After a months-long investigation into the police shooting of Breonna Taylor, a Jefferson County grand jury announced on Wednesday that it would indict one officer in the shooting death of the 26-year-old EMT.
Former Louisville Metro police officer Brett Hankison was indicted on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, which by Kentucky law means he consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk. The two other officers who fired shots that night — Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — were not indicted.
Ahead of the announcement, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer instituted a 72-hour curfew beginning Wednesday at 9 pm, while Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Robert J. Schroeder announced a state of emergency for the police force on Tuesday in anticipation of protests and riots. The police also restricted access to downtown Louisville beginning on Tuesday, according to the Courier-Journal. The Kentucky National Guard was activated on Wednesday afternoon.
The nation has been awaiting the decision in the criminal investigation all summer. It’s been nearly 200 days since Taylor was shot dead by police while she was asleep in her apartment on March 13. When news of the incident drew attention in early May and picked up steam after the police killing of George Floyd later that month, protests broke out across the country.
Over time, the phrase “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” became a rallying cry for activists — as well as the focal point of countless memes. The phrase was plastered on T-shirts worn by athletes at sporting events and big-name actors at the Emmys. Many pointed out that Black women killed by police don’t often receive as much attention, or justice, in matters of police violence, and now was the time to correct that.
In the days leading up to Cameron’s announcement, Taylor’s mother, Tamika L. Palmer, urged the attorney general to charge all of the officers involved in the shooting — Hankison, Mattingly, and Cosgrove. “It’s crunch time, and we’re putting our faith and trust in you,” Palmer wrote in an Instagram post directed at Cameron. “Do you have the power and courage to call my child yours, the power to see that my cry and my community’s cry is heard, and the power as part of a village who raises our children to do right by one of our daughters?!”
On the night Taylor was killed, police relied on a no-knock warrant to enter her apartment in search of two people suspected of selling drugs, neither of whom was Taylor. While police say they announced themselves, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was inside the apartment at the time, disputes that claim. Police fired 20 rounds into the apartment, hitting Taylor eight times.
In a lawsuit filed in late April, Taylor’s family alleged excessive force and gross negligence on the part of the officers who fired their weapons into Taylor’s apartment that night. A court filing submitted by the family in July alleged that Taylor did not receive emergency medical aid after she was shot, and that the drug raid on her apartment was part of a government-backed development scheme to clear out a block in Taylor’s neighborhood.
A week ago, the city of Louisville announced that it had reached a $12 million settlement with Taylor’s family and attorneys — the largest sum the city has ever paid out for a police misconduct suit. While the settlement included a list of police reforms, Mayor Fischer said it was not an acknowledgment of wrongdoing on the city’s part.
Cameron was assigned the case as special prosecutor in May and in the past five months revealed very few details about the independent investigation. “To all those involved in this case, you have my commitment that our office is undertaking a thorough and fair investigation,” he said. “This is also a commitment that I’m making to the Louisville community, which has suffered tremendously in the days since March 13,” he said in mid-June.
During the investigation, the Louisville Metro Police Department terminated Hankison because it found he “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” fired 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment, according to his termination letter. Mattingly and Cosgrove were placed on administrative reassignment.
Throughout the protests, activists have also pressed lawmakers to defund the local police department. While Louisville’s Metro Council did vote unanimously to ban no-knock warrants in June, it also approved a budget that wouldn’t even begin to defund LMPD. The new spending plan will merely “require police to put the money toward recruiting a more diverse force, additional training and exploring co-responder models that could send behavioral health professionals on calls with officers,” according to the Courier-Journal.
Taylor’s death is also being investigated by the FBI for civil rights violations.
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