A Kentucky grand jury has not pressed charges against Louisville police for killing Briona Taylor during a drug raid, as prosecutors say two officers who fired their weapons at the black woman were justified in using force to protect themselves.
The only charges brought by the grand jury were three counts of endangering a fired officer Brett Hankison for shooting into the homes of Taylor’s neighbors during a raid on the night of March 13th. The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in the case.
Taylor’s family attorney, Ben Cromb, denounced the decision as “outrageous and offensive,” and protesters shouted, “No justice, no peace!” They started walking on the streets. Some sat quietly and cried.
Besides the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, the Taylor case has become a major touchstone of the nationwide protests that have gripped the nation since May – drawing attention to entrenched racism and calls for police reform. The image of Taylor was painted on the streets, decorated on protest banners and screen wire on shirts worn by celebrities.
The accusations sparked sadness, frustration and anger immediately because the grand jury did not go further. All charges of exposure to risk carry a penalty of up to five years.
Immediately after the decision, protesters took water issues to Injustice Square, Louisville Park where people gathered to demand justice for Taylor. Some started preparing food.
Later, police in the city cordoned off a street with yellow tape, asked protesters to return, and officers in protective gear were seen handcuffing some people.
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot several times by officers who entered her home with a non-hit order during a drug investigation. The warrant used to search her home was related to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside. The use of non-striking orders has since been banned by the Louisville Metro Board.
The case exposed the wide gap between public opinion about achieving justice for those who kill black Americans, and the laws under which these officers are accused, which regularly favor active police and often do not lead to severe criminal charges.
At a press conference, State Attorney Daniel Cameron spoke about the split.
“The criminal law is not intended to respond to all grief and sorrow,” Cameron told reporters after the charges were announced.
“But my heart breaks for losing Miss Taylor. And I said it over and over. He choked, if something happened to me, you’d find it very hard.
But Cameron, the state’s first black attorney general, said the officers acted in self-defense after Taylor’s friend shot them. He added that Hankson and the other two officers who entered Taylor’s apartment had declared themselves prior to entering – and thus did not enforce the warrant as being “untouchable,” according to the investigation.
Taylor’s friend, Kenneth Walker, shot when the police stormed the scene, and beat Mattingly. Walker was charged with trying to kill a police officer, but prosecutors later dropped the charge.
Walker told police that he heard knocking but did not know who was coming home and shot in self-defense.
Regarding the disappointment of those who wanted to bring criminal charges to Taylor’s death, he said: “The decision before my office as the Special Prosecutor in this case was not to decide whether the loss of Mrs. Taylor’s life was a tragedy. The answer to that is unequivocally yes.” .
Republican, Cameron is the stepdaughter of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has been described by some as his clear heir. He was also one of 20 names on President Donald Trump’s list to fill a future vacancy on the Supreme Court.
When asked about the decision at a White House event, Trump said he did not have time to consider it yet, but would comment when he does. He added, “My message is that I love the black community, and that I have done more than any other leader of the black community, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.”
Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, told reporters in Washington that she had not read the resolution fully.
“But there’s no doubt that Briona Taylor and her family deserve justice yesterday, today, and tomorrow, so I’ll review it,” she said.
Before the charges were brought, Hankson was fired from the city police department on June 23. The termination letter sent to him by Interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder stated that the white officer had violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “brutally and blindly” fired 10 shots at Taylor’s apartment in March.
Hankison had previously been placed on administrative reassignment, as was Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Officer Miles Cosgrove and the investigator who ordered the order, Joshua Gaines.
On September 15, the city settled a lawsuit against the three officers filed by Taylor’s mother Tameka Palmer, agreeing to pay her $ 12 million and carry out police reforms.
Protesters in Louisville and across the country demanded justice for Taylor and the other blacks killed by police in recent months. The launch of the 911 call in late May by a friend of Taylor marked the start of days of protests in Louisville, which were fueled by the shooting and killing of Floyd while she was at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25.
Several prominent African-American celebrities including Oprah and Beyoncé joined those urging charges to be brought against the officers.