No po­lice charges in Tay­lor killing

Pros­e­cu­tors say of­fi­cers’ ac­tions were jus­ti­fied

San Francisco Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Dy­lan Lovan and Piper Hudspeth Black­burn

LOUISVILLE, Ky.— A Ken­tucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville po­lice for the killing of Bre­onna Tay­lor dur­ing a drug raid gone wrong, with pros­e­cu­tors say­ing Wed­nes­day that two of­fi­cers who fired their weapons at the Black woman were jus­ti­fied in us­ing force to pro­tect them­selves.

The only charges brought by the grand jury were three counts of wan­ton en­dan­ger­ment against fired Of­fi­cer Brett Hanki­son for shoot­ing into Tay­lor’s neigh­bors’ homes dur­ing the raid on the night of March 13. The FBI is still in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­ten­tial vi­o­la­tions of fed­eral law in the case.

Ben Crump, a lawyer for Tay­lor’s fam­ily, de­nounced the de­ci­sion as “out­ra­geous and of­fen­sive,” and pro­test­ers shout­ing, “No jus­tice, no peace!” be­gan march­ing through the streets. Some sat

qui­etly and wept. Later, scuf­fles broke out be­tween po­lice and pro­test­ers, and some were ar­rested.

Tay­lor, an emer­gency med­i­cal worker, was shot mul­ti­ple times by of­fi­cers who en­tered her home on a no­knock war­rant dur­ing a nar­cotics in­ves­ti­ga­tion — al­though state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Daniel Cameron said Wed­nes­day the in­ves­ti­ga­tion showed the of­fi­cers did an­nounce them­selves. The war­rant used to search her home was con­nected to a sus­pect who did not live there, and no drugs were found in­side.

Along with the killing of Ge­orge Floyd in Min­nesota, Tay­lor’s case be­came a ma­jor touch­stone for the na­tion­wide protests that have gripped the na­tion since May — draw­ing at­ten­tion to en­trenched racism and de­mand­ing po­lice re­form. Tay­lor’s im­age has been painted on streets, em­bla­zoned on protest signs and silk­screened on T­shirts worn by celebri­ties.

The an­nounce­ment of the charges drew im­me­di­ate sad­ness, frus­tra­tion and anger that the grand jury did not go fur­ther. The wan­ton en­dan­ger­ment charges each carry a sen­tence of up to five years.

“Jus­tice has NOT been served,” tweeted Linda Sar­sour of Un­til Free­dom, a group that has pushed for charges in the case.

Mor­gan Ju­lianna Lee, a high school stu­dent in Char­lotte, N.C., watched the an­nounce­ment at home.

“It’s al­most like a slap in the face,” the 15­year­old said by phone. “If I, as a Black woman, ever need jus­tice, I will never get it.”

Right af­ter the de­ci­sion, pro­test­ers be­gan gath­er­ing in Louisville, with some pre­par­ing food and oth­ers bring­ing cases of wa­ter to “In­jus­tice Square,” the park where peo­ple have de­manded jus­tice for Tay­lor.

While the ral­lies were largely peace­ful, po­lice in pro­tec­tive gear and ba­tons mo­bi­lized and some scuf­fles broke out, and of­fi­cers could be seen hand­cuff­ing some peo­ple. Po­lice also or­dered a group that broke off from the protests to dis­perse, warn­ing that chem­i­cal agents might be used if they didn’t.

Gov. Andy Bes­hear, a Demo­crat, said he au­tho­rized a limited de­ploy­ment of the Na­tional Guard. An As­so­ci­ated Press re­porter saw guard mem­bers and ar­mored mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles in down­town Louisville.

Bes­hear also urged Cameron, the state at­tor­ney gen­eral, to post on­line all the ev­i­dence that could be re­leased with­out af­fect­ing the charges filed.

“Those that are cur­rently feel­ing frus­tra­tion, feel­ing hurt, they de­serve to know more,” he said.

The case ex­posed the wide gulf be­tween pub­lic opin­ion on jus­tice for those who kill Black Amer­i­cans, and the laws un­der which those of­fi­cers are charged, which reg­u­larly fa­vor work­ing po­lice and do not of­ten re­sult in steep crim­i­nal ac­cu­sa­tions.

