Protests erupt after grand jury fails to indict officers in Breonna Taylor killing

Cyril Josh Barker | 10/1/2020, midnight
After nearly six months of waiting, the family of Breonna Taylor learned that the three white police officers involved in ...
Breonna Taylor Family photo

After nearly six months of waiting, the family of Breonna Taylor learned that the three white police officers involved in her killing will not face charges.

In March, 26-year-old Taylor was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers who entered her apartment, executing a search warrant. Officers knocked before forcefully entering the apartment.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, believed the officers were intruders and fired his licensed gun at them. The officers fired back with 32 shots hitting Taylor six times and killing her.

The officers involved were Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced last Wednesday, Sept. 23 that Hankison was being charged on three counts of wanton endangerment for firing shots into a neighboring apartment––but not for killing Taylor.

“The loss of Ms. Breonna Taylor’s life is a tragedy, and our office has worked tirelessly since receiving the case in mid-May to review all of the evidence in preparation for presenting it to an independent grand jury,” said Cameron. “The grand jury determined that there is no evidence to support a criminal violation of state law caused Ms. Taylor’s death. The grand jury found that there was sufficient evidence to indict Detective Hankison for wanton endangerment for firing his weapon outside a sliding glass door and through a bedroom window, with some bullets traveling through that apartment and entering the apartment next door while three residents were at home.”

This week, a judge ordered the release of the recording of Hankison’s arraignment hearing. Camron announced Monday that records of the grand jury proceedings will be released Wednesday, Sept. 30, to the public.

A grand juror in the case filed a motion to release the grand jury’s transcripts along with permission to speak publicly about the case. The juror’s attorney said the juror felt “compelled” to do this, so that the proceedings could be transparent.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that the Kentucky State Police ballistics report does not align with what Camron said about Taylor’s boyfriend firing at police. The report can’t determine if the bullet that hit one of the officers in the thigh was fired from Walker’s 9mm gun. Hankinson, who fatally shot Taylor, had been issued a 9mm gun.

During a news conference last week Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, released a statement that was read by her sister Bianca Austin. She said she’s angry because Black women keep dying at the hands of police officers.

“I never had faith in Daniel Cameron to begin with,” Palmer said in her statement. “I was reassured Wednesday of why I have no faith in the legal system, in the police, in the law. They are not made to protect us Black and Brown people.”

In an interview with the AmNews, Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Taylor’s family, said the family is devastated and outraged by the results of the grand jury. However, with the release of the recording of grand jury proceedings, the family is praying they get one step close to justice. The FBI is investigating whether Taylor’s killing violates federal law.

“The Kentucky Attorney General’s presentation is bewildering to us,” Crump told the AmNews. “We don’t know what evidence he presented. Did he present any evidence on behalf of Breonna Taylor at all? And if not, then he made a unilateral decision to try and exonerate these police officers who killed Breonna in the sanctity of her own home. In essence, he denied Breonna’s family their day in court and denied Breonna getting justice.”

Demonstrators soon took to the streets in cities across the nation to protest the decision in Taylor’s case. In Louisville, more than 100 people were arrested Wednesday during a night of civil unrest. Reports indicate the FBI is investigating after two police officers were shot during the demonstration. Protests in Louisville have gone on for several nights after the grand jury’s decision.

“I thought about the ships that went into Fort Monroe and Jamestown with our people on them over 400 years ago and how there were also Black men on those ships that were responsible for bringing our people over here,” activist Tamika Mallory said during a rally Friday in Kentucky. “Daniel Cameron is no different than the sellout negroes that sold our people into slavery and helped white men to capture our people, to abuse them, and to traffic them while our women were raped, while our men were raped by savages.”

In New York, hundreds gathered at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to protest the decision. Demonstrators marched across the Manhattan Bridge and later the Williamsburg Bridge. A group also gathered outside Trump Tower.

Protests in the city were peaceful and no arrests were made.

Over the weekend, more protests took place across the nation. The NYPD reports that 12 people were arrested during a demonstration in Greenwich Village. Demonstrators also occupied the Brooklyn Bridge.

In an interview with the AmNews, Black Lives Matter Greater NY Chairperson Hawk Newsome said the reaction to the grand jury not charging the officers was adding insult to injury. The nation continues to deal with its racial reckoning after the killings of George Floyd and Ahmad Arbery.

“We’re tired of marching,” he said. “White supremacy is happy with us marching. Either we are going to go out and wild out or we’re going to be very strategic in the way we approach and attack white supremacy to dismantle it. Certain times will call for marching but certain times you should really take a step back and figure out how to organize our way out of this.”

On Tuesday, activists across the country disrupted business with a series of solidarity actions on behalf of Taylor. At a rally organized by The Gathering for Justice, demonstrators gathered at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. The rally program featured prominent Black women speakers including Dominique Sharpton of the National Action Network, Erica Ford of Life Camp, Inc. and Brianna Baker of Justice for Black Girls.

The #StrikeForBreonna included a number of solidarity actions that could be taken remotely, such as wearing purple, Taylor’s favorite color, striking from work or staging a walkout.