By AMY FORLITI Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Authorities arrested Amir Locke’s 17-year-old cousin in connection with the homicide investigation that led police to the Minneapolis apartment where a SWAT team officer fatally shot Locke while conducting a search warrant, police said Tuesday.
Mehki Camden Speed was charged Tuesday with two counts of second-degree murder in the Jan. 10 killing of Otis Elder and was expected to make his initial court appearance in juvenile court. Prosecutors have filed a motion to have Speed tried as an adult, which would be up to a judge. Under Minnesota law, it’s presumed a child will face trial as an adult if they are 16 or older and the alleged crime would result in a prison sentence or was a felony involving a firearm.
It was not immediately clear if Speed had an attorney. His mother did not immediately reply to a message sent over social media, and a message left at a phone number believed to be hers was not returned.
Locke’s death has sparked protests, with hundreds of people turning out for a rally Saturday in downtown Minneapolis and students in area high schools planning a walkout Tuesday, and an immediate reexamination of no-knock arrest warrants. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey last week announced a moratorium on such warrants while the city brings in outside experts to study its policy. Some state lawmakers are pushing for a statewide ban except in rare circumstances.
St. Paul police had obtained search warrants as part of their investigation into Elder’s death, including a warrant for the downtown Minneapolis apartment where Locke’s family said he had been staying. Minneapolis Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman has said her department had both warrants that would have required authorities to knock and not knock. Huffman has said that Locke was not named in the search warrants.
A Minneapolis SWAT team entered the unit without knocking on Feb. 2. Body camera video shows an officer using a key to unlock the door and enter, followed by at least four officers in uniform and protective vests, time-stamped at about 6:48 a.m. As they enter, they repeatedly shout, “Police, search warrant!” They also shout “Hands!” and “Get on the ground!” The video shows an officer kick a sectional sofa, and Locke is seen wrapped in a comforter, holding a pistol. Three shots are heard, and the video ends.
The city also released a still image from the video showing Locke holding the gun, his trigger finger along the side of the barrel.
Minneapolis police have said that Locke was shot after he pointed his gun in the direction of officers, but Locke’s family has questioned that.
The Locke family’s attorney, Ben Crump, did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the charges against Locke’s cousin.
A charging document filed Tuesday against Speed says police used surveillance videos to connect him to Elder’s shooting after a witness told police that a silver Mercedes-Benz had fled the scene. The document said video showed the Mercedes parked near Elder’s vehicle, with two males getting out and approaching — one entering the passenger side and the other standing outside the driver’s door.
“This male stepped back and a loud gunshot was heard,” the document says.
Surveillance video allowed police to track the Mercedes, which had been stolen, to the Bolero Flats apartment building, where three males — including two who were believed to be at the scene of Elder’s shooting — were seen getting out. Speed was identified as being on the video.
Witnesses said he lived with his mother in Apartment 1402, and also has a key to 701 — where his brother lives and where Locke was shot by police, according to the document. Another person who was identified on the surveillance video was associated with apartment 1403, prosecutors said.
Additional surveillance video shows four males, including Speed, leaving the Mercedes at a nearby downtown parking ramp early on Jan. 11 — just hours after Elder was killed, the charging document says. The Mercedes was not found until 10 days later.
Police had search warrants for apartment 701, 1402 and 1403, the charging petition said. They also had “probable cause pick up and holds” to arrest Speed and two others for murder and for aiding an offender afterward.
When authorities arrested Speed on Monday, he attempted to run away, but was stopped when an officer grabbed his jacket. According to the charging document, he had a loaded gun in his jacket and has refused to talk to investigators.
St. Paul police said the warrants that led to the search of the downtown Minneapolis apartment will likely be unsealed after charges are filed.
An incident detail report from the Minneapolis Police Department shows officers considered this a “high risk warrant entry,” but it doesn’t detail why. Speed’s brother, Marlon Cornelius Speed, lives in apartment 701 and was there on the night Locke was killed, the charging document says.
Marlon Speed pleaded guilty in 2019 to one misdemeanor count of obstructing the legal process and interfering with an officer in connection with a 2018 traffic stop in which he allegedly threatened to spit on and beat up an officer. The officer’s hand was injured in a struggle. Last November, Marlon Speed was charged with domestic assault by strangulation for an incident in which he allegedly choked his sister after she tried to intervene when he hit his girlfriend with a belt. That case against Marlon Speed is pending.
The Associated Press could not find a contact number for Marlon Speed, and it was not clear if he has an attorney representing him in connection with the SWAT search.
Elder, a 38-year-old father of two, was found shot and laying in the street on Jan. 10. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported at the time that paramedics gave him medical aid and took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. A motive for his killing was not immediately known.