At a news con­fer­ence, Cameron spoke to that dis­con­nect.

“Crim­i­nal law is not meant to re­spond to ev­ery sor­row and grief,” he told re­porters af­ter the charges were an­nounced.

“But my heart breaks for the loss of Miss Tay­lor. And I’ve said that re­peat­edly. My mother, if some­thing was to hap­pen to me, would find it very hard,” he added, chok­ing up.

But Cameron, who is the state’s first Black at­tor­ney gen­eral, said the of­fi­cers acted in self­de­fense af­ter Tay­lor’s boyfriend fired at them. He added that Hanki­son and the two other of­fi­cers who en­tered Tay­lor’s apart­ment did not ex­e­cute the war­rant as “no­knock,” ac­cord­ing to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The use of no­knock war­rants has since been banned by Louisville’s Metro Coun­cil.

“Ac­cord­ing to Ken­tucky law, the use of force by (Of­fi­cers Jonathan) Mat­tingly and (Myles) Cos­grove was jus­ti­fied to pro­tect them­selves,” he said. “This jus­ti­fi­ca­tion bars us from pur­su­ing crim­i­nal charges in Miss Bre­onna Tay­lor’s death.”

Cameron said an FBI crime lab de­ter­mined that Cos­grove fired the bullet that killed Tay­lor.

Tay­lor’s boyfriend, Ken­neth Walker, opened fire when po­lice burst in, hit­ting Mat­tingly. Walker was charged with at­tempted mur­der of a po­lice of­fi­cer, but pros­e­cu­tors later dropped the charge.

Walker told po­lice he heard knock­ing but didn’t know who was com­ing into the home and fired in self­de­fense.

Cameron, who is a Repub­li­can, is a pro­tege of Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­connell who has been tagged by some as his heir ap­par­ent. His was also one of 20 names on Pres­i­dent Trump’s list to fill a fu­ture Supreme Court va­cancy.

Asked about the de­ci­sion, Trump said he hadn’t had time to con­sider it and would com­ment when he had. He added: “My mes­sage is that I love the Black com­mu­nity, and that I’ve done more for the Black com­mu­nity than any other pres­i­dent, with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of Abra­ham Lin­coln.”

Ka­mala Har­ris, the Demo­cratic vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, told re­porters that she also hadn’t fully read the de­ci­sion.

“But there’s no ques­tion that Bre­onna Tay­lor and her fam­ily de­served jus­tice yes­ter­day, to­day and tomorrow, so I’ll re­view it,” she said.

Be­fore charges were brought, Hanki­son was fired from the city’s po­lice depart­ment on June 23. A ter­mi­na­tion let­ter sent to him by in­terim Louisville Po­lice Chief Robert Schroeder said the white of­fi­cer had vi­o­lated pro­ce­dures by show­ing “ex­treme in­dif­fer­ence to the value of hu­man life” when he “wan­tonly and blindly” fired his weapon.

Hanki­son had pre­vi­ously been placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive re­as­sign­ment, as were Mat­tingly, Cos­grove and the de­tec­tive who sought the war­rant, Joshua Jaynes.

On Sept. 15, the city set­tled a law­suit against the three of­fi­cers brought by Tay­lor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, agree­ing to pay her $12 mil­lion and en­act po­lice re­forms.

Pro­test­ers in Louisville and across the coun­try have de­manded jus­tice for Tay­lor and other Black peo­ple killed by po­lice in re­cent months. Sev­eral prom­i­nent African Amer­i­can celebri­ties in­clud­ing Oprah Win­frey and Bey­oncé have joined those urg­ing that the of­fi­cers be charged.

Brandon Bell / Getty Im­ages

Demon­stra­tors em­brace each other af­ter hear­ing the grand jury ver­dict in Louisville, Ky. Pro­test­ers be­gan gath­er­ing in “In­jus­tice Square,” the park where peo­ple have de­manded jus­tice for Tay­lor, who was killed in a po­lice raid.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Bre­onna Tay­lor was killed by po­lice of­fi­cers dur­ing a raid on March 13. The war­rant used to search her home was con­nected to a sus­pect who did not live there, and no drugs were found.

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