Kentucky Justice For Breonna Taylor: One Cop Charged With 'Whoopsie!'
Protests in Louisville, Kentucky, and around the country followed a grand jury's decision not to charge three white cops with any crimes for their killing of Breonna Taylor in March. During the protests in Louisville, two police officers were shot, and were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
One of the cops involved in Taylor's shooting, former Detective Brett Hankison, was indicted on three counts of "wanton endangerment" because several of the shots he fired into Taylor's apartment passed through the walls and into another apartment where a couple and their 5-year-old child were sleeping. None of those shots hit anyone, fortunately. Wanton endangerment is the lowest level of felony under Kentucky law.
As for the shots that actually hit and killed Taylor, the other two cops, Detective Myles Cosgrove and Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, were found by the grand jury to have acted in self-defense. That's because they'd been returning fire on Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who thought the apartment was being invaded when he woke up to knocking at the door, followed by the cops busting the door down. Walker fired on what he thought were home invaders, wounding Mattingly in the thigh.
The cops had a no-knock warrant, but say they announced themselves. Walker has maintained from the start that he didn't hear any of the cops say they were police. But one neighbor testified they'd heard it, and that was all that was needed to make the 32 shots fired into Taylor and Walker's apartment perfectly legal, except for the bullets fired by Hankinson that went through the wall and thus became dangerous.
In a press conference, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron explained,
"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."
As for the widespread anguish at the fact that police were able to kill Taylor without any consequences, apart from Hankinson's being fired, Cameron said that really wasn't a matter of law, which, under our fucked-up system that places cops above everyone else, is fairly accurate.
The decision before my office is not to decide if the loss of Breonna Taylor's life was a tragedy — the answer to that question is unequivocally yes. [...]
But ultimately, Cameron, a Black Republican and protégé of Mitch McConnell, explained, "Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief."
As for Hankinson, his actions during the free-fire exercise were found to be reckless because, as the New York Times notes, he had
fired through a door and window of Ms. Taylor's apartment building that were covered with blinds, violating a department policy that requires officers to have a line of sight.
Hankison was fired from the police department because, as his termination letter put it, he had displayed "an extreme indifference to the value of human life." That would be in contrast to the other two cops, who remain on desk duty, presumably because they had exactly the right amount of concern for the value of human life (their own), and were perfectly justified in shooting up the apartment as long as they only killed someone actually in it, even if she wasn't the person they meant to use deadly force on.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who's representing Taylor's family, highlighted the insanity of it all:
If Hankison's behavior constituted wanton endangerment of the people in the apartments next to hers, then it should also be considered wanton endangerment of Breonna. In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder.
Following the announcement that none of the police would actually be charged for killing Taylor, protesters took to the streets of Louisville, and a 9 p.m. curfew was announced. The protests were largely peaceful until shortly before the curfew went into effect, when two Louisville police officers were shot, apparently by someone in a group of protesters that had been ordered to disperse, as Reuters reports. Ordered to disperse with the use of tear gas and concussion grenades, because it's not like there's any other way to disperse people.
A Reuters journalist on the scene heard gunfire erupt from the crowd moments after police had fired chemical irritants and "flash-bang" rounds.
Two officers were shot and wounded, interim Louisville Metropolitan Police chief Robert Schroeder told reporters.
One suspect was arrested in the shooting, and the officers are in stable condition. Schroeder said the wounded officers were among a group of police sent to disperse the protests a half hour before curfew after reports of shots fired. The officers haven't been identified, but the suspect was charged with 14 counts of wanton endangerment of police officers and two counts of assault on police. The protesters largely left the streets after the shooting, and there was no rioting.
Donald Trump had no comment on the grand jury's decision, but did express tweeted thoughts and prayers for the wounded officers, adding that the federal government is "ready to help." We're assuming he means by sending mystery copsoldiers to Louisville, and not via an ongoing Justice Department investigation of whether there were any federal civil rights violations in Breonna Taylor's killing.
On MSNBC last night, NAACP Legal Fund Director Sherrilyn Ifill called for an end to the "culture of impunity" that allows bad cops to keep getting hired, even after they've lost jobs for serious disciplinary violations. She noted that before he was hired in Louisville, Hankinson had received a terrible performance evaluation and a recommendation that his employment not be renewed in the Lexington, Kentucky, PD (first video below):
"I want to see the grand jury transcripts. I want to know how this case was presented to the grand jury. The idea t… https://t.co/IcAIrWbv9b— Legal Defense Fund (@Legal Defense Fund) 1600909087.0
Ifill also said she wanted to see the full grand jury transcripts, so the public could see how the case was presented, echoing a similar statement by Gov. Andy Beshear, who called on AG Cameron to post online as much evidence as possible, excluding material needed to prosecute Hankinson. Beshear said, "Those that are currently feeling frustration, feeling hurt, they deserve to know more."
Following the killing of Taylor, Louisville banned the use of no-knock warrants, which have a horrifying history of similar deadly mistakes. After yesterday's announcement of the grand jury's decision, Joe Biden called for calm and expressed sympathy for Taylor's family, but also said we need serious police reform. While the federal investigation goes forward, he said,
"we do not need to wait for the final judgment of that investigation to do more to deliver justice for Breonna." He said the country should start by addressing excessive force, banning chokeholds and overhauling no-knock warrants.
Kamala Harris added, on Twitter, "We must never stop speaking Breonna's name as we work to reform our justice system, including overhauling no-knock warrants."
The warrant in the raid on Taylor's home was for a drug suspect who was nowhere near the place; no-knock warrants are frequently used in drug cases, even though they put both cops and the public in danger. A Democratic bill passed in the House this summer would have restricted federal use of no-knock warrants and used federal funding to encourage states to reform their use, too, along with other needed policing reforms. Not surprisingly, Senate Republicans had no interest in anything more than the tamest reforms, and the House bill was never considered in the Senate.
As the election approaches, look for Donald Trump to call for no-knock warrants and deadly force in all law enforcement actions, including parking violations.
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