October 29, 2020 | Criminal Law
The city of Louisville and the entire state of Kentucky have been closely following the story of Breonna Taylor who was shot and killed in her home by police officers on March 13th, 2020. The officers were at the home with a warrant to search for narcotics as it was suspected that Ms. Taylor’s ex-boyfriend used the home as part of a drug ring.
When Ms. Taylor’s current boyfriend heard loud knocking at the door he grabbed a gun and fired, thinking there was an intruder. The shot struck one of the officers in the leg. Officers Mattingly, Cosgrove, and Hankison then returned fire, shooting a total of 32 times.
In the confrontation, Ms. Taylor was shot five times and died at the scene while her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was unharmed. Calls for the officers to be fired and charged were swift and intensified in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis two months later.
Since that time, there have been numerous developments.
The Attorney General and The Grand Jury
For six months, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron dug deep into the details of the case. At the conclusion of his investigation, he presented his findings to a grand jury. The grand jury met from September 21-23 to hear Mr. Cameron’s arguments. On September 23rd, the grand jury decided to indict one of the officers, Officer Hankison on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for firing into the apartment across the hall from Ms. Taylor’s.
The other two officers were not charged, as Mr. Cameron felt they were justified in shooting given the facts of the case. Soon after the news of the indictment began to circulate, protestors were calling for transcripts of the grand jury proceedings to be made public.
On Oct. 2, Cameron did release about 20 hours of audio from the proceedings. However, on Oct. 8th, a lawyer for one of the grand jury members argued to a judge that all documentation should be made public. For his part, Cameron believes releasing all files “would irreversibly alter Kentucky’s legal system.”
Some people are frustrated that Mr. Cameron did not pursue charges against the other two officers and for not attempting to charge any of the officers with murder. Others are simply upset because he made these decisions unilaterally. A decision by the judge as to whether Mr. Cameron needs to release all files related to the grand jury proceedings is expected soon.
Police Reforms and Developments
In the wake of the shooting, numerous reforms and changes have been made within the Louisville Police Department. Those reforms and changes include:
- The police chief was fired in June
- It is now required that all search warrants be approved by a senior officer
- It is now mandatory that all officers wear body cameras
The Louisville Police Department also fired Officer Hankison and reassigned Officers Mattingly and Cosgrove to administrative duties. Finally, the city of Louisville reached a $12 million settlement with Ms. Taylor’s family.
Kenneth Walker Speaks Out
Kenneth Walker, Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend who was with her the night she died and fired the shot that started the confrontation with police, spoke out recently about the charges that were brought in the case and about what happened on the night of the shooting.
On “CBS This Morning” Walker claimed he didn’t hear the people at the door identify themselves as police and said that the sound of the 32 subsequent gunshots sounded like a war zone.
Mr. Walker was initially arrested for attempted the murder of a police officer, but charges against him were later dropped.