A Kentucky grand jury on Wednesday indicted a single former police officer for shooting into neighbouring apartments but did not move forward with charges against any officers for their role in Breonna Taylor’s death.
The jury announced that fired Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in connection to the police raid of Taylor’s home on the night of March 13.
Immediately after the announcement, people were expressing frustration that the grand jury did not do more. “Justice has NOT been served,” tweeted Linda Sarsour of Until Freedom, a group that has pushed for charges in the case. “Rise UP. All across this country. Everywhere. Rise up for #BreonnaTaylor.”
Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Taylor’s family, tweeted that the charges involved “NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor. This is outrageous and offensive!”
At a news conference, state Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Hankison and the two other officers who entered Taylor’s apartment announced themselves before entering the apartment and did not use a no-knock warrant.
“According to Kentucky law, the use of force by (Officers Jonathan Mattingly and (Myles) Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves. This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor’s death.”
Regarding the inevitable disappointment by those who wanted criminal charges brought in Taylor’s death, he remarked, “The decision before my office as the special prosecutor in this case was not to decide if the loss of Ms Taylor’s life was a tragedy. The answer to that is unequivocally yes.”
Cameron added that, “I understand that Breonna Taylor’s death is part of a national story, but the facts and evidence in this case are different than othersr” involving police shootings. “If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice,” Cameron said. “Mob justice is not justice. Justice sought by violence is not justice. It just becomes revenge.”
He added that the FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in the case. A Republican, Cameron is the state’s first Black state attorney general and 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 Donald Trump’s list to fill a future Supreme Court vacancy.
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by officers who entered her home using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. 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.
Cameron’s office had been receiving materials from the Louisville Police Department’s public integrity unit while they tried to determine whether state charges would be brought against the three officers involved, he 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, Sgt. Johnathan Mattingly, Officer Myles Cosgrove and the detective who sought the warrant, Joshua Jaynes, were placed on administrative reassignment after the shooting.
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.
On September 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. The release in late May of a 911 call by Taylor’s boyfriend marked the beginning of days of protests in Louisville, fueled by her shooting and the violent death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
Several prominent African American celebrities including Oprah and Beyonce have joined those urging that the officers be charged.
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