CBS — A grand jury has declined to bring charges against the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s shooting death in Kentucky. The jury, however, indicted one officer, Brett Hankinson, for three counts of wanton endangerment over stray bullets that were shot into the apartments surrounding Taylor’s home. The other officers, Jon Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, were considered justified in their actions. The decision, which comes six months after Taylor’s death, has sparked outrage in the city of Louisville.
“This is outrageous and offensive to Breonna Taylor’s memory. It’s yet another example of no accountability for the genocide of persons of color by white police officers,” said Ben Crump, civil rights attorney and legal counsel for Taylor’s family. “The rallying cries that have been echoing throughout the nation have been once again ignored by a justice system that claims to serve the people.”
“Make no mistake, we will keep fighting this fight in Breonna’s memory, and we will never stop saying her name,” Crump added.
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency technician, was killed after police executed a search warrant on her home in March. Since her death, her name has become a rallying cry in marches across the nation as Black Lives Matter protests became the backdrop of an already trying summer. While other high-profile cases like George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks saw swift and decisive decisions for the officers involved, the intricacies of Taylor’s case have caused it to stretch on, with the entire city of Louisville waiting on edge. With a verdict now in hand, protestors have already begun to march across the city, chanting “No justice. No peace.”
“We’ve been out here for 100-plus days, this is ridiculous, you know, it’s not fair. At the end of the day, how much is a Black woman’s life worth?” protester Carmen Jones told CBS News.
In a statement, Kent Wicker, an attorney for Mattingly, called Taylor’s death a “tragedy” but said the officers “did not act in a reckless or unprofessional manner.” He added, “They did their duty, performed their roles as law enforcement officers and, above all, did not break the law.”
Mattingly, the only officer to enter the house, fired six times, but the grand jury considered his use of force justified because Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, fired first.
On social media, other members of Taylor’s family used Twitter and Instagram to remember the EMT. “Sister I am sorry,” read a post from Ju’niyah Palmer, Taylor’s sister.
And she’s not the only one. Since the grand jury announcement, several marches have begun to make their way through Louisville. Clashes with police have already started, with some protesters arrested, according to CBS affiliate WLKY. Protestors were caught on camera reacting to the indictment, some even breaking down in tears on the street.
“We, as Black, Brown and poor people, struggle from police violence and brutality every day, about so many that are unnamed, so many didn’t get videotaped, so many that weren’t an EMT or an essential worker like she was,” said Shameka Parrish-Wright, co-chair of Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. “So many that are at home right now minding their own business and right now our police can storm through their doors and murder them. That wanton endangerment was about her neighbors. That was not about Breonna Taylor.”
So, what happens next? Protests are expected to continue throughout the week, including in other major cities like New York and Los Angeles. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a countywide curfew to “protect infrastructure” in the city, which will last between 9 p.m and 6:30 a.m. “I urge everyone to commit once again to a peaceful, lawful response like we’ve seen here for the majority of the past several months,” said Fischer. The National Guard has also been deployed, although Governor Andy Beshear has assured reporters that the guard will not take a front-facing role.
And for Taylor’s family? The state’s decision did not affect the FBI’s investigation into whether the officers committed any civil rights violations. “FBI Louisville continues its federal investigation into all aspects of the death of Breonna Taylor,” Special Agent Kelly Kindness said in a statement. “This work will continue beyond the state charges announced today.”
For other families of public police brutality victims, the deaths of their loved ones have sparked careers in politics or activism. Trayon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, qualified to run for Miami-Dade county commissioner in June, while Eric Garner’s daughter, Erica, spent the years before her young death speaking out against police brutality.
While Taylor’s family will not make any public statements today, their actions in the past weeks have spoken to a spirit not easily broken. When awarded a historic $12 million wrongful death settlement from the city of Louisville, Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, continued to say the officers should be charged in her daughter’s death. In an interview with NPR before the grand jury decision, Palmer focused on her daughter’s legacy. “Breonna was a beautiful person inside and out,” she said. “Even in the very beginning of this year, she kept saying 2020 was her year, and she was absolutely right. I hate that it came in that form, but it definitely is her year.” When asked what would happen if the officers were not charged, Palmer simply said, “I won’t go away. I’ll still fight.”
Jericka Duncan contributed to this report.
First published on September 23, 2020 / 7:49 PM
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