Not long after the City of Minneapolis released the graphic body-worn camera video of the police fatally shooting 22-year-old Amir Locke on Wednesday, Mayor Jacob Frey and interim MPD Chief Amelia Huffman came under scrutiny at a tense press conference Thursday night.
Huffman confirmed that Locke was not named in the search warrant executed by a Minneapolis SWAT team at a downtown apartment building at 6:48 a.m. Wednesday, prompting reporters to ask numerous times why Locke was referred to as a "suspect" in MPD's original press release announcing Locke's death.
Frey and Huffman, who did not refer to Locke as a suspect during her press conference on Wednesday, didn't have concrete answers about the inaccurate press release.
"I don't know," Frey said, giving way to Huffman, who said: "Yesterday at the time that we were putting out the press release, we didn't have as much information as we do now, of course. It remains unclear if or how Mr. Locke is connected to St. Paul's investigation and more information will be coming as St. Paul digs further into the case."
Locke was covered in a blanket and appeared to be sleeping on the couch of a seventh-floor apartment at the Bolero Flats building when MPD SWAT served a no-knock search warrant as part of a St. Paul police homicide investigation.
Approximately nine seconds after SWAT enters the apartment, shouting "police search warrant" multiple times, a 7-year veteran of MPD, Officer Mark Hanneman, fatally shot Locke as he began to rise from underneath a blanket.
Locke was holding a handgun, though the video and still shot provided by MPD does not appear to show his finger on the trigger, and appears to show the gun pointing downward.
Huffman attempted to verbalize what the video shows.
"As they proceeded toward the back of the apartment, as you saw in the video, they approached the couch, and you can see that there's a form under a blanket or a comforter that begins to rise up. The officers were approaching, they were giving commands to 'show your hands, show your hands,' and as they got close, you can see along with an individual emerging from under a blanket, the barrel of a gun, which comes out from the blanket and becomes more fully exposed as you move frame-by-frame through the video," she said.
"That's the moment when the officer had to make a split-second decision, to assess the circumstances and to determine whether he felt like there was an articulable threat, that the threat was of imminent harm – great bodily harm or death – and that he needed to take action right then to protect himself and his partners. Ultimately, that decision, whether that threshold was met will be examined by the county attorney's office that reviews this case."
In the video, SWAT opens the door with a key and enters, announcing their presence after entering the unit. Huffman said Wednesday, and reiterated Thursday, that the officers made their presence known before entering the room.
Pressed by a reporter who said "that's not true," Huffman said, "I definitely encourage everyone to view the video and make that assessment themselves."
Tension also boiled during the press conference after Huffman, echoing the original MPD press release, said Locke was pointing the gun in the direction of an officer.
"Can you point to specifically in the video where he points the gun at officers," a reporter questions Huffman.
"If you look at that still image, even though you don't see all the officers, the involved officer was just outside the frame in the direction that that barrel is emerging from the blanket," Huffman said.
She added: "We all know these events happen very rapidly, and as there's a gun emerging in your direction, you're forced to make a split-second decision about when it's a threat."
But it was when Frey and Huffman were asked numerous times about Locke being referred to as an "adult male suspect" that they abruptly decided to end the press conference, walking out of the room.
St. Paul PD's investigation is ongoing and Huffman says "if or how" Locke is connected to the investigation will be released when the information is available.