Daniel Cameron is a conservative Republican who was the first Black person to be independently elected to statewide office when he was elected as Kentucky‘s attorney general in 2019. Cameron is the first Republican to fill the role of attorney general since 1948, according to the Kentucky AG’s office.
Only months into his new role, on March 13, 2020, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, an EMT, was shot and killed in her home by Louisville Municipal Police officers in a botched drug raid when the officers went to the wrong apartment. The investigation into what went wrong that night was handed over to Cameron’s office and the FBI in May.
Cameron said from the beginning the investigation would take time. In his May 29 statement, he said they didn’t even have all of the information yet.
Six months after Taylor’s death, Cameron announced the results of the investigation and the grand jury’s decision on charges on September 23. Cameron said officer Brett Hankison was indicted on charges of wanton endangerment, but the other two officers involved are not facing charges at this time.
Cameron said officers Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove were acting in self-defense when they fired because Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at them first not knowing who was trying to get into the apartment. Cameron said, “Our investigation found that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their use of force after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker.”
Here’s what you need to know about Daniel Cameron:
1. Cameron Said His ‘Heart Is Heavy Concerning the Fear & Unrest’ in Louisville After Taylor Was Killed
Cameron grew up in Kentucky in a town called Elizabeth, according to the Courier Journal. When the Taylor case was turned over to Cameron’s office he released a statement voicing concern over the reaction to the Taylor’s death and what it meant for his home state.
“Louisville is my home, and my heart is heavy concerning the fear and unrest in our city following the death of Ms. Taylor,” Cameron said. “It weighs on me, as I know it does for many of my fellow Kentuckians who are grappling with the tragic events here and in other cities across the country.”
When Cameron was thinking of running for office in 2018, he told the Courier Journal, “The office of attorney general doesn’t need to be politicized, which is why I want to put it back on its pedestal, if you will, and move beyond the political fights of the past (three years) and focus on the public safety of Kentucky.”
Yet the death of Taylor at the hands of police has become highly politicized. Her death, along with the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and several other such killings of unarmed Black people by police, ignited ongoing Black Lives Matter protests around the country. The protests have become deeply political, generally pitting conservatives, who “Back the Blue” or support the police, against liberals, who continue to protest in support of African Americans who they say are not treated equally by the justice system.
Cameron Served as Legal Counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Before He Was Attorney General & Has Been Endorsed by the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police
Cameron, who will turn 35 on November 22, was born to a father who owned a coffee shop and a mother who was a professor at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, according to the Courier Journal.
The Kentucky Attorney General website says Cameron graduated from John Hardin High School. He then went to the University of Louisville and graduated in 2008 with a political science degree, according to Ballotopia. He played on the University of Louisville football team.
From there Cameron went to the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, where he was a member of the law review as well as serving as president of the Student Bar Association. He graduated law school in 2011, then went on to a federal judicial clerkship for two years before becoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s legal counsel “for a little more than two years, where he was responsible for ensuring the office was compliant with Senate ethics rules,” the Courier Journal reported.
“As legal counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel, Cameron successfully spearheaded the confirmation processes for conservative federal judges, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Cameron has served as spokesman for the Kentucky Smart on Crime Coalition, and in 2017, the Kentucky Narcotics Officers Association named him ‘Legislative Staffer of the Year.’ His commitment to working with law enforcement was further acknowledged by the endorsement of the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police,” according to his bio.
Ballotopia reported that in 2017 Cameron went to work at the law firm of Frost Brown Todd in Louisville. He served as a law clerk to Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, as well as working for attorneys Stites & Harbison in Louisville.
3. Cameron Met With Taylor’s Family During the Investigation & Taylor’s Mother Sent Cameron a Personal Appeal Asking Him What His Mother Would Do if She Were in the Same Situation
On August 12 Cameron’s office released a statement saying he had met with Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and other family members along with their attorneys and was able to “personally express his condolences to the family,” even as the investigation was ongoing.
The statement issued by Cameron’s spokesperson, Elizabeth Kuhn, said:
Attorney General Cameron was grateful today to meet with the family of Ms. Breonna Taylor, including Ms. Tamika Palmer, Ms. Juniyah Palmer, Ms. Bianca Austin, and the family’s attorneys, as well as Christopher 2X from the Game Changers organization. The meeting provided an opportunity for Attorney General Cameron to personally express his condolences to the family. The investigation remains ongoing, and our Office of Special Prosecutions continues to review all the facts in the case to determine the truth.
But as the investigation continued to drag on after Taylor was killed, on September 10 Taylor’s mother issued her own appeal to Cameron on Instagram, saying:
@danieljaycameron it’s crunch time and we’re putting our faith and trust in you. Your mother put everything she had into raising you. If you ask her, she will say without hesitation that she would stop at nothing to protect you. She would be willing to give her life to save yours. If you were gunned down in your own home, wouldn’t she demand the killers be brought to justice? Would she stand up and demand justice if it was being delayed? Would she want the support of the community and others to help her when her cry for justice for her child’s death was being ignored? If she had the power to make sure this type of injustice would never happen without accountability and consequences, would she make sure of it? Will you make sure of it? Do you have the power and courage to call my child yours, the power to see that my cry and my community’s cry is heard, and the power as part of a village who raises our children to do right by one of our daughters?!
