Days after learning that no Louisville police officers would be charged with homicide in the death of Breonna Taylor, lawyers for the woman’s family called on Kentucky’s attorney general to release the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings.
“Breonna Taylor’s entire family is heartbroken, devastated, outraged and confused as to what Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron presented to the grand jury,” civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said at a Friday morning news conference in Louisville. “Did he present any evidence on Breonna Taylor’s behalf? Or did he make a unilateral decision to put his thumb on the scales of justice to try to exonerate and justify the killing of Breonna Taylor by these police officers?”
Transcripts of grand jury proceedings are typically kept private, but Crump believes they may help shed light on Cameron’s decision to forgo homicide charges.
This week a grand jury in Jefferson County, Ky., indicted former Louisville police detective Brett Hankison on charges of wanton endangerment for firing his handgun into nearby apartments on the night of the shooting in March. The other two officers involved in the case, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and detective Myles Cosgrove, were not charged for their role in Taylor’s death.
The indictment drew outrage from those who had expected homicide charges to be brought against the officers.
“They murdered Breonna Taylor,” activist Tamika Mallory said Friday, “and until those officers are fired from this department, I promise you, I promise you, we will continue to make these streets hot.”
Interim Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert Schroeder terminated Hankison on June 19, alleging he “blindly” fired 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment. The other two officers were placed on administrative leave.
Cameron, who on Wednesday announced the indictment filed against Hankison, declined to provide details about the grand jury proceeding, telling reporters that the proceedings are done in secret.
A spokeswoman for Cameron’s office told Yahoo News on Friday the attorney general understands that the outcome of the grand jury proceedings was not what Taylor’s family had hoped for.
“Regarding today’s statements at the press conference,” the statement said, “everyone is entitled to their opinion, but prosecutors and Grand Jury members are bound by the facts and by the law. Attorney General Cameron is committed to doing everything he can to ensure the integrity of the prosecution before him and continue fulfilling his ethical obligations both as a prosecutor and as a partner in the ongoing federal investigation.”
Taylor, 26, died after police tried to enter her residence on March 13 while she and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were sleeping. Louisville officials said officers executed a no-knock warrant at the home, but claimed that they knocked anyway 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 and hit Mattingly in the thigh, according to Cameron. The officers all returned fire.
“Evidence shows that officers both knocked and announced their presence,” Cameron said Wednesday, adding that after Walker fired his gun, police responded with 22 shots of their own. A ballistic analysis, Cameron said Wednesday, determined that a shot by Cosgrove killed Taylor.
Hankison fired his weapon 10 times, Cameron said, sending bullets into apartments adjacent to Taylor’s. At the time of the incident, three residents in those apartments were home.
“There is no conclusive evidence that any bullets fired from Hankison’s weapon struck Miss Taylor,” Cameron said.
The warrant that brought the officers to Taylor’s apartment was part of an investigation into a drug trafficking suspect, who is Taylor’s former boyfriend, the Associated Press reported.
Cameron said that while there are six possible homicide charges under Kentucky law, those charges are not applicable in this case because Mattingly and Cosgrove were “justified in their return of deadly fire after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker.”
Hankison was charged with wanton endangerment for allegedly endangering the individuals in one of the apartments he shot into. The offense in the first degree is a Class D felony, and applies to those who have shown extreme indifference to the value of human life. It carries up to five years in prison for each count.
On Friday, Taylor’s lawyers questioned the justification that police fired in self-defense.
“I know the law of self-defense in Kentucky,” attorney Lonita Baker said. “And I know that you don't have the right to use the defense of self-defense when you injure or kill an innocent third party. And what we know from Sergeant Mattingly’s testimony to the [Louisville Metro Police Department’s] Public Integrity Unit is that he saw that Breonna Taylor was unarmed.”
The indictment on Wednesday prompted demonstrations in Louisville and other cities across the nation. Since Taylor’s death, protesters, activists, athletes and celebrities worldwide have called for the officers involved to be charged criminally.
“There seems to be two justice systems in America: one for Black America and one for white America,” Crump said Friday.
Amid the unrest in Louisville, more than 20 protesters were arrested on Thursday night, including Kentucky state Rep. Attica Scott and her daughter. Scott wrote a bill called “Breonna’s Law,” the Courier-Journal reported, which would prohibit no-knock warrants, similar to a local policy with the same title that was signed by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer in June.
At Friday’s press conference, Scott indicated that the charges against them were baseless.
“Those are some ridiculous charges that were levied against us,” Scott told the crowd. “I also want the rest of y’all to know that we were detained at 8:58 [p.m.].” A curfew is in effect in Louisville from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., until Monday morning.
At a separate press conference on Friday, Schroeder said approximately 26 individuals were arrested at the protests on various charges, including unlawful assembly and first-degree rioting. Multiple burglaries and property damage were also reported.
“The destruction we saw last night simply cannot continue,” he said.
Thumbnail credit: Darron Cummings/AP
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