One officer indicted in Breonna Taylor case, but not for her death

Keywords Criminal Charges / Law

A Kentucky grand jury on Wednesday indicted a single former police officer for shooting into neighboring apartments but did not move forward with charges against any officers for their role in Breonna Taylor’s death.

The jury announced that fired Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in connection to the police raid of Taylor’s home on the night of March 13.

Neither the grand jury nor the presiding judge elaborated on the charges.

Immediately after the announcement, people were expressing frustration that the grand jury did not do more.

“Justice has NOT been served,” tweeted Linda Sarsour of Until Freedom, a group that has pushed for charges in the case. “Rise UP. All across this country. Everywhere. Rise up for #BreonnaTaylor.”

Authorities in Kentucky and nearby states have been anxiously awaiting a decision in the case because of its potential to spark social unrest.

Protesters have consistently pressured state Attorney General Daniel Cameron to act, and celebrities and pro athletes had joined them in calling on the attorney general to charge the police who shot Taylor. At one point, demonstrators converged on his house and were charged with felonies for trying to intimidate the prosecutor.

A Republican, he is the state’s first Black state attorney general and a protege 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.

Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by officers who entered her home using a no-knock 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.

Cameron’s office had been receiving materials from the Louisville Police Department’s public integrity unit while they tried to determine whether state charges would be brought against the three officers involved, he 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, Sgt. Johnathan Mattingly, Officer Myles Cosgrove and the detective who sought the warrant, Joshua Jaynes, were placed on administrative reassignment after the shooting.

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.

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 violent death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

Several prominent Black celebrities including Oprah and Beyonce have joined those urging that the officers be charged.

Authorities in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois have been concerned about social unrest growing in the wake of the grand jury decision.

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.

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