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Report: Despite ban on no-knock warrants, police used one in search of puppy

One officer fired rounds through a door seconds into the raid while another broke the home’s windows — all for a pit bull pup.

No-knock raids have been outlawed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, except in the most serious of cases. However, one was executed against a Black couple accused of stealing a pit bull puppy. 

According to MPR News, Mayor Jacob Frey announced a moratorium on no-knock warrants in the city after the Feb. 2 police killing of 21-year-old Amir Locke, a registered gun owner who was fatally shot by police officers when they breached his home to execute a search warrant. As previously reported, Locke was not listed in the warrant, nor was he the subject of the investigation. 

A no-knock warrant was executed last year against a Black Minneapolis couple accused of stealing a pit bull puppy, reportedly after such raids were banned by the city’s mayor. (Photo: AdobeStock)

But KARE 11, a local news station, notes that Frey “and then-Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced that Minneapolis was changing its policy to put strict limits on the use of no-knock warrants” four months prior to a raid at the home of Princess Fort, which took place as the nation was gripped by fallout over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police.

When KARE 11 investigated the incident, they found that a heavily armed SWAT team yelled “Police—search warrant” at the front door of Fort and her now-former boyfriend, Marvin Johnson, in the early morning hours of March 17, 2021, before knocking the door in with a battering ram. One officer reportedly fired shotgun rounds through the door a mere six seconds into the raid while another officer broke their windows from outside.

Inside, the officers encountered Fort and Johnson, who were barely clothed, and handcuffed them, making them sit on a couch with only blankets to cover their bodies. The two repeatedly asked what was going on and requested permission to put on underwear. 

“This is crazy,” sobs Fort, who begs the officers, according to the report — which reviewed the bodycam footage — to stop the destruction of things in her home. “Please, please don’t break nothing else. Please, just don’t break nothing else.”

“I would have to say that we’ve been very cordial,” a SWAT officer tells them. “There’s a search warrant going on, ok?”

“To get us here, something big is going on,” he explains. “Where is the baby pit bull?” another officer asks.

Authorities say a couple who breeds pit bulls claimed Johnson met with them after finding them on Facebook, and that as they showed him a puppy for sale for $2,000; he allegedly took the dog and ran off. As Johnson ran, the two say, a gun fell out of his pants, and he picked it up and pointed it at them.

The puppy and handgun were recovered from the home. However, the investigation questions the need for such an invasive raid. Fort, who was reportedly given the puppy by Johnson as a gift, and her four-year-old son were evicted and left homeless as a result of the incident. 

According to the report, Johnson was eventually charged with aggravated robbery and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.

In connection to the raid involving the puppy, Frey told KARE 11, “Even if the officers announced their presence prior to entry, in accordance with the Nov. 2020 policy, this kind of conduct underscores why we are revising the no-knock warrant policy, with a full moratorium in place in the meantime.”

“I understand and share concerns many in the community have about the warrant process,” Alberder Gillespie, the interim director of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department, said in a statement. “Our Civil Rights Office of Police Conduct Review staff are actively working on a special review of no-knock and high-risk warrants. As a part of this review, we have been working in collaboration with national experts to ensure any potential changes to our current policies are data-driven and will ultimately lead to the best outcomes for community.”

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