The family of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed by police in her Louisville, Ky., apartment earlier this year, igniting a national uproar around police brutality and racism, has settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the city for $12 million that includes an agreement to implement a number of police reforms, Mayor Greg Fischer announced Tuesday.
The lawsuit — filed in April by Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer — alleged battery, negligence and excessive force in the March 13 shooting death of Taylor, who was killed in the middle of the night by police officers executing a warrant.
The settlement, according to Fischer, is an agreement between both parties but does not mean the city is admitting wrongdoing.
“I cannot begin to imagine Ms. Palmer’s pain,” Fischer said, “and I’m deeply, deeply sorry for Breonna’s death. While we await a decision from [state] Attorney General Daniel Cameron on whether or not charges will be filed in this case, my administration is not waiting to move ahead with needed reforms, to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”
Lawyers for Taylor’s family applauded the settlement, with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump saying he believes it’s the largest amount ever paid out for a Black woman in a police-involved wrongful death case. But attorneys also said more must be done to achieve justice for Taylor, specifically criminal charges for at least the three officers who were involved in the shooting. Crump said second-degree manslaughter charges, at minimum, should be filed.
“We want full justice,” he said. “Not partial justice.”
Palmer said the settlement is “only the beginning” of getting justice for her daughter.
“It’s time to move forward with the criminal charges, because she deserves that and much more. Her beautiful spirit and personality is working through all of us on the ground. So please continue to say her name. Breonna Taylor.”
The lawsuit said police had a “knock and announce” search warrant to enter Taylor’s apartment, where the officers were searching for a person who actually lived in a different part of Louisville. Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were sleeping at the time.
But officers entered Taylor’s home without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers before opening fire, the suit said.
Taylor, an EMT, was shot at least eight times and was killed, despite having committed no crime and posing no immediate threat to the officers, the complaint said.
Louisville officials said officers executed a no-knock warrant at Taylor’s residence, but knocked and announced themselves before breaking down the door, according to a statement from the city. Walker said he heard a pounding at the door but didn’t hear police announce themselves, the city said. He fired one shot and hit an officer. Police returned fire and killed Taylor.
The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Walker had fired what he later called a warning shot and hit Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh. Mattingly and two other officers with him, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, shot back, the newspaper said. All three officers were named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The officers’ warrant was part of an investigation into a drug trafficking suspect who is Taylor’s former boyfriend, the Associated Press reported.
Taylor’s death sparked an outcry across the nation, as she became yet another symbol for demonstrators protesting against police brutality and misconduct. Protesters, activists, athletes and celebrities worldwide have called for the officers involved to be charged criminally. Cameron’s office is reviewing the shooting.
Louisville Metro Police interim Chief Robert Schroeder terminated Hankison on June 19, according to the city, alleging he “blindly” fired 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment. The other two officers are on administrative leave.
Taylor’s death led to police reform in Louisville. In June, Fischer signed “Breonna’s Law,” banning the use of “no knock” warrants. He later announced a “top to bottom” review of the police department.
On Tuesday, Fischer said the government agreed to make several policy changes involving the police department, including a housing credit program to incentivize officers to live in certain low-income communities in the city and a plan to include social workers at the department.
The agreement also includes a new requirement that a commanding officer review and approve all search warrants, affidavits in support of search warrants and risk matrices before an officer seeks judicial approval for the warrant, Fischer said.
Schroeder said Tuesday that currently a commanding officer signs off on a search warrant in some cases but not all. The agreement means a commanding officer will always be required to approve a warrant.
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