One of the four men convicted in the 1992 execution of Minneapolis police officer Jerry Haaf was denied parole this week.
A spokesperson confirmed that Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell denied Amwati Pepi Mckenzie’s parole following a closed-door hearing Tuesday. Mckenzie will receive another review in 30 months.
Haaf was 53 years old on Sept. 25, 1992, when two Vice Lords gang members shot him from behind while he took his break at the Pizza Shack on Lake Street. Haaf radioed for help as he bled out on the restaurant floor. He was pronounced dead at 3:40 a.m., two hours after the ambush.
The shooting was “a result of growing tension between police and the street gang the Vice Lords,” the Minneapolis Police Department said in a 2021 tribute to Haaf.
Mckenzie and Shannon Bowles were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the murder.
“They’re both the shooters,” said Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose, who tells the full story of Haaf’s execution on his Officer Down Memorial Podcast.
Two others were convicted for helping plan the execution and driving the getaway cars.
Rose, a friend of the Haaf family, said they’re disappointed that Mckenzie is being kept at the Lino Lakes prison instead of Oak Park Heights, the only maximum-security prison in the state. They believe this signals Mckenzie is in a “transitional” phase and will likely be granted release when his case is up for review again.
Schnell said Mckenzie has taken “important steps in the direction of bettering himself” after the parole hearing.
“I’ve worked with other families on parole hearings, but this one is extremely frustrating because it’s because of this case that we changed the law,” Rose said.
Under a law passed in 2015, first-degree murder of a police officer comes with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The law doesn’t apply to Mckenzie since he was convicted in 1993.
“The biggest issue for the family, certainly with Pepi, is he’s never admitted to his actions. He’s never apologized to the family. He’s never done anything to make it right,” Rose said.
Haaf’s daughter, Cindy Benson, echoed these comments in an interview with Alpha News in September.
“[Mckenzie’s] never apologized to us or the community,” she said. “He’s always said he turned himself in because he was not involved … Now they dangle parole and he says, ‘Well, oh yeah, something bad happened. I’m trying to make up for it.’ Which is it?”
Bowles will reportedly have a parole hearing in January.
“They were sentenced to life without their father,” Rose said. “They believe [Haaf’s killers] should get no less of a sentence. We tend to forget about the survivor families.”