LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It has been five months since Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville EMT, was fatally shot by police as she slept in her own bed, and her loved ones await action against those responsible.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said Thursday that she is trying to be patient with authorities, including Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, with whom the family met for the first time on Wednesday. She and Bianca Austin, Taylor’s aunt, said the months that have passed since the shooting have not made the pain easier.
“It’s been 150 days, but it still feels like March 13,” Austin said at a news conference outside Louisville City Hall.
“At this point, it’s bigger than Breonna,” Palmer said. “It’s bigger than just Black Lives (Matter). It’s about bridging the gaps between us and the police. It’s about bringing back the communities.
“It’s about just being able to stand up for each other. And there definitely shouldn’t be another Breonna Taylor. Anywhere.”
Watch Tamika Palmer and her attorneys speak below, courtesy of WDRB in Louisville.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family along with Louisville-based personal injury attorneys Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker, said after meetings with Cameron and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer that he expects charges will be filed against the officers who killed Taylor.
“We expect, hopefully before 200 days, charges to happen,” Crump said.
He described the family’s meeting with Fischer and the city attorney, during which he said he and Baker “held no punches back,” as a “positive, productive conversation about how we try to work together to heal this city, beyond just getting justice in the criminal matter.”
Crump pointed out that Fischer serves as president of the United States Conference of Mayors. As such, any action the mayor takes in the Taylor case “not only sends a message to Louisville, but it sends a message to all the cities across America.”
“We challenged him to make sure that he is courageous and responsible in trying to lead his city out of this tragedy,” Crump said. “Not only as a legacy for his administration, not only as a legacy for his city, but as a legacy for Breonna Taylor.”
Taylor’s name has become a rallying cry for police reform across the U.S. since her death. Protesters have marched in her name and celebrities have called for action against the officers who killed her.
Last week, Oprah Winfrey announced that for the first time in its history, Oprah Magazine would not have her image on the cover. Instead, the September issue has an illustration of Taylor on its cover.
The magazine has also commissioned 26 billboards, one for each year of Taylor’s life, to go up around Louisville, demanding charges against the officers who killed the unarmed woman.
“If you turn a blind eye to racism, you become an accomplice to it,” Oprah is quoted on the magazine cover and billboards.
Protesters and activists have for months expressed anger that while law enforcement officers involved in other fatal high-profile encounters – namely, the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta – have been disciplined and charged with crimes, the same has not been true in Taylor’s killing. Protests have roiled Louisville and beyond, with a total of 87 protesters who staged a sit-in on Cameron’s lawn last month arrested on felony charges.
The charges were later dismissed.
Baker told reporters Thursday that Cameron’s reason for meeting with Taylor’s family the day before was to personally offer his condolences on their loss. Cameron’s office had previously been tasked to serve as special prosecutor in the high-profile case.
His office is also conducting its own probe of the case.
“During the meeting, he did indicate he did not reach out previously, as he was fearful it could compromise his investigation,” Baker said.
Cameron told the family he is awaiting ballistics results from the FBI, the lawyer said. His office is also continuing interviews of witnesses in the case.
Baker said Cameron did not give a timeline for the completion of his investigation.
“It is our position that we’re not going to wait forever,” Baker said. “We do want this resolved quickly and accurately so that Ms. Palmer and the family can get some answers as it relates to the murder of Breonna Taylor.”
Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were dozing after watching a movie early March 13 when three Louisville officers, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Myles Cosgrove and Detective Brett Hankison, showed up to serve a no-knock warrant on Taylor’s apartment. The warrant was in connection with a drug investigation, of which Taylor was not the focus.
The officers allege that they announced themselves and knocked multiple times before using a battering ram to bust down the door. Walker, who armed himself with his legally owned handgun, later told authorities he thought he and Taylor were the victims of a home invasion.
Walker fired a single shot at the officers as they got the door open, striking Mattingly in the leg. The officers returned fire, putting more than 20 rounds into Taylor’s apartment, as well as the apartment next door, according to records.
Taylor was struck at least five times and died on the floor of her hallway. Walker was initially charged with attempted murder of a police officer and first-degree assault, but those charges were later dismissed.
The city’s interim police chief, Robert Schroeder, accused Hankison in his termination letter of “blindly” firing 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment.
“I find your conduct a shock to the conscience,” Schroeder wrote in the letter. “I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion.”
The other two officers remain on administrative reassignment pending the outcome of the investigation.
A fourth officer, Detective Joshua Jaynes, has also been reassigned. Jaynes, who applied for the no-knock warrant for Taylor’s apartment, came under suspicion over how and why the warrant was approved.
Following Taylor’s killing, no drugs or other evidence of a crime were found at her home.
Read former Officer Brett Hankison’s termination letter below, courtesy of the Louisville Courier Journal.
Crump, who said Thursday that lying while on the job is a fireable offense, accused Jaynes of lying on his probable cause affidavit to get a judge to sign off on the warrant.
“Those things that we know were wrong, you need to address them,” Crump said. “Because as a minister who was with us said, quite eloquently, ‘We can’t just get to healing. That’s the last step. First, you have to admit the wrong that occurred.’”
Crump said there must be conscientious thoughts about how that wrong happened and that the entire city has to mourn as Taylor’s family is mourning. Then, he said, there has to be engagement among the stakeholders in the community.
“Members of the clergy, members of the activist community,” he said. “We have to have the protesters being part of the solution. We have to have the business community being part of the solution.”
Everyone has a role to play in the solution, Crump said.
“Until we can change the protest into policy, only then can we get to healing,” he said.
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