After graphic video footage of Minneapolis police killing George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, surfaced online in late May, people across the world took to the streets en masse to participate in protests and uprisings against the police and the deep-seeded racism and anti-Blackness that the institution perpetuates.
As the public mourns and lifts up the names of countless Black victims of police brutality, Breonna Taylor has also entered the mainstream lexicon. In mid-March this year, the emergency medical technician from Louisville, Kentucky, was killed by police after they forcefully entered her home on a drug warrant, striking her more than eight times with gunfire after her boyfriend, fearing for their safety, shot at one of the officer’s legs.
Now, more than six months after her death, people are still calling for the arrests of the officers involved in her killing. Currently, only one officer has been indicted.
June 5 was Taylor’s birthday. She would have been 27 years old.
Below, we explain what we know so far about Taylor’s death and list ways that you can demand justice.
What Happened to Breonna Taylor?
According to Vox, she had hopes of becoming a nurse and was carrying on EMT duties as an essential worker while the coronavirus pandemic continued to spread.
Shortly after midnight on March 13, police forcefully entered her home on a drug warrant. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was also in the apartment, thought their home was being broken into and fired at the doorway when police entered, wounding one officer in the leg, The Washington Post reported. In response, the police squad fired more than 20 rounds into the apartment, striking Taylor more than eight times, killing her.
According to police court records, Taylor was not the main target of the search warrant Louisville Metro Police Department acquired for their drug case. They were investigating two men suspected of selling drugs about 10 miles away from Taylor’s home. However, they obtained a warrant out of Taylor’s apartment because they believed one of the suspects was receiving drug shipments there, the Louisville Courier Journal reported. A judge had permitted officers to use a “no-knock” policy, allowing them to enter the premises without announcing themselves as police, but officers say they still made an announcement before breaking in Taylor and Walker’s door with a battering ram. Taylor’s friends and neighbors disagree, though, attesting that police did not give warning before entering the apartment in a lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family on April 27. There is no bodycam footage from the incident.
Walker was arrested and charged for attempted murder, but the charges were dismissed in late May, according to Rolling Stone. On May 21, the FBI announced it would investigate the shooting of Breonna Taylor. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer suspended “no-knock” warrants, and later announced a “top-to-bottom review” of the police department. But at the time of writing, only one of the officers involved in Taylor’s death, Brett Hankison, has been fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department. None of them have been arrested.
Where Does the Case Stand Now?
In April, Taylor’s family filed a lawsuit that accused the officers of wrongful death, excessive force, and gross negligence. The lawsuit also states that the involved officers were looking for a man who did not live in Taylor’s apartment building and who had already been detained by the time they arrived at her home.
Along with Taylor’s family, attorney Ben Crump is representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was shot and killed while jogging near his home earlier this year.
“They’re killing our sisters just like they’re killing our brothers, but for whatever reason, we have not given our sisters the same attention that we have given to Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Stephon Clark, Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald,” Crump said, per The Washington Post. “Breonna’s name should be known by everybody in America who said those other names, because she was in her own home, doing absolutely nothing wrong.”
Though the Louisville Metro Police Department claims that the officers knocked on the couple’s door and announced themselves before entering, Walker said that there was no warning, subsequently firing his gun because he thought people were breaking in, according to the suit.
In May, another lawsuit was filed by Chelsey Napper, Taylor’s pregnant neighbor who had a five-year-old child at home. The suit claims that the officers “blindly fired” without using “sound reasonable judgment,” nearly hurting a man inside Napper’s apartment, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.
Napper and the man at her residence are seeking damages and a trial by jury against the involved officers.
In June, the Louisville Metro Council unanimously voted to ban no-knock warrants, naming the legislation Breonna's Law. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said that he supported the ban "wholeheartedly."
"I plan to sign Breonna's Law as soon as it hits my desk," he tweeted. "I suspended use of these warrants indefinitely last month, and wholeheartedly agree with Council that the risk to residents and officers with this kind of search outweigh any benefit."
In September, the city of Louisville announced that it would pay Taylor's family $12 million and establish police reforms as part of a lawsuit settlement six months after her death, The Associated Press reported. "We won't let Breonna Taylor's life be swept under the rug," Crump said.
Have any officers been charged?
On Wednesday, September 23, a Kentucky grand jury indicted a single police officer, Brett Hankison, with three counts of wanton endangerment in connection to the night of Taylor's death. The grand jury did not charge any other officers involved.
Following the indictment, Crump said on Twitter, "Jefferson County Grand Jury indicts former ofc. Brett Hankison with 3 counts of Wanton Endangerment in 1st Degree for bullets that went into other apartments but NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor. This is outrageous and offensive!"
In a subsequent tweet, he added, "If Brett Hankison's behavior was wanton endangerment to people in neighboring apartments, then it should have been wanton endangerment in Breonna Taylor's apartment too. In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder!"
If Brett Hankison's behavior was wanton endangerment to people in neighboring apartments, then it should have been wanton endangerment in Breonna Taylor's apartment too. In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder!
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) September 23, 2020
How Can I Help?
There are several ways you can help demand justice for Breonna Taylor right now.
Donate to the official GoFundMe for Breonna Taylor, set up by her family. Though they’ve already far exceeded their goal of $500,000 (they’ve fundraised more than $2.7 million at the time of publishing), every dollar that can go toward her family in her honor right now counts.
Sign the official petition demanding the officers who unlawfully shot Taylor in her home be charged and arrested.
Donate to the Louisville Community Bail Fund in order to help provide bail assistance for those who are unjustly arrested as they take to the streets to protest Taylor’s murder.
Head to JusticeForBreonna.org to see a list of more actions you can take. The website also lists demands for the city of Louisville, from dropping charges against Taylor's boyfriend to eliminating no-knock warrants.
In Taylor’s honor, donate to the Loveland Foundation, an organization that aims to prioritize access, opportunity, and validation for young Black women and girls across the country.
Phenomenal has launched an initiative to call for the arrest of the officers involved in the shooting. All profits from its Justice for Breonna Taylor T-shirt will go toward the Breonna Taylor Foundation, which was founded by her mother, Tamika Palmer.
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