Protection or Poison

Another young, Black life is extinguished by police executing a no-knock warrant while looking for a suspect. Last week 22-year-old Amir Locke sleeps on a friend’s sofa, wrapped in a white blanket just before 7 A.M. when shouts, noise, and confusion wake him. Startled out of a deep sleep and likely only half awake, and probably fearful for his safety, he reaches on the table for his pistol which he is licensed to carry. It’s the last movement he will ever make because a White, Minneapolis policeman, Mark Hanneman, shoots him twice in the chest and once in the wrist. The police say that Locke’s gun was pointed at the police, but the released video that I have watched many times shows the gun still pointed toward the table from which young Locke was retrieving it. But his name was not even on the arrest warrant that was being executed, and he was only visiting the apartment the week before he was to move to Texas where his mother lives. Another needless death. Another suffering family. Another no-knock warrant gone horribly wrong.

It would seem that, after the tragic death of Breonna Taylor, no-knock warrants would be discontinued as too dangerous, and her death is a tragedy in which only Taylor’s boyfriend showed good gun control. Yes, the police want to have the upper hand in apprehending a dangerous suspect. But we know, and did know, that mistakes can and are made in such frantic raids. But police still ask for and judges still sign for no-knock warrants. On the screen they look exciting and effective, but that is make-believe. Real life is when a Taylor or Locke, innocents caught in the mess, die.

Amir Locke, according to his family, was a licensed and careful gun owner. He studied before he purchased his pistol and made certain he purchased and carried it legally. After all, he was Black in the city of George Floyd’s death by police. However, even if he was not a  licensed carrier, he had his pistol in the apartment in which he slept. Therefore he was acted legally in every way. Asleep, he is startled awake, and moves to protect himself. He did nothing wrong. He did everything right.

Why Amir Locke felt the need to be a licensed carrier has not, as far as I have read, been stated and that is his business and right as many Americans believe. Did he have a particular experience or witness one that convinced him to obtain a pistol and permit for it? Did he feel safer because he carried the pistol as a private citizen? Perhaps, but I ask: What would have been the outcome of that senseless raid if Locke had not gone to sleep on the sofa just after placing his pistol on a table within reach?

Too many Black people, especially young males, have been shot by police because the shooter felt threatened. We can see by the bodycam that Hanneman reacted not to a threat, but a  black man with a pistol. The acting police chief explained that, in such a situation, the police have to make quick decisions. Well, so did young Locke who was snapped out of his sleep by invaders into his sleeping space. What is good for one person in this situation is good for another.

Another gun legally carried by an America who is, as many believe, exercising his right. Another gun on an American street carried for whatever reason, but most likely as protection. Another gun in the hand of a cautious, concerned, and loving  young man. Another gun loved by America.

But what if young Amir Locke had just wrapped himself up in those blankets on the friend’s sofa and gone to a deep, relaxing sleep and when shouts and confusion woke him, dreamingly uncovered his head to see what was happening, would Hanneman have shot him twice in the chest? Would one more White policeman seen a Black hand gripping a pistol and shoot?

Amir Locke suffered an unjust and wrongful death by police executing a needless warrant. Both the policeman and his department must be held responsible for killing a citizen instead of protecting him. And all no-knock warrants, nationwide, need to be abolished.

But did Amir Locke’s pistol act as the protector or give the executioner an excuse to fire two bullets into his still sleepy chest?

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