No Murder Charges in Breonna Taylor Case; Protests Erupt Across U.S.
People around the United States took to the streets last night to memorialize Breonna Taylor and to protest a Kentucky grand jury’s decision not to indict three Louisville police officers for shooting her to death.
On Wednesday—six months after Kentucky cops executed a no-knock raid warrant at Taylor’s home in the middle of the night—a grand jury decided that criminal charges should be brought against only one of the officers involved in Taylor’s death. But rather than indict Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) Detective Brett Hankison for a charge related to killing Taylor, the jury decided to indict him on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree “for endangering her neighbors with wild shots,” as C.J. Ciaramella noted here yesterday.
Hankison was booked Wednesday and then quickly released on bail, and Louisville’s mayor ordered a curfew.
Welcome to Louisville. This used to be our downtown tourist trap. pic.twitter.com/ZqfsWPnoki
— Ryan Van Velzer (@RyanVanVelzer) September 23, 2020
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the officers broke no law in killing Taylor, since her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had fired his gun at the strange men who broke down his girlfriend’s door while the couple was sleeping. “According to Kentucky law, the use of force[…] was justified to protect themselves,” Cameron said.
Cameron also insists that the operation wasn’t a no-knock raid. Walker maintains otherwise.
Cameron intentionally misled the public. And now this is going to be the narrative on the right going forward. It’s a narrative that blames Kenneth Walker, a decent man who is innocent, for the death of the woman he loved. It’s not just wrong. It’s also deeply unfair to him. https://t.co/hnJqghG0oq
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) September 24, 2020
Some people suggest we can’t know who’s telling the truth here about the police announcing themselves, since both Walker’s culpability and that of the police both hinge on this contested fact. And yet Walker’s actions are consistent with this story—he called 911 saying someone had broken into this house and shot his girlfriend.
Meanwhile, the cops’ application for a search warrant specifically says they are “requesting a no-knock entry to the premises.”
What’s up, y’all? On May 13 at 2:10 p.m. (EST), I requested a copy of the #BreonnaTaylor warrant from the Jefferson Circuit Court Clerk. They sent this, I spent ≈10 minutes redacting personal info, and then linked to my story. Share w/ the grifters and gaslighters in your feed. pic.twitter.com/zVcIEJk3Au
— Zuri Davis (@ProperlyZuri) September 24, 2020
Only one of a dozen of Taylor’s apartment building neighbors said they may have heard the cops announce themselves before shots rang out.
Kenneth Walker’s attorney on CNN: The one witness Cameron said heard the police announce themselves initially claimed they did not. It took two more interviews before he said he may have heard them announce one time. Again, 11 other neighbors did *not* hear an announcement.
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) September 24, 2020
And even that neighbor’s tale is somewhat suspect, as criminal justice reporter and Rise of the Warrior Cop author Radley Balko points out.
If the Louisville police did decide—contra their search warrant—to announce themselves, then they obviously didn’t do it in a manner that was sufficient for Walker and Taylor to understand what was happening.
“I’ve been covering this stuff for nearly 20 years,” Balko tweeted. “I’ll never get over the ease with which cops go barreling into homes based on little, shoddy, or dirty information. It’s an insanely dangerous act with no margin for error and little to no consequences when someone dies.”
The essential backdrop to Taylor’s death and the system’s response is that things like this keep happening across the country. That doesn’t diminish blame for the particular police and government actors in this case, but it does indict a much broader system of reckless, unnecessary, and unaccountable policing, the absence of government checks and balances on that power, as well as the terrible laws and incentives that prompt this kind of policing in the first place.
“Until states ban the use of forced entry warrants for alleged drug crimes, we will continue to see more Breonna Taylors,” commented Lauren Krisai, senior policy analyst at the Justice Action Network. “There’s no public safety justification for allowing officers to forcibly enter someone’s home to enforce drug laws, even if they announce themselves beforehand.”
Protests over the grand jury’s decision yesterday were sizeable in Louisville as well as Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
Easily 1000 protesters in NY blocking traffic in both directions as they cross the Manhattan Bridge. Someone yells at the double decker tourist bus, “Welcome to New York!” pic.twitter.com/rc4buwc8X9
— Rachel Olding (@rachelolding) September 24, 2020
— Ali Bauman (@AliBaumanTV) September 23, 2020
— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) September 24, 2020
Philly protesters take a knee, fists up, for Breonna Taylor pic.twitter.com/IVkfcRBIXS
— Oona Goodin-Smith (@oonagoodinsmith) September 24, 2020
PHOTOS: Atlanta pr
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