Activist disrupts press conference for ‘anatomy of a coverup’ in Amir Locke’s death

"I just felt this was a coverup in the ways that this was being articulated," Nekima Levy Armstrong told theGrio.

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Civil rights attorney and activist Nekima Levy Armstrong had already grown tired of “business as usual” last week when she and the rest of the world saw police bodycam footage of Amir Locke‘s shooting death for the first time.

“I just became outraged and deeply upset,” Levy Armstrong, 45, told theGrio on Monday. “I just felt this was a coverup in the way [it] was being articulated.”

Minneapolis activist Nekima Levy Armstrong shows an armed guard she’s not carrying any weapons before interrupting a press conference on Feb. 3, 2022 at city hall in Minneapolis. (Credit: @AbolishNz on Twitter)

The Racial Justice Network founder and married mother of four children was among a group of local activists who hosted a Minneapolis City Hall press conference early Thursday evening after Locke’s shooting death the day before.

While she was there, Levy Armstrong received word that Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and interim city Police Chief Amelia Huffman would be hosting a Locke investigation press conference of their own later the same night, so she and some of her colleagues decided to stay and attend.

It was at that press conference that Frey and Huffman first released the bodycam footage showing Locke being fatally shot by police who were executing a no-knock warrant.

In this image taken from Minneapolis Police Department body camera video and released by the city of Minneapolis, 22-year-old Amir Locke wrapped in a blanket on a couch holding a gun moments before he was fatally shot by Minneapolis police as they were executing a search warrant in a homicide investigation on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Minneapolis. (Credit: Minneapolis Police Department)

The now-infamous video showed Locke laying on a couch under a blanket holding a gun he was licensed to carry in his cousin’s home at 6:48 a.m. when officers burst into the room and aimed their guns at him.

It appeared that the officers woke the 22-year-old before the dramatic scene unfolded.

“If you look at that still image, even though you don’t see all of the officers, the involved officer was just outside the frame in the direction that that barrel is emerging from the blanket,” Huffman told reporters after the body cam video was played.

“Of course, 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,” she added.

Those remarks infuriated Levy Armstrong, a local leader who city leaders asked to co-chair a working group on community safety earlier this year.

She has lived in the Twin Cities region for years and witnessed first-hand investigations into the police killings of Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, Winston Smith, Daunte Wright, Thurman Blevins, Travis Jordan, and George Floyd.

“This is what I would call the anatomy of a cover-up,” she told reporters after interrupting the police chief and stepping in front of her lectern. “This is unacceptable. I’m sorry. It is. When I agreed to work with you on the workgroup, we talked about the importance of transparency and accountability. And here what we are seeing is business as usual.”

Levy Armstrong publicly voiced her frustration with Huffman and Mayor Frey who was re-elected in November even though the police murder of Floyd and the civil unrest that followed happened under his leadership.

She shared the empathy she felt as the mother of Black children with Locke’s grieving family.

“As a mom, that could have been my son,” Levy Armstrong told theGrio. “How dare they. And then try to manipulate the public because he had a gun. So no. That’s not acceptable.”

Levy Armstrong said she and her allies have staged local demonstrations in support of Locke every day since the bodycam video was released. On Sunday, she and other local activists protested outside the interim police chief’s home and called on her to resign.

A memorial was set up in front of the interim police chief’s home for Locke, according to Levy Armstrong.

On Monday, Levy Armstrong hosted an early afternoon press conference with a coalition of Black women and mothers standing for justice for Locke, including the late young man’s family.

“We have to have higher standards of accountability for law enforcement. Period,” she said.

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