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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 23, 2020   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: No indictment against officers who killed Breonna Taylor

After months of protests and calls for reform, a Kentucky grand jury indicted one of three Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman, in March. After the indictment, protests ensued across the U.S. calling for the other two police officers to be held accountable.

The grand jury indicted former Officer Brett Hankison on Sept. 23 on three counts of wanton endangerment. Wanton endangerment applies to an act of “extreme indifference to the value of human life,” according to the Kentucky General Assembly. He received this indictment for firing bullets that were not directly tied to her death but rather went into an apartment next to Taylor’s.

Taylor’s family and protestors asked for the arrest of all three officers. However, there was no indictment against Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, who shot and killed Taylor on March 13 when they were serving a “no-knock” search warrant as part of a narcotics investigation.

Police officers claimed they announced their presence before using a battering ram to break in the door, but Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he didn’t hear anyone say anything. Walker fired a warning shot because he thought someone was trying to break in. Police said his bullet hit Mattingly in the thigh, and the officers returned fire, killing Taylor.

Footage recently obtained by Vice News shows Louisville police officers violating department policies, bringing the integrity of the crime scene into question. The footage showed that none of the officers who were present for the raid were separated and paired with an escort, an action that is a violation of LMPD policy.

Louisville agreed to pay Taylor’s family $12 million and reform police practices as part of a settlement, announced Sept. 15. As part of the settlement, the city agreed to set up a housing credit program to encourage officers to live in the areas they serve, utilize social workers to aid certain police calls and require commanders to review search warrants before seeking judicial approval, according to CNN

Many were outraged by the grand jury’s verdict and said the settlement was not enough. After the decision was announced, protests were particularly prevalent in Louisville, where Taylor was killed. The Louisville police department declared gatherings downtown were an unlawful assembly and told protestors to disperse, according to CNN.

“I hope that all the officers who participated are held accountable to some degree,” said political commentator Wendy Osefo in an interview with ET. “Even the charges that came out yesterday were not for Breonna Taylor dying but for the damages, her neighbors may have incurred or her walls. Let’s think about that. Her walls that are in her apartment got more justice than Breonna Taylor losing her life. That is not acceptable in this country.”

Shortly after the grand jury decision, the Taylor family’s attorney, Ben Crump, expressed disappointment about the decision. 

“It’s OUTRAGEOUS and OFFENSIVE the grand jury would indict Brett Hankison with charges of wanton endangerment of Breonna’s white neighbors… but NOTHING for fatally shooting Bre!” wrote Crump on Twitter. “We DEMAND transparency and join @GovAndyBeshear in urging @KYOAG to release ALL evidence NOW.” 

Protestors demanded the evidence presented to the grand jury to be made public, according to the Associated Press. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear led the charge in requesting this information.

“We ought to be able to see the evidence and see the facts that led to that conclusion,” Beshear told CNN on Sept. 24. “I trust the people of Kentucky with the truth. I trust them to be able to look at the facts, but they’re not able to do that right now.”

John Turner can be reached at jturner3@ithaca.edu