Nearly a year ago, police took the life of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old woman who worked as an emergency room technician and posted her aspirations on notes around her apartment. Since then, her name has rung through the streets, worldwide and in the U.S., carried by impassioned chants and voices demanding accountability for the officers that killed her. Yet after an arduous year, officers Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove, Joshua Jaynes, and Jon Mattingly have yet to be charged for Breonna Taylor’s death. Accountability is far from accomplished and we are once again reminded of the cruel racism that plagues the U.S. “justice” system.
A Dreadful Night
Breonna Taylor had just completed a long night working at the hospital, and was in the process of finishing up a movie after a date with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker– they were looking forward to a peaceful night’s sleep. (Callimachi). Then, between midnight and 1 AM, they woke to a terrifying pounding at their door (Duvall), and per Mr. Walker, Breonna Taylor repeatedly and loudly asked “Who is it?” (Callimachi). Following repeated inquiries and no audible response, Mr. Walker fired a single warning shot at their door to drive off what he believed were intruders (Duvall). The police proceeded to break down the door into the apartment, firing shots everywhere and striking Breonna Taylor numerous times as she stood, unarmed, in her own hallway (Callimachi). According to Mr. Walker and a lawsuit filed by Ms. Taylor’s family and their lawyers, police neglected to offer any aid or attempts to save Breonna Taylor’s life, even though she was still alive after they shot her (Costello).
A Thoroughly Appalling Raid
The wretched details of the raid are not confined to the few minutes in which it was executed. Rather, the entire raid, from conception to planning and set-up, is wrought with disturbing details and chilling disregard for human life.
Ambulance Turned Away
Standard practice requires an ambulance to be on standby outside the site of the raid, but police officers told the ambulance to leave an hour before (Oppel).
Did police announce themselves?
While police claim that they announced themselves, there is significant indication that they did not at all or failed to do so properly. Investigators interviewed numerous neighbors, most of whom did not hear police knocking with one claiming that police announced themselves only a single time (Callimachi). These accounts starkly contrast with how the officers involved in the raid were trained to announce themselves. They were previously instructed in a “dynamic entry” academy to announce as loudly as possible in order to prevent being mistaken as intruders (Balko), yet apparently failed to do so. It is important to note that police were initially granted a no-knock warrant for the raid, which would exempt officers from announcing themselves, but later received orders to “knock and announce” (Callimachi). The failure of police to announce themselves properly is further corroborated by Mr. Walker’s account, where he asserts he believed the officers were intruders (Callimachi). Mr. Walker also called 911 immediately after the shooting, before police offered any assistance to Breonna Taylor, and expressed confusion at what happened, who broke into their home, and called out for help (Oppel).
They arrested Kenneth Walker
After police killed Breonna Taylor and left her with no medical attention, they proceeded to arrest her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, and only released him once public outrage grew (Balko).
No Body Cameras
Police were reportedly working undercover and were not equipped with body cameras (Callimachi). Despite the level of non-video evidence demonstrating clear disregard for human life on the part of the officers, the lack of video footage adds a significant barrier to the quest for accountability. It has allowed those in power to obfuscate the details and evade accountability.
The Grand Jury
Attorney General Daniel Cameron of Kentucky made the decision to not charge any of the officers involved for Breonna Taylor’s death, tying the decision to the outcome of the grand jury. However, grand jurors began coming forward to counter these claims, appalled at the decision and alleging that they were not even given the option to consider homicide charges (Griffith). It is revolting that the Attorney General would go to such lengths to gaslight the public with the illusion of reasoned, principled justice while assisting police to murder with impunity.
What is Happening Now?
Though it’s been nearly a year, Breonna Taylor’s family and community are persisting in the fight for accountability. Given the decision by the Attorney General to not charge the officers for Ms. Taylor’s death, the fight is now taking a different path. Recently, Breonna Taylor’s family demanded that a special prosecutor be appointed to the case to undo the glaring injustice supported by AG Daniel Cameron (Waldrop). The Kentucky Prosecutors Advisory Council declined to support the request, but pressure continues upon Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and others in power to pursue accountability with a new special prosecutor. Officer Brett Hankison was fired and indicted (not for Breonna Taylor’s death), while Joshua Jaynes and Myles Cosgrove were fired on January 5, 2021. The recent developments indicate that the fight for accountability is not over.
Who to watch for more information and action steps:
Given the recent developments in the case, it is important that we remain vigilant. We must be persistent with our action and demands for accountability. Breonna Taylor’s family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, and the organization Until Freedom, have been closely involved in fighting for Justice and accountability.
We must always Say Her Name and fight for accountability on behalf of Breonna Taylor.
Standwithbre.com lists what must happen to ensure the injustice seen in Breonna Taylor’s case is never seen again. This includes the Department of Justice taking immediate action at the insistence of the Biden Administration, Tom Wine stepping down for his gross mishandlement of Taylor’s murder investigation, and passsing Breonna’s Law to ban no knock warrants across the country– anyone can take action by adding their name to the petition on standwithbre.com and making calls. https://www.standwithbre.com/
Donate to the official GoFundMe for Breonna Taylor, set up on behalf of her family. https://www.gofundme.com/f/9v4q2-justice-for-breonna-taylor
Sign the official Justice for Breonna Taylor petition: https://www.change.org/p/andy-beshear-justice-for-breonna-taylor (note that donations to change.org do not go to Breonna’s cause but change.org itself.)Visit https://justiceforbreonna.org/
I am 16 years old and an incoming junior at Gainesville High School in Florida. I will be Junior Class President for the class of 2022, I serve in Student Government, and I am passionate about using my voice to create positive change.