About the only thing everyone can agree on in the case of Breonna Taylor, the young black woman who was killed by police officers March 13 in her apartment in Louisville, Ky., is that it was a tragedy and it never should’ve happened.
On Wednesday, Sept. 23, a Kentucky grand jury handed down an indictment against one of the three police officers involved in the serving of a warrant on Taylor’s apartment that led to her shooting. Former Metro Louisville Police Officer Brett Hankinson was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment for firing wildly into other apartments when officers returned fire after being fired on.
Some have questioned why he wasn’t indicted for endangering Taylor.
Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, said he fired a shot from a weapon he was licensed to carry because he thought burglars were trying to break into Taylor’s home. His shot hit Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh. Hankinson, Mattingly, and another officer, Det. Myles Cosgrove, returned fire. It was these shots that struck and killed Taylor.
The police had a warrant to search Taylor’s apartment because they believed she was storing cash and drugs for her former boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, an alleged drug dealer.
No indictments were handed down on Mattingly or Cosgrove. The state’s Attorney General, Daniel Cameron, said that, under Kentucky’s law of self-defense, they could not be prosecuted.
This has led to questions about the evidence Cameron presented to the grand jury. There are calls to release the transcripts of the proceedings. This would be unusual, as grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret.
Admittedly, Cameron faced an almost impossible task. There was so much hype surrounding this case that almost anything he did would make a lot of people unhappy. There were going to be a lot of people second-guessing him no matter what the grand jury did.
The trouble is, “everyone” knew what happened in this case. Celebrities and professional athletes all weighed in and put pressure on Kentucky officials to prosecute the police officers in this case. A serious problem is a lot of this “knowledge” was based on information that wasn’t true.
Among the false items in this case, as found by the Louisville Courier-Journal: Taylor was asleep in her bed when she was shot, the police were at the wrong address, Mattingly was shot by “friendly fire” from other officers, and it was Glover’s name that was on the warrant. None of these are true.
Of course, there are some activists who aren’t about to let facts get in the way of a good cause.
What few of these activists have mentioned is Mattingly was hit in an artery and almost bled to death at the scene. They almost had two fatalities in that apartment that evening.
They also fail to mention officers sometimes have to make split-second decisions. Sometimes, these decisions turn out to be wrong.
What has almost become lost in the headlines this past week was the City of Louisville has admitted civil liability for Taylor’s death. That came when they settled the $12 million wrongful death suit brought by Taylor’s family. They also pledged reforms in policing that some experts have said are needed.
Civil liability is not the same as criminal liability. However, it is an admission they did something wrong.
If Taylor’s family wants to honor her memory, they should use that money to hold the feet of Louisville officials to the fire and demand they implement those reforms without delay. They made a promise, and they should be held to it. They have it in writing on legal documents.
It’s too late for Breonna Taylor, but it’s possible those reforms could save someone else in the future. No family should have to go through what her family has gone through.
Maybe, just maybe, some good may come from this terrible and tragic incident.