Days later on September 16, the Taylor family was awarded $12 million from the city of Louisville in a civil lawsuit over police misconduct. During the press conference in which the settlement was announced, attorney Ben Crump called on Cameron to charge the officers involved in Taylor’s death, saying, “Regardless of this landmark step on the journey to justice, we still are demanding that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron bring charges immediately against the police officers that murdered Breonna Taylor.”
4. Cameron Was Married in August & Beyonce’s Mom, Tina Knowles, Called Him Out on Twitter for Engagement Party Photos in Which No One Was Wearing a Mask
Cameron had a small, private wedding ceremony in Louisville the first weekend of August, according to WLKY, with Mitch McConnell in attendance. But according to the news outlet the attorney general’s office would not release any information other than to confirm the marriage and say that it was an outdoor wedding and the ceremony was small.
Tina Knowles, Beyonce’s mother, posted her thoughts about the couple’s engagement photos on her Instagram account, saying she didn’t understand why he was having parties in the midst of the Taylor investigation and the coronavirus pandemic. Knowles wrote:
When he ran for office there are a lot of Black people that were excited and thought oh my God maybe we have a fair chance now because it will be a black man in this position ! He will be fair and unbiased towards Black people. They voted for him. Well That’s why it’s important to educate yourself on people who are running for office . I have no problem with who he marries , that is his personal business. That is not what this post is about ! I just don’t understand his actions !!! And where are their masks?
On September 9, the day before Palmer made her plea to Cameron, he issued a statement saying the investigation would follow its own timeline. According to WKRN, the statement said:
My office is continually asked about a timeline regarding the investigation into the death of Ms. Breonna Taylor. An investigation, if done properly, cannot follow a specific timeline. My office has endeavored since day one to find the truth and pursue justice, wherever that may take us and however long that may take.
In the meantime, conflicting rumors and reports circulate on a daily basis. The rumors do nothing to advance justice. When the investigation concludes and a decision is made, we will provide an update about an announcement.
The news will come from our office and not unnamed sources. Until that time, the investigation remains ongoing.
5. 87 People Were Arrested for Protesting in Cameron’s Yard in July but He Said He Hopes After Wednesday’s Announcement People Will Find a Way to ‘Love One Another & Just Be Good Neighbors’
WAVE3 reported that in July hundreds of protesters demanding justice for Taylor showed up at Cameron’s newly purchased home, ending in the arrest of 87 people. Cameron said that action was “not acceptable.”
In a statement published by WAVE3 Cameron said:
From the beginning, our office has set out to do its job, to fully investigate the events surrounding the death of Ms. Breonna Taylor. We continue with a thorough and fair investigation, and today’s events will not alter our pursuit of the truth. The stated goal of today’s protest at my home was to ‘escalate.’ That is not acceptable and only serves to further division and tension within our community. Justice is not achieved by trespassing on private property, and it’s not achieved through escalation. It’s achieved by examining the facts in an impartial and unbiased manner. That is exactly what we are doing and will continue to do in this investigation.
With tensions so high around the case, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer issued a state of emergency in the city in anticipation of the possible reaction to the grand jury’s findings from city residents.
According to the city’s website, the mayor issued two executive orders. The first declared a state of emergency due to the potential for civil unrest and enables him to implement curfews and hire outside help for crowd control. The second restricted parking in the downtown area “in order to provide an extra layer of security for protests in and around Jefferson Square Park,” according to the city.
Cameron said in the press conference Wednesday that the decision regarding charges against the officers involved in the Taylor case was ultimately up to the grand jury; the role of the AG’s office is to present the evidence.
When a reporter asked Cameron how the Taylor family reacted to the news when he met with them prior to the press conference, he said, “It was a hard meeting … to have to sit in that room and provide the information to Ms. Palmer and to other members of the Taylor family. It’s been a difficult day.”
Cameron said he hopes people keep Taylor’s legacy in mind in how they react to Wednesday’s announcement:
In the wake of the decision I hope … those that perhaps have ideas about being angry or pained by this decision, I hope we will respond in a manner that respects our First Amendment rights, but also respects our responsibility as the Bible talks about — loving our neighbors — in that we can do so keeping Breonna’s Taylor’s legacy in mind, but also in a way that respects Louisville, our city, a city I live in, that respects all of our community. So again this is a hard day. I am no under no illusion that it is not. And all I can offer is that our office uncovered every fact that was relevant to the wee hours, the morning hours, of March 13 and we provided that information to the grand jury…and now we have the responsibility to prosecute… but all of us have a responsibility to work together to find common ground, to find ways to love one another and just be good neighbors.