Brief # 2 Social Justice
Breonna Taylor Case Update
By Erika Shannon
January 7, 2021
On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor was sleeping in her home when Louisville, Kentucky police executed a no-knock search warrant. The warrant was for another person, not Breonna Taylor or her boyfriend, the only people in the apartment at the time. While police claim that they announced themselves prior to entering, there are statements from neighbors to the contrary. When police entered without announcing who they were, Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, feared for their lives and her boyfriend brandished a gun. Walker was a licensed firearm holder and fired a shot in self-defense when the officers continually would not announce that they were members of law enforcement. Officers then negligently shot over twenty rounds into the apartment and ended up hitting Taylor eight times, killing her. While the case did not gain national attention at first, it did not take long for protests to pop up across the country in support of justice for Breonna Taylor.
There was no action being taken against the officers by the city of Louisville, and so the Taylor family filed a lawsuit against Louisville Police. The allegations were wrongful death, excessive force, and gross negligence. The family wished to be awarded compensatory and punitive damages, along with legal fees. On September 15, 2020, the mayor of Louisville announced that the city reached a $12 million dollar settlement with Breonna Taylor’s family. Besides compensation, the settlement also included policy changes that could help to reform police conduct in the city of Louisville and help stop situations like this from happening again in the future. There is no amount of money that could bring her daughter back or make this killing just; because of that, her mother decided that they will move forward and attempt to have the cops involved criminally charged in Taylor’s death.
Months and months went by before any type of justice was served for the killing of Breonna Taylor. This past September the attorney general of Kentucky, Daniel Cameron, convened a grand jury to review Taylor’s case. On September 23, 2020, it was announced that only one police officer would be indicted on three criminal charges of wanton endangerment. Officer Brett Hankison was indicted of the Class D felony, which is the least serious type of felony in Kentucky; his punishment would be possibly one to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. The most heinous part of it all is that these charges are reportedly not related to Breonna Taylor’s death in any way, but have to do with Officer Hankison shooting his firearm ten times into neighboring apartments. There were two other officers in question, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove. They were not indicted, for the grand jury found they were justified in their use of force due to “self-defense.” It was revealed that Officer Cosgrove shot his weapon sixteen times total and he was the one who actually fired the shots that killed Taylor that night. At the time of Officer Hankison’s indictment, Cosgrove was still employed by the Louisville Metro Police Department.
In the latest news related to the Breonna Taylor case, two officers related to the fatal incident have received notice from the Louisville Police Interim Chief that they will be fired. The two detectives who received the notices were Joshua Jaynes and Myles Cosgrove; Cosgrove is the one thought to have fired the bullet that killed Taylor, while Jaynes allegedly lied about information obtained in the search warrant. Had Jaynes not violated procedures in preparing and obtaining that no-knock search warrant, Taylor may still be alive today. Firing these police officers is the first step to getting justice for Taylor’s family, but there is still a lot that can and should be done. Many people are still holding out hope that proper charges will be fired against the police officers who acted recklessly that night.
It is clear that justice has not yet been served in the excessive police killing of Breonna Taylor. The fact of the matter is that it took too long for something to be done in the first place. No-knock warrants should be a thing of the past, and police should be required to announce their presence in all situations. In today’s society, you never know who may want to harm you; it is like that if Kenneth Walker had shot an intruder that night, he would have been a hero to those around him. Instead, trained police officers barged into a home unannounced where a couple was sleeping and murdered one of them in cold blood. They proceeded to taunt Walker and tell him it was “unfortunate” that none of the gunfire had hit him. While all of this was happening, the actual target of the search warrant, Jamarcus Glover, was already allegedly in police custody. Let’s not forget, Taylor was designated as a “soft target,” which means she posed no threat to the officers serving the warrant. While the cops maintain that they did knock and identify themselves, there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. In the grand jury proceedings a neighbor testifies that the police did not identify themselves. Walker says there was pounding at the door but no one identified who they were. Had they announced who they were, Kenneth Walker would have never feared for his and Taylor’s life, and acted accordingly. Had they announced who they were instead of barging in with a battering ram, Breonna Taylor would still be alive. In a world where police officers cannot follow the rules any better than the criminals they are supposed to apprehend, there will never be any justice.
- To find out how you can help in the fight for justice, visit org
- The Center for Policing Equity seeks to reform police bias across the nation and is a great resource for those interested in joining the cause.