It has been more than 100 days since Breonna Taylor was killed by police in her own home in Louisville, Kentucky. Thousands of protesters have chanted her name across the country, demanding justice for the EMT, who would have turned 27 on June 5.
As the country is reckoning with its history of racist police violence, many advocates want to know why charges still haven’t been filed against the officers who shot her dead.
Meanwhile, those who want to abolish the carceral state are rethinking what justice in the Taylor case should actually look like.
Most advocates agree that another Black woman is dead because of a lack of police accountability — and something needs to change.
On March 13, three officers with a no-knock warrant entered Taylor’s apartment looking for two people suspected of selling drugs, neither of whom was Taylor. The officers fired more than 20 rounds into the apartment, hitting Taylor at least eight times.
After months of investigation, the Louisville Police Department (LMPD) fired officer Brett Hankison on June 23; the other two officers remain on administrative assignment. A special Kentucky prosecutor is leading an investigation into both the shooting and the department’s handling of the shooting to determine whether to charge the three officers who fired their weapons; the FBI is leading its own investigation. On June 29, the Louisville Metro Council also announced a resolution to investigate the actions of Mayor Greg Fischer and his administration surrounding Taylor’s death. The council hopes to create greater transparency around who made what decisions in the Taylor case, according to a news release.
Taylor’s death took place amid a slate of high-profile killings of unarmed Black people — it was just three weeks after Ahmaud Arbery was killed by white vigilantes while jogging and about 10 weeks before the fatal arrest of George Floyd. The suspects involved in Arbery’s case were arrested and charged two weeks after video of the incident went viral. The four officers involved in the killing of George Floyd were fired four days after Floyd’s death, with the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck charged with murder.
By contrast, not much has happened in Taylor’s case.
In the meantime, Taylor’s family, alleging excessive force and gross negligence in her death, filed a lawsuit on April 27 against the officers involved in the shooting. In a court filing submitted on July 5, the family alleges that Taylor received no emergency medical aid as she lay dying. The document also claims that the raid on Taylor’s apartment was part of the mayor’s scheme to clear out a block in the neighborhood for redevelopment.
“I want justice for her,” Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, told the 19th in May. “I want them to say her name. There’s no reason Breonna should be dead at all.”
Police came looking for a drug suspect. Breonna Taylor ended up dead instead.
On the night of March 13, Louisville police had a warrant to enter Taylor’s apartment because they believed that a suspect in a narcotics investigation was storing drugs or money or receiving packages at her home, according to USA Today.
However, according to the suit filed by Taylor’s family, the man police were searching for, Jamarcus Glover, did not live in her apartment complex and had already been detained by the time officers showed up. Taylor had dated Glover two years ago, according to a family attorney, and did not maintain an active friendship with him.
Police said that the three officers knocked on the door to announce themselves. But multiple neighbors say the officers neither knocked nor identified themselves, according to the family’s lawsuit. It was later uncovered that the police had been granted a no-knock warrant by a judge, which allowed them to enter Taylor’s apartment without announcing themselves. They also weren’t wearing body cams.
When police arrived, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, 27, says he woke up and believed someone was trying to break into the apartment. There was banging on the door, he says, but police never announced themselves. He reached for his licensed handgun after he and Taylor asked who it was and got no response, NBC reported. He fired one shot, hitting an officer in the leg.
Police then fired more than 20 rounds into the apartment. Taylor died at the scene. Walker was arrested and charged with attempted murder of a police officer and aggravated assault.
Police found no drugs in the apartment, and both Taylor and Walker have no criminal history.
On May 22, Kentucky prosecutors announced that they had dismissed all charges against Walker, who said he fired a shot in self-defense when he believed he and Taylor were under attack.
On June 11, police released an incident report for the night Taylor was killed, but it was largely blank. Though Taylor was fatally shot, the four-page report listed her injuries as “none.” The report also stated there was no forced entry, though witnesses say the police used a battering ram to enter the apartment, according to CBS News.
The Taylor family’s 31-page July 5 court filing adds two new (and since contested) allegations to the narrative: that Taylor received no medical aid as she lay dying and that the nighttime raid was part of Mayor Fischer’s plan to redevelop a city block in western Louisville.
Taylor’s family said there is no evidence that suggests that Taylor was given medical attention in the six minutes between when she was shot and when she died. However, the coroner who performed Taylor’s autopsy said that her injuries from the shooting were so extreme that she would’ve died in “less than a minute” and that the recorded time of death on the report is “an estimate.”
The family’s filing also alleges that police went after Glover because of political pressure from the mayor’s office due to a redevelopment project valued at more than $30 million, according to the New York Times. Glover was reportedly using a row of abandoned houses to sell drugs in the area that needed to be cleared for development.
“People needed to be removed and homes needed to be vacated so that a high-dollar, legacy-creating real estate development could move forward,” attorneys for the family wrote in the court filing. The city has called the allegations “outrageous.”
Meanwhile, it came to light that the officer who shot Taylor, Hankison, had a history of misconduct allegations. He was already facing an ongoing federal lawsuit at the time of Taylor’s death in which Kendrick Wilson accused Hankison of “harassing suspects with unnecessary arrests and planting drugs on them,” according to USA Today. Wilson alleges that Hankison targeted him and arrested him three times in a two-year period.
After Taylor’s death, claims of sexual assault surfaced, too, with at least two women coming forward in early June to allege that Hankison assaulted them. In both allegations, which are similar to one another, Hankison offered the women rides home after they had been drinking at local bars. In one case, Hankison allegedly followed the woman into her home and assaulted her while she was unconscious. In the other case, Hankison reportedly made sexual advances toward the woman while she sat in his unmarked car, including rubbing her thighs and kissing her face.
On June 23, he was fired. LMPD posted Hankison’s termination letter on Twitter, which stated Hankison “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life when you wantonly and blindly fired ten (10) rounds into the apartment of Breonna Taylor…” The letter also stated Hankison violated the department’s protocol on use of deadly force when he shot through a patio door and window that was covered. This prevented him from determining whether there was an immediate threat or innocent people present; some of the bullets even traveled to a neighbor’s apartment where three people were endangered, according to the letter. Hankison has appealed his termination.
The other two officers who fired rounds that night, John Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, remain on the force and have been placed on administrative reassignment. The case is still under independent investigation with Kentucky’s Attorney General, Daniel Cameron, who has said he will not provide additional details or a timelinefor the investigation.