“I want justice for her. I want them to say her name. There’s no reason Breonna should be dead at all,” Taylor’s mother said.
On March 13, a Louisville, Kentucky, woman working on the frontlines of one of the states hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic was shot and killed in her home by police. According to media reports, three officers arrived after midnight, looking for a suspect who did not live in the apartment complex and had already been apprehended. They reportedly fired more than 20 rounds of ammunition into Breonna Taylor’s residence.
Taylor, 26, had no drug or criminal record, and was a decorated emergency medical technician. She died of eight gunshot wounds. The officers, identified as Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, have not been charged in connection with the shooting. The police department’s Public Integrity Unit is conducting an investigation and a final report will be handed over to the commonwealth attorney, according to a police spokesperson who made no further comment.
“I want justice for her. I want them to say her name. There’s no reason Breonna should be dead at all,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said.
Palmer filed a wrongful death suit April 27, saying the police forced their way in without announcing themselves, surprising Taylor and her boyfriend, who were asleep and thought the men were burglars. Taylor’s boyfriend, a licensed gun owner, fired back, and is now facing an array of charges including first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer.
Palmer hired the same lawyer representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery, another high profile case that saw a Black man murdered by white men while jogging in his Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood.
Social justice activist Shaun King has been vocal in support of Taylor’s case, demanding that Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer intervene so that charges can be filed in the months-old incident.
“It is SHAMEFUL that this has carried on like this over the past month. For weeks the city treated Breonna like she was a criminal,” King posted on social media. “Police literally called her a ‘suspect,’ and said they killed a suspect for weeks, until finally being forced to admit they got the whole thing wrong. They had no drugs. And they got the wrong people. She did EVERYTHING right. Everything.”
Mayor Fischer said he spoke with Louisville Metropolitan Police Department Chief Steve Conrad about the need for an extensive probe. “As always, my priority is that the truth comes out, and for justice to follow the part of the truth,” Fischer said in a statement Tuesday. “Police work can involve incredibly difficult situations. Additionally, residents have rights. These two concepts must be weighed by our justice system as the case proceeds.”
Taylor’s and Ahmaud Arbery’s deaths are reigniting America’s criminal justice reform debate. On Tuesday, Sen. Kamala Harris and others have called for a federal investigation into the way Taylor’s case has been handled.
According to the Marshall Project, about 1,000 Americans die each year at the hands of the police. Although violent crime and on-duty deaths of police officers are down, civilian mortalities have not declined. And police kill African Americans at more than double their percent of the population.
While organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have released action manuals aimed at fighting police abuse on a grassroots level, advocates are demanding state- and federal-level policy reforms.