and Attorney General Keith Ellison concluded there was not enough evidence to charge Hanneman or the officers involved with a crime stemming from Locke's death.