Breonna Taylor was a Louisville Emergency Medical Technician who was killed during the execution of a no-knock warrant in March of this year. Police burst into her apartment, Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker (who has maintained that he initially thought police were intruders) shot at them and the officers returned fire, hitting Taylor six times and killing her, according to Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron.
Cameron recently announced that after presenting his case to a grand jury, there would be no charges filed against any of the officers for shooting Breonna Taylor. He also said that police were justified in shooting back after Walker shot at them, but said that one of the officers would be charged with wanton endangerment for firing shots that entered into a nearby apartment.
For the first time since Cameron’s announcement, members of Taylor’s family spoke at a press conference held on September 25. During that press conference, the family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, called for Cameron to release the transcripts of the grand jury hearing and said, “What kind of sham grand jury proceeding was this?”
Breonna Taylor’s Aunt Read a Statement From Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s Mother
The press conference held Friday was the family’s first appearance after Cameron announced that the officers’ shooting of Taylor was justified. At it, Bianca Austin, the aunt of Breonna Taylor, stepped to a podium wearing her niece’s EMT jacket before reading the words of her sister — and Breonna Taylor’s mother — Tamika Palmer.
Here was the statement from Palmer, as read by Austin:
I never had faith in Daniel Cameron, to begin with. I knew he was too inexperienced to do a job of this caliber. I believe that he had already chosen to be on the wrong side of the law the moment he went into the grand jury to make the decision. What I had hoped is that he knew he had the power to do the right thing, that he had the power to start the healing of the city. That he had the power to help mend over 400 years of oppression.
What he helped me realize is that it will always be us against them, that we are never safe when it comes to them. Mattingly, in an email, called us animals and thugs; it is clear that that is the way they will always see us. I was reassured Wednesday of why I have no faith in the legal system, in the police, in the law that is not made to protect us Black and brown people.
But when I say that, I am considered an angry Black woman. But know this: I am an angry Black woman. I am not angry for the reasons that you would like me to be. But angry because our Black women are dying at the hands of police officers and Black men. Angry because our children are dying at the hands of police officers. And I am angry because this nation is learning that our Black women are dying at the hands of police officers. And this is not OK.
You can take the dog out of the fight but you cannot take a fight out of the dog. For lack of better terms, bark bark, for being the dog still standing ready to fight. I knew that Cameron would never do his job, but what I do know is that him and countless others will go to bed sleeping with Breonna‘s face still hearing her, say her name.
Cameron alone did not fail her. But it ended with the lack of an investigation that failed her. The officer who told a lie to obtain a search warrant failed her. The judge who signed the search warrant failed her. The terrorists who broke down her door failed her. The system as a whole has failed her.
You did not just rob me and my family, you robbed the world of a queen — a queen willing to do a job that most of us could never stomach to do. A queen willing to build up anyone around her, a queen who had started to pave her path. I hope that you’ll never have to know the pain of knowing your child is in need and help and you were not able to get there. I hope you’ll never hear the sounds of someone cry and beg for your daughter to get help and she never received it. Those cries were ignored. I hope you never know the pain of your child being murdered 111 days in a row. Tamika Palmer.
Following the reading, Austin turned to Palmer and said, “I am so sorry, so sorry you’ve got to go through this. So sorry. It’s unacceptable. But your family has your back, we ain’t going nowhere … and guess what, this park — these people out here stomping on these grounds — have your back.”
Cameron Said He Understood the Community’s Anguish & Announced a Task Force on Warrants
At a news conference, here is what Cameron said happened, based on the investigation they conducted:
- Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Brett Hankison, and Detective Myles Cosgrove were not involved in the previous investigation
- Although they were executing a no-knock warrant, witnesses corroborated that police “both knocked and announced their presence at the apartment.”
- Mattingly saw two people in the hall, one of whom shot back at him and he felt “heat” in his thigh; he fired six shots, Hankison fired 10 shots and Cosgrove fired 16 shots
- According to Cameron, only one shot was fatal, and “Further medical evidence shows that Ms. Taylor would have died from the fatal shot within a few seconds to two minutes after being struck.”
- Bullets from Hankison’s gun also traveled into a nearby apartment, endangering three people
- The FBI concluded that Cosgrove fired the fatal shot, even though Louisville police could not conclude who fired the fatal shot.
Cameron also announced that he will sign an executive order to create a task force focused on search warrant applications and executions and he also said that Hankison would face charges for endangering the lives of the three people in the other apartment:
After hearing the evidence from our team of prosecutors, the grand jury voted to return an indictment against Detective Hankison for three counts of wanton endangerment for wantonly placing the three individuals in apartment three in danger of serious physical injury or death. According to Kentucky law, the use of force by Mattingly and Cosgrave was justified to protect themselves. This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Ms. Breonna Taylor’s death. The truth is now before us. The facts have been examined and a grand jury comprised of our peers and fellow citizens has made a decision. Justice is not often easy, does not fit the mold of public opinion, and it does not conform to shifting standards. It answers only to the facts and to the law. With this in mind, we must now ask ourselves, where do we go from here? Will we continue to prosecute the charges brought in this case, as it now proceeds through the justice system and moves to trial. That is our responsibility, and this will be done while the FBI continues its investigation into potential violations of federal law.
Cameron also attempted to preempt the outrage that he knew would follow the decision:
“I understand that as a Black man, how painful this is … which is why it was so incredibly important to make sure that we did everything we possibly could to uncover every fact,” Cameron said at the news conference. “My heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor. And I’ve said that repeatedly. My mother, if something was to happen to me,” he said emotionally, “would find it very hard. … I’ve seen that pain on Miss Palmer’s face. I’ve seen that pain in the community.”
Grand juries are only allowed to make decisions based on the case which the attorney is presenting them, which is why many are blaming Daniel Cameron for the lack of an indictment.
Marc S. Murphy, a former commonwealth’s attorney for Louisville and a former colleague with Cameron, told The New York Times that Cameron’s presentation of what took place was misleading. “The presentation yesterday, if you didn’t have the advantage of being legally trained or experienced or knowing the facts of the case, there’s no reason for a person to have doubted what he said,” he said, adding, “There’s a lot of things that aren’t transparent about this.”
According to USA Today, Taylor was listed on the warrant, but she was not listed as the main targets — Jamarcus Glover and Adrian Walker — in the warrant. The paper reported the warrant was part of a drug investigation and police believed Glover was using Taylor’s home to receive mail and hide drugs and money. Neither Taylor nor her boyfriend had a criminal history or drug convictions and no illegal drugs were ever found in the apartment, which is consistent with what Austin told WHAS-11. “This is not a woman who would sacrifice her life and her family morals and values to sell drugs on the street,” she said.
The Washington Post released an editorial addressing several facts about the case, including incorrect accusations that Taylor’s boyfriend was a drug dealer or that there was cash and drugs in the home.
CNN reported that nearly 100 people were arrested in protests following the Camerons’ announcement. The lack of an indictment has renewed protests calling for racial equity and police accountability.