Another death due to no-knock warrants

Another death due to no-knock warrants

Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by Minneapolis police in an early morning raid at an apartment building as police executed a no-knock search warrant. Locke was lying on a couch under a blanket, until an officer kicked the couch. Locke began to move, with a pistol in his hand just before an officer fired his weapon. His parents say Locke was startled from a deep sleep and reached for a legal firearm to protect himself. Similarly, former Congressman Justin Amash says that “Amir Locke was shot in bed by police for the crime of being startled and confused when people suddenly charged into his room. Police created the deadly situation.”

This is not the first death due to a startled person being killed during the execution of a no-knock warrant. When police burst into a home without first knocking and presenting a warrant, residents often think a violent intruder is breaking into their home. As a result, they may get their gun or resist, resulting in them being shot and killed by the police. Critics of no-knock warrants say that on average, there are about 8 to 10 cases per year where a completely innocent person is killed in such raids.

Right now, judges routinely rubberstamp police requests for no-knock warrants in states where no-knock warrants are legal, without really scrutinizing whether they have a lawful basis.

Such a warrant was obtained by the cops who shot Louisville resident Breonna Taylor to death in her home in 2020. Legal commentators have said the warrant used to break into her home was illegal.

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Police who entered Taylor’s home were reportedly investigating two men they believed to be selling drugs out of a house far from her house, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. They used a battering ram to break down her door and shot Taylor at least eight times after her boyfriend fired his gun at an officer in self-defense. No drugs were found in Taylor’s home.

The Supreme Court has said that no-knock warrants are constitutional in a minority of cases, but not most. As it explained in Richards v. Wisconsin (1987):

In order to justify a “no-knock” entry, the police must have a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence, under the particular circumstances, would be dangerous or futile, or that it would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime by, for example, allowing the destruction of evidence.

In practice, however, judges often just rubberstamp requests for no-knock warrants, flouting the Fourth Amendment.

Banning no-knock warrants would not place an undue burden on the police. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes, “No-knock warrants are illegal in Oregon and Florida” — and have been for years — “yet law enforcement has had no issues performing necessary operations in either state.”

In the last couple years, judges have been banned from issuing no-knock warrants in additional states, by state legislatures or state supreme courts. But no-knock warrants continue to be issued in other states.

Proposed legislation, such as U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s “Justice for Breonna Taylor Act,” would prohibit federal law enforcement and local police that receive federal funding from entering homes without warning through a “no-knock” warrant.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for CNSNews.com and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at [email protected]

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