Breonna Taylor Ruling

By Makenna Adams

Since March, protesters around the nation have made themselves clear: we want justice for Breonna Tayor. On October 2nd, we thought maybe justice had been served. Upon closer look, however,  that is clearly not the case. 

Louisville, Kentucky: on March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor was killed by police in her home around midnight. Seeking evidence of drug trafficking against Taylor’s ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, a judge granted Five “no-knock” warrants that afternoon to a trio from the Louisville Metro Police Department, comprised of Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove. 

In a recent testimony, Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who was with her when police barged in, revealed that he mistaked the police for intruders and fired a warning shot in self-defense. According to officials, the shot struck Mattingly in the leg. The officers took Walker’s shot as a cue to blindly open fire. As 32 bullets swept across the apartment from three separate locations, Taylor received five bullets to her body and died on the scene. The officers made no effort to save Taylor as she lay on the floor; video footage shows the officers calling the area “a crime scene,” and saying “Let’s go ahead and move out. All right, she’s done.” In an interview, Walker shared how he called 911 as Taylor lie collapsed and bleeding, then when he went to the door to get help, police took him away. He only learned later, while in jail for “attempted murder of a police officer” (a charges against which has since been dropped) that Taylor had died.

Now, a summary of the aftermath: three months after her death, on June 23, 2020, the LMPD fired Hankison for firing without a line of sight. On September 15, the city of Louisville agreed to pay $12 million to Taylor’s family and reform police practices. On September 23, a state grand jury indicted Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment for endangering Taylor’s neighbors with his shots. None of the officers involved in the raid has been charged in Taylor’s death. On October 2, 2020, the grand jury released recordings of the investigation into the shooting.

A grand jury refused to charge all but one of the three officers. Since the spring, Breonna Taylor’s name has been chanted thousands of times across the country and internationally, calling for an end to police brutality and structural racism in America. Tragically, Ms. Taylor lost her life at the hands of the police. The conviction of Brett Hankinson for “wanton endangerment,” left protesters outraged and devastated. To bring justice to her name, protesters feel that more aggressive sentences for all the officers involved are necessary. Calls for greater convictions, like involuntary manslaughter, can be heard by protesters everywhere.

With their decision to prosecute Brett Hankinson, the grand jury released key investigative findings to the public. Their main findings include: “Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove were ‘justified in the return of deadly fire’ after they were fired upon by Taylor’s boyfriend, and that justification prevented his office from pursuing criminal charges in her death; Officers announced their presence at Taylor’s door, and a civilian witness corroborated officers’ statements; Mattingly’s injury was not the result of ‘friendly fire.’” 

In regards to the first point, an exception exists among Kentucky’s self-defense laws: that if a person “acts wantonly or is reckless in defending himself,” his right to protection is waived. Undeniably, Mattingly and Cosgrove, acted recklessly, firing without a line of sight. They also should be charged with Taylor’s death. Additionally, Breonna was a bystander; it was her boyfriend who had the gun. Any claim of self-defense would be falsifiable, as Mattingly admitted in a testimony that he was defending himself from a male. 

Cameron also relied on witnesses that supported the officers’ version of events, rather than more objective accounts. Of the thirteen witnesses interviewed, only one reported that he heard officers knock at Taylor’s door. Yet he ruled that the “officers announced their presence at Taylor’s door.” Doubt emerges as Cameron’s process proves cloudy. 

Furthermore, while it is often important that grand jury proceedings be kept under wraps to allow members to work efficiently and without public influence, cases where there exists a large public following and interest necessitate full honesty. 

Under Kentucky law, there’s a statute protecting cops who use deadly force in self-defense. Under Kentucky’s stand-your-ground statute, citizens have the right to use force against an intruder. Hopefully, you can see clearly the futility of these two systems. Tragically, Taylor’s death embodies that exact futility. On a positive note, the Louisville metro council passed a unanimous vote to ordinate “Breonna’s Law” which bans no-knock search warrants, regulates how search warrants are carried out, and mandates the use of body cameras during searches. Yet, this is not a federal law. If police brutality is to be stopped elsewhere, this law, among others, must be made national.