LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The Louisville Metropolitan Police Department had declared a state of emergency at Final Call press time.
The declaration was instituted hours before a decision in the Breonna Taylor case was to be announced by a grand jury, according to a Sept. 21 police department memo obtained by The Final Call.
The 26-year-old Black woman was shot to death in her home months ago as police crashed her apartment executing a no-knock warrant. The death caused national protests and regular demonstrations in the city.
Three thousand National Guardsmen were reportedly deployed and the city erected fencing throughout downtown Louisville in preparation for possible reaction if officers involved in the Taylor death are not indicted.
Attorney Lonita Baker, who represented the family of Breonna Taylor with Attorney Benjamin Crump, talked about their feelings if the officers involved are not charged and convicted.
“We will be very disappointed based on the evidence we’ve seen in our civil suit. We believe that’s sufficient evidence to indict the officers for at a minimum second-degree manslaughter in the state of Kentucky. They should be indicted with that. If indictment of second-degree manslaughter is not returned; we are going to be upset,” said Atty. Baker.
The family of Breonna Taylor recently received a $12 million settlement from the city of Louisville, but does not equate the monetary award with justice for her death.
Tamika Palmer, the mother of Ms. Taylor, and activist Tamika Mallory of Until Freedom organized several protests after the settlement was announced.
Ms. Palmer stressed the need to keep focus on getting justice for her daughter.
“We must not lose focus as significant as today is. It is only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna,” she said. “We must not lose focus on what the real job is, and with that being said, it’s time to move forward with the criminal charges. Because she deserves that and much more. Her beautiful spirit and personality are working through all of us on the ground, so please continue to say her name—Breonna Taylor,” said Ms. Palmer.
At the break of dawn around 5 a.m. on Saturday morning Sept. 19, protestors hung six banners at the University of Louisville campus displaying Breonna Taylor’s picture. Their actions continued throughout the day as protestors blocked the street in front of the home of Kentucky’s senior U.S. senator and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell Jr. Sen. McConnell came under additional criticism for supporting President Trump’s decision to quickly push through a replacement for the seat of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The day of unrest concluded at the University of Louisville football stadium at an Atlantic Coast Conference opening game.
At 5:30 p.m. an airplane circled the skies above the stadium displaying a banner that read: “Dismantle FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] End Qualified Immunity.” Protestors also blocked entrances to stop fans from buying tickets and entering the game.
Protestors gathered Sept. 18 in front of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office to demand that the officers involved in Ms. Taylor’s death be arrested, charged and convicted.
His office is handling the case and empaneled the grand jury.
The downtown federal courthouse is scheduled to be closed to the public Sept. 21-25.
Some six months ago, Ms. Taylor was shot eight times and killed in her suburban apartment 30 minutes outside of Louisville. Her death March 13 has continued to inspire calls for justice at the national and international level. Naomi Osaka, the U.S. Open tennis champ, drew attention to the case by wearing a mask bearing Breonna’s name. WNBA players have worn shirts and jerseys calling for justice for Breonna. The hashtag #JusticeForBreonna has trended on social media.
Activists and family members want state Attorney General Cameron to charge Sgt. Johnathan Mattingly, officer Myles Cosgrove and former officer Brett Hankison with homicide or other offenses.
Along with the financial settlement, the city of Louisville rolled out police reforms as part of the agreement.
Mayor Greg Fischer called the reforms “significant.” The reforms would impact how Louisville cops work and possibly where they live.
The measures include giving officers housing credits to live in neighborhoods they police; requiring high-ranking commanders to approve search warrant requests; involving social workers to help resolve situations when necessary; and require additional drug testing for officers, according to several media outlets.
Maria Irving, a Louisville resident and protestor, agreed with Ms. Taylor’s family and others that the settlement doesn’t resolve everything.
“I do not feel the settlement was enough, the push to prosecute officers should continue otherwise the message sent is that it’s OK for officers to hide behind qualified immunity and blindly shoot into homes without regards for the consequences,” said Ms. Irving.
“To me, police reform means spreading tasks across an array of divisions equipped to handle them as well as sharpening tactics and laws and rules carried out by police officers,” she added.
“With the reform being built into the settlement agreement, it’s actually an enforceable agreement,” said Atty. Baker. “So, if they were to not adhere to the reform that we committed to, there is legal recourse for that because it is a legally binding agreement.”
“We recognize the city didn’t have to negotiate reform, like we didn’t have to negotiate reform, but they did and they were willing to and they didn’t put a lot of fight into it. But it’s my hope that they [the police department] will do the right thing,” she said.
“And there can be repercussions through court if they don’t adhere to the reform or they don’t follow through. So, I’m going to take the positive approach that it’s going to happen.”
“The family can go back and sue, because it is a legal agreement,” she explained. “We’re going to follow this through. In addition to the reform that we were able to get through the settlement agreement, we also have a team of employees and attorneys working within our office to propose legislation so that it’s made into law as well.”
“We’re not just done right now. If they were to violate the terms of the agreement then we could go back before the courts and say that they are in violation of the agreement.”
According to St. Louis-based attorney Jeryl Christmas, who has been involved in major police shooting cases, the attorney general doesn’t need a grand jury to determine if the officers intended to kill Breonna Taylor. “If they knew someone was in there when they shot the place up, that would be intentional,” said Atty. Christmas.
“People need to know that the grand jury is there to determine if there is probable cause to charge them (the officers involved). The grand jury cannot prosecute a criminal, that’s what the attorney general can do, he presents evidence and they do what he says because he has control over the grand jury,” added Atty. Christmas. “This is the same thing that happened in Ferguson with the Darren Wilson and Mike Brown case. When the county prosecutor Bob McCulloch chose a grand jury to avoid responsibility of the decision the grand jury made, and Darren Wilson got off,” said Atty. Christmas.
Although protesters and celebrities have called for murder charges, many are doubtful justice will be served.
“While I want to have hope that the police reform will take place for the good, I don’t believe it will happen. It has been about seven months since Breonna Taylor was killed, and they waited until the public heard about it before they bothered to create a crime scene. So, I have no faith in LMPD. But I will say I sincerely hope they prove me wrong,” said Ms. Irving.