On March 13, 2020, police officers in Louisville, Kentucky executed a “no-knock” warrant at the apartment of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman who, at the time, was a first responder and had been working to help those affected by COVID-19.
When police tried to enter the apartment without announcing their identity, Breonna’s boyfriend grabbed his gun, in order to protect himself and Breonna. The boyfriend also made a phone call to Breonna’s mother, to say that someone was breaking into their home. When police broke through the front door, Breonna’s boyfriend, who had no idea who was entering their home, shot his gun in self-defense. One of the two officers inside of the apartment was struck in the thigh by that shot.
Police officers returned fire, shooting off multiple rounds, with two officers shooting inside the apartment and a third officer shooting (blindly) from outside of the apartment. None of the officers were wearing body cameras at the time.
Breonna, who had been asleep and had just gotten out of bed, was hit by five bullets. An autopsy confirmed that the cause of Breonna’s death was homicide. After Breonna was shot, her boyfriend called 911, but the police on scene did not provide any aid or life-saving measures.
The no-knock warrant was executed as part of the police department’s search for two men accused of dealing drugs, one of which Breonna had previously dated. As it turns out, though, Breonna was no longer involved with that man, and her house had not been used to hold drugs, as police allegedly believed. It has now been determined that police had no reason to execute the no-knock warrant at Breonna Taylor’s home, and the home police should have gone to was more than ten miles away.
The death of Breonna Taylor gained national attention throughout the spring and summer of 2020, which saw massive, widespread protests around the country in response to multiple deaths of black Americans at the hands of police. Protesters spent months in the streets, carrying signs that proclaim “Black Lives Matter” and calling for justice for those black Americans recently killed, including Breonna Taylor.
Despite the nationwide outrage and demands for justice for Breonna Taylor, this case has moved at an incredibly slow pace. Breonna was killed in March, but it wasn’t until June that one of the officers involved in her death (Brett Hankison) was fired from his position. The other two officers involved in the incident were put on administrative duties.
On September 15th, it was announced that Breonna Taylor’s family would receive a $12 million settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit, and at that time, the City of Louisville also claimed it would start implementing changes to its police force and police policy. However, it wasn’t until September 23rd that a grand jury decided whether or not the officers involved in Breonna’s death would face any charges for their actions.
In preparation of the grand jury decision being announced, the Louisville mayor declared a state of emergency and blocked off certain areas of the city. Louisville has seen protests over the killing of Breonna Taylor for months, and some have turned violent at times. Implementing a state of emergency will allow the mayor more flexibility in directing the police and national guard should they be deployed to handle violent protests in the city.
It’s possible the mayor’s preparations were warranted. The announcement was not of the justice protesters have spent months demanding.
Out of the three officers that were present and involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor, it was announced that only one officer will face charges — but not for Breonna Taylor’s injuries or death.
The two officers that were inside of the apartment and likely fired the shots that hit and killed Breonna will face no charges.
The third officer, Brett Hankison, who was outside of the apartment, will face three charges for wanton endangerment. His bail has been set at $15,000 cash. Hankison was also the one police officer that had been previously fired from the police department for his actions that night.
The wanton endangerment charges were made against Hankison for recklessly and blindly firing his weapon from outside of Breonna’s apartment, with no clear target in sight. Multiple rounds shot by Hankison were found to have entered neighboring apartments, but none of them were responsible for Breonna Taylor’s injuries or subsequent death.
When these minor charges were announced, Breonna Taylor’s name and death were never mentioned.
Protesters in Louisville had already gathered in the streets while waiting to hear whether or not any of the police officers would be held accountable for Breonna Taylor’s death. As of 4:00PM, nearly three hours after the announcement was made, protesters have started to march and make their voices heard, but there have not yet been any reports of violence associated with these protests.
We will update this story if/when more information becomes available.