LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – The outrage has been going on for weeks and at demonstrations across the country: arrest the police who killed Breonna Taylor.
But three months after plainclothes officers fought an arrest warrant at her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, and shot and killed the 26-year-old black woman, only one of the three officers who opened fire lost his job. Nobody is charged.
Calls for action against the officers have gotten louder during a national reckoning on racism and police brutality following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Officials there prosecute four officers involved, including assuming an assassination attempt against the officer who pressed a knee into Floyd’s neck on May 25.
That has led people, from protesters to celebrities, to wonder why justice is slowly coming up in Taylor’s case.
“It is definitely taking too long, it is absolutely frustrating,” said 32-year-old Kirstia Drury, who took part in street protests in Louisville after Taylor’s death. “If anyone had even shot a police dog, they would have been convicted and halfway through prison.”
Taylor’s death on March 13 caught the attention of stars like Lizzo, Jada Pinkett Smith and Beyoncé, who wrote an open letter last week urging the Kentucky attorney general to move quickly. Millions have signed an online petition claiming justice for Taylor.
“They killed that girl in her own house,” said Ashley Kidwell, who came from Atlanta to participate in the Louisville protests in early June. “We’re going into July and no justice has been served.”
Attorney General Daniel Cameron, whose office is reviewing the investigation by the Louisville Police Department, declined to provide a timetable.
“An investigation of this magnitude, if done correctly, will take time and patience,” said Cameron, Kentucky’s first black attorney general, last week.
The FBI is also investigating the agents’ actions and investigating possible violations of civil rights.
Christopher 2X, a longtime anti-violence activist in Louisville, said the funds put into the investigation by local, state, and federal officials reassured him, and urged protesters not to get frustrated with the wait. He is executive director of the Christopher 2X Game Changers advocacy group and has often acted as an intermediary between the black community and Louisville officials during conflicts.
“I think the game changer here is federal intervention,” he said, adding that in two decades he has never seen a racially charged police shooting in Louisville get so much attention from the FBI and the United States Department of Justice.
He often speaks to Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, who has called for the three officers to be fired and charged with the murder.
“She’s frustrated, feeling grief and pain from the loss of her daughter,” said 2x. “But I constantly remind her how this system works.”
The agents are entitled to a fair trial, and if investigators believe they should be charged, it will take time to build a case that could stand up in court.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has said that state laws and the city’s collective labor agreement with the police require a trial to be followed before an officer can be fired.
Police said on Tuesday that Brett Hankison had been fired for violating the rules of lethal violence. Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly remain in service, but are reassigned administratively while the matter is investigated.
Narcotics detectives had a warrant to enter Taylor’s house, one of many “knock-off” orders issued by a judge in a drug investigation. No drugs were found at Taylor’s home. No-knock warrants, usually used in drug cases because of concerns that a suspect can destroy if police announce their arrival, are banned in a new Louisville law named after Taylor.
A letter of resignation said that Hankison, who is white, violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he shot “willfully and blindly” ten rounds in Taylor’s apartment. The letter, written by the acting police chief in grimly personal terms, also said Hankison broke the rules against the use of lethal force.
Taylor was shot eight times. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, opened fire when the police raided and shot Mattingly. Walker was charged with attempted murder of a police officer, but prosecutors later dropped that charge.
Walker told the police that he was knocking, but he didn’t know who came in and shot in self-defense. Mattingly was shot in the thigh and recovered.
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