Louisville police officers not charged in the killing of Breonna Taylor
Brett Hankison is charged with 3 counts of wanton endangerment in connection with the police raid on Breonna Taylor’s home in which she was killed.
A Kentucky grand jury on Wednesday brought no charges against Louisville police in the killing of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid gone wrong, with prosecutors saying two officers who fired their weapons at the Black woman were justified in using force to protect themselves.
The only charges brought by the grand jury were three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into a home next to Taylor’s that had people in it. The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in connection with the raid at Taylor’s home on the night of March 13.
Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Taylor’s family, denounced the decision as “outrageous and offensive,” and protesters shouting, “No justice, no peace!” began marching through the streets.
Hours after the charges, police said two officers were shot amid the protests. Police say a suspect is in custody.
Police Chief Robert Schroeder said one officer is alert and stable and the other officer is in surgery and stable. He said the officers had gone to an area in the city to investigate reports of shots fired when they were hit by gunfire.
Scuffles have broken out between police and protesters, and some were arrested. Officers in riot gear fired incendiary devices, and a few small fires burned in a square that’s been at the center of protests, but it had largely cleared out ahead of a nighttime curfew and demonstrators marched through other parts of downtown. Dozens of police cars blocked the city’s major thoroughfare.
Demonstrators also rallied in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
Protesters took to the streets in Louisville, Ky., and Los Angeles after a grand jury declined to charge officers in the killing of Breonna Taylor.
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by officers who entered her home using a “no-knock” warrant during a narcotics investigation in March. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside. The use of no-knock warrants has since been banned by Louisville’s Metro Council.
Along with the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, Taylor’s case became a major touchstone for the nationwide protests that have gripped the nation since May — drawing attention to entrenched racism and demanding police reform. Taylor’s image has been painted on streets, emblazoned on protest signs and silk-screened on T-shirts worn by celebrities.
The announcement of the charges drew immediate sadness, frustration and anger that the grand jury did not go further. Each wanton endangerment charge carries a sentence of up to five years.
“Justice has NOT been served,” tweeted Linda Sarsour of Until Freedom, a group that has pushed for charges in the case.
Morgan Julianna Lee, a high school student in Charlotte, N.C., watched the announcement at home.
“It’s almost like a slap in the face,” the 15-year-old said by phone. “If I, as a Black woman, ever need justice, I will never get it.”
Right after the decision, protesters brought cases of water to “Injustice Square,” the Louisville park where people have gathered to demand justice for Taylor. Some began preparing food.
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Later, police in the city cordoned off a street with yellow tape, and officers in protective gear could be seen handcuffing some people. Some scuffles broke out, and police ordered a group that broke off from the protests to disperse, warning that chemical agents might be used if they didn’t.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, urged state Atty. Gen. Daniel Cameron to post online all the evidence and facts that can be released without affecting the charges filed.
“Those that are currently feeling frustration, feeling hurt, they deserve to know more,” he said. “They deserve to see the facts for themselves. And I believe that the ability to process those facts helps everybody.”
The case exposed the wide gulf between public opinion on justice for those who kill Black Americans and the laws under which those officers are charged, which regularly favor working police and do not often result in steep criminal accusations.
At a news conference, Cameron spoke to that disconnect.
“Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief,” he told reporters after the charges were announced.
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“But my heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor. And I’ve said that repeatedly. My mother, if something was to happen to me, would find it very hard,” he added, choking up.
But Cameron, who is the state’s first Black attorney general, said the officers acted in self-defense after Taylor’s boyfriend fired at them. He added that Hankison and the two other officers who entered Taylor’s apartment announced themselves before entering — and so did not execute the warrant as “no-knock,” according to the investigation.
“According to Kentucky law, the use of force by [Sgt. Jonathan] Mattingly and [Officer Myles] Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves. This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor’s death.”
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, opened fire when police burst in, hitting Mattingly. Walker was charged with attempted murder of a police officer, but prosecutors later dropped the charge.
Walker told police he heard knocking but didn’t know who was coming into the home and fired in self-defense.
Cameron, who is a Republican, is a protege of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has been tagged by some as his heir apparent. His was also one of 20 names on President Trump’s list to fill a future Supreme Court vacancy.
Demonstrators arrived at a park in Louisville, Ky., months ago to demand justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who were both killed by police.
Asked about the decision at a White House event, Trump said he hadn’t had time to consider it yet but would comment when he had. He added: “My message is that I love the Black community, and that I’ve done more for the Black community than any other president, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, told reporters in Washington that she also hadn’t fully read the decision.
“But there’s no question that Breonna Taylor and her family deserved justice yesterday, today and tomorrow so I’ll review it,” she said.
Before charges were brought, Hankison was fired from the city’s Police Department on June 23. A termination letter sent to him by interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said the white officer had violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 rounds of gunfire into Taylor’s apartment in March.
Hankison had previously been placed on administrative reassignment, as were Mattingly, Cosgrove and the detective who sought the warrant, Joshua Jaynes.
On Sept. 15, the city settled a lawsuit against the three officers brought by Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, agreeing to pay her $12 million and enact police reforms.
Protesters in Louisville and across the country have demanded justice for Taylor and other Black people killed by police in recent months.
Several prominent Black celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé, have joined those urging that the officers be charged.
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