Louisville, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for the killing of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid gone wrong, with prosecutors saying Wednesday that two ofﬁcers who ﬁred their weapons at the Black woman were justiﬁed in using force to protect themselves.
The only charges brought by the grand jury were three counts of wanton endangerment against ﬁred Ofﬁcer Brett Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes during the raid on the night of March 13. The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in the case.
The Taylor family’s lawyer, Ben Crump, denounced the decision as “outrageous and offensive,” and protesters shouting, “No justice, no peace!” began marching through the streets. Some sat quietly and wept.
Along with the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, Taylor’s case became a major touchstone for the nationwide protests that have gripped the nation since May — drawing attention to entrenched racism and demanding police reform. Taylor’s image has been painted on streets, emblazoned on protest signs and silk-screened on Tshirts worn by celebrities.
The charges drew immediate sadness, frustration and anger that the grand jury did not go further. The wanton endangerment charges each carry a sentence of up to ﬁve years.
Right after the decision, protesters brought cases of water to “Injustice Square,” the Louisville park where people have gathered to demand justice for Taylor. Some began preparing food.
Later, police in the city cordoned off a street with yellow tape, telling protesters to move back, and ofﬁcers in protective gear could be seen handcufﬁng some people.
“Justice has NOT been served,” tweeted Linda Sarsour of Until Freedom, a group that has pushed for charges in the case.
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by ofﬁcers who entered her home on a noknock warrant during a narcotics investigation. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside. The use of no-knock warrants has since been banned by Louisville’s Metro Council. The case exposed the wide gulf between public opinion on justice for those who kill Black Americans, and the laws under which those ofﬁcers are charged, which regularly favor working police and do not often result in steep criminal accusations.
At a news conference, state Attorney General Daniel Cameron spoke to that disconnect.
“Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief,” Cameron told reporters after the charges were announced.
“But my heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor. And I’ve said that repeatedly. My mother, if something was to happen to me, would ﬁnd it very hard,” he added, choking up.
But Cameron, who is the state’s ﬁrst Black attorney general, said the ofﬁcers acted in self-defense after Taylor’s boyfriend ﬁred at them. He added that Hankison and the two other ofﬁcers who entered Taylor’s apartment announced themselves before entering — and so did not execute the warrant as “no-knock,” according to the investigation.
“According to Kentucky law, the use of force by (Ofﬁcers Jonathan) Mattingly and (Myles) Cosgrove was justiﬁed to protect themselves,” he said. “This justiﬁcation bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor’s death.”
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, opened ﬁre when police burst in, hitting Mattingly. Walker was charged with attempted murder of a police ofﬁcer, but prosecutors later dropped the charge.
Walker told police he heard knocking but didn’t know who was coming into the home and ﬁred in self-defense.
Regarding the disappointment of those who wanted criminal charges brought in Taylor’s death, he remarked, “The decision before my ofﬁce as the special prosecutor in this case was not to decide if the loss of Ms. Taylor’s life was a tragedy. The answer to that is unequivocally yes.”
A Republican, Cameron is a protégé of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has been tagged by some as his heir apparent. His was also one of 20 names on President Donald Trump’s list to ﬁll a future Supreme Court vacancy.
Asked about the decision at a White House event, Trump said he hadn’t had time to consider it yet but would comment when he had. He added: “My message is that I love the Black community, and that I’ve done more for the Black community than any other president, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.”
Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, told reporters in Washington that she also hadn’t fully read the decision.
“But there’s no question that Breonna Taylor and her family deserved justice yesterday, today and tomorrow so I’ll review it,” she said.
Before charges were brought, Hankison was ﬁred from the city’s police department on June 23. A termination letter sent to him by interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said the white ofﬁcer had violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 rounds of gunﬁre into Taylor’s apartment in March.
Hankison had previously been placed on administrative reassignment, as were Sgt. Johnathan Mattingly, Ofﬁcer Myles Cosgrove and the detective who sought the warrant, Joshua Jaynes.
On Sept. 15, the city settled a lawsuit against the three ofﬁcers brought by Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, agreeing to pay her $12 million and enact police reforms.
Protesters in Louisville and across the country have demanded justice for Taylor and other Black people killed by police in recent months. The release in late May of a 911 call by Taylor’s boyfriend marked the beginning of days of protests in Louisville, fueled by her shooting and the killing of Floyd while at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25.
Several prominent African American celebrities including Oprah and Beyoncé have joined those urging that the ofﬁcers be charged.