Editor’s note: A grand jury on Wednesday afternoon indicted one officer in the case of Breonna Taylor, but not for her death, after this story was originally published. The jury presented its decision against fired officer Brett Hankison to a judge in Louisville, where the shooting took place.
Officials in Louisville and communities throughout Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois are preparing for more protests and possible unrest as the public nervously awaits the Kentucky attorney general’s announcement early Wednesday afternoon about whether he officers will be charged in Breonna Taylor’s shooting death.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer on Tuesday declared a state of emergency due to the potential for civil unrest, hours after police said they would restrict access in the city’s downtown area. The mayor and police said they were trying to plan ahead to protect both demonstrators and the people who live and work there.
Taylor, a Black emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times March 13 by officers who entered her home using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. The warrant used was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.
Large protests over Taylor’s death that at times became violent erupted in late May in the city but most demonstrations since then have been peaceful. Celebrities, athletes, activists and Taylor’s family have for months pushed Cameron to criminally charge the officers involved in the raid.
Last week, the city of Louisville settled a lawsuit from Taylor’s family for $12 million and pledged several police reforms as part of the agreement.
According to the Louisville Courier Journal, a Jefferson County grand jury will present its report on the Taylor case to Jefferson Circuit Judge Annie O’Connell at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Additionally, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron will discuss the decision during a press conference set for 1:30 p.m.
Cameron had declined to set a deadline for his decision. Earlier this month, he remarked that “an investigation, if done properly, cannot follow a certain timeline.”
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the measures taken by Louisville police are due to the intense scrutiny of the Taylor case, in Louisville and around the country.
“The national attention here is so great, the potential for outsiders so significant, the possibility of someone taking something peaceful and trying to turn it into something that’s not, is all there,” Beshear said during his daily COVID-19 briefing Tuesday.
In Indiana, the governor’s office said some local communities had requested assistance of the Indiana National Guard, if necessary.
“Indiana National Guard soldiers are training with and are prepared to support local law enforcement in Southern Indiana,” Master Sgt. Jeff Lowry, spokesman for the Indiana National Guard, said in an email. “Our primary mission is to conduct military operations in support of civil authorities to enhance local law enforcement agencies’ ability to provide continued public safety and critical infrastructure security.”
In Indianapolis, Mayor Joe Hogsett said Wednesday that the city is monitoring the situation in Louisville.
He said one lesson learned from racial unrest this summer is that Indianapolis can’t ignore what’s happening in other cities. He said there might have been a time years ago that “we could collectively take a sigh of relief” that signs of civil unrest were happening elsewhere, but not any longer.
Hogsett said Indianapolis will “continue to protect First Amendment rights when appropriate if protests return. And we will reflect upon and learn from lessons from this past summer. Hopefully, that response and those lessons learned will better prepare us if protesting begins.”
IMPD chief Randal Taylor said IMPD has had conversations within the department and with the Indiana State Police, and will respond “accordingly” to those who don’t follow the law. He said he hopes IMPD will just need to have a presence at any protests and not get involved.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday put the state’s National Guard in a “state of readiness” in anticipation of an announcement about Breonna Taylor.
Pritzker’s office said in a statement that the National Guard would fall under the direction of the state police if necessary. The National Guard was activated earlier this year during civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May.
In Louisville, Mayor Fischer said officials’ goal “is ensuring space and opportunity for potential protesters to gather and express their First Amendment rights after the announcement.”
“At the same time, we are preparing for any eventuality to keep everyone safe,” he said.
In a news release Tuesday, the Louisville Metro Police Department said it was placing barricades around Jefferson Square Park, where protests over Taylor’s death have been held, and the perimeter of the downtown area; allowing only pedestrians in the blocks immediately surrounding the park; restricting vehicle traffic in other areas of downtown and limiting access to parking garages.
The department apologized for any inconveniences to workers and downtown residents.
“However, public safety is our No. 1 priority, and it would be irresponsible if we did not take preemptive action to preserve it,” the statement said.
Police first mentioned the barricades on Monday, when they also said they had canceled vacations and were denying officers’ requests for time off for the time being.
Federal officials closed the federal courthouse and other federal buildings for the week.
Sadiqa Reynolds, who heads the not-for-profit Louisville Urban League and lives downtown, described the city’s measures as “overkill.”
“This is certainly an over-response to the local protests that have been happening in our community,” she said, noting that protesters have been demonstrating in and around the city for nearly four months.
When Reynolds and hundreds of others staged a peaceful protest on Kentucky Derby day, police blocked off streets surrounding Churchill Downs and stationed dozens of officers at the track, which was without fans inside.
“This city keeps meeting the desire for justice with this preparation for war,” she said.
Meanwhile, an officer who was shot in the leg by Taylor’s boyfriend the night police entered her apartment wrote an email to fellow officers telling them that with their actions, Fischer and top police officials had “failed all of us in epic proportions.”
In the email, published by news outlets Tuesday and confirmed by his attorney, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly wrote, “I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night.”
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, told police he fired one round after Taylor’s door was broken down and Mattingly entered. Walker said he thought someone was breaking into the house and didn’t know that it was police who were entering.
Referring to protesters, Mattingly added that police officers should not be in a position “that allows thugs to get in your face and yell, curse and degrade you.”
His attorney, Kent Wicker, told The Associated Press in an email that Mattingly’s email was “expressing his support for (fellow officers) and their work during these difficult times.”