The Rev. Al Sharpton told the hundreds gathered Thursday for the funeral for Amir Locke that the 22-year-old Black man who was shot by Minneapolis police as they served a no-knock search warrant was not at fault when he was killed.
“Amir was not guilty of anything but being young and Black in America,” Sharpton said.
Other speakers at Locke’s funeral at Shiloh Temple International Ministries condemned police for the events that led to Locke’s killing, as they remembered Locke and other Black people who have died in encounters with police.
Sharpton said if Minneapolis had passed a ban on no-knock warrants “we wouldn’t be at a funeral this morning.”
Locke’s aunt, Linda Tyler, denounced racism in policing and demanded that officers stop talking about the need for more training, and instead start using de-escalation techniques on white and Black people alike.
“If it is something you simply cannot do, we just ask that you resign today instead of resigning another brother or sister to her grave,” she said. She also said she doesn’t want to hear about how policing is a difficult job.
“If you think being a police officer is a difficult profession, try to be a Black man,” she said, as the crowd erupted in cheers.
As the service was getting underway, those gathered were prompted to “Say his name” and they responded with “Amir Locke.” A large portrait of Locke was displayed at the front of the church, with a white casket topped with roses and bouquets of flowers nearby. Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter were among those in attendance.
Locke’s death has provoked an outcry against no-knock warrants, with a push by his family and others to ban them in Minnesota and beyond.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who has come under scrutiny for the city’s use of such warrants, and Minneapolis Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman did not attend. Shiloh Temple Bishop Richard Howell Jr. told the Star Tribune that Frey would not attend without an invitation from the family.
As the service began, hundreds of people sang the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before Howell led the church in a prayer. Members of the Grammy Award-winning group Sounds of Blackness also performed.
The service was held in the same church where Daunte Wright was remembered after he was killed by a suburban Minneapolis police officer in April. Sharpton, while presiding over Wright’s funeral, decried “the stench of police brutality.”
Locke was shot by a SWAT team member shortly before 7 a.m. on Feb. 2 as officers served a search warrant in a St. Paul homicide case. Body camera video shows at least four officers using a key to quietly enter the downtown apartment where he was staying, then shouting their presence. The video shows Locke, wrapped in a comforter, stirring and holding a handgun right before an officer shot him.
Locke wasn’t named in the warrant and did not live at the apartment. Family members called his killing an “execution,” noting the video shows an officer kicking the sofa, and suggested Locke was startled awake and disoriented. They have also pushed back against police saying Locke was shot after he pointed his gun at officers.
Frey has imposed a moratorium on such warrants while the city reexamines its policy. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating Locke’s shooting.