The Breonna Taylor case just never quite seems to go away. And it shouldn’t. Because it is one of the most tragic cases of policing gone wrong in a Black neighborhood, where an innocent young woman lost her life while lying in bed watching a movie with her boyfriend.
Her story continues to resonate, and disturb, because justice has not yet been done in her name—and because the prosecutor in the case tried to use the rules of the justice system, starting with grand jury secrecy, to ensure that justice would not be delivered and to try and keep his actions concealed.
Yes, it’s true that Taylor’s family got the largest settlement in the history of Louisville, Kentucky, a record $12 million for a wrongful death action, along with promises of departmental reforms. It is also true that charges were brought in the case against one of the officers involved in her tragic shooting death, only the charges related to the former officer were not for murder, or manslaughter even, they were for “wanton endangerment” for endangering Taylor’s neighbors with gunshots into the walls. That’s right. You read it right. The officer was indicted, not for shooting Taylor, or for wrongfully entering her apartment, but for shooting at a wall—not the young woman lying in her bed watching TV with her boyfriend peacefully in her own apartment when she was killed. She had no criminal record, nor did he. They just happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. The officers involved were serving an arrest warrant for another man who was a past boyfriend of Taylor. Apparently, he was already in custody.
But in an unprecedented move, a judge ordered that jurors could speak publicly in this case to refute the account of the grand jury hearings presented by Attorney General Daniel Cameron—whose office argued that the grand jurors should not be allowed to speak about the proceedings, even after he had done so and who has repeatedly said that all charges were considered. When in reality, the jury was never given the option of even considering murder or manslaughter charges according to the two jurors who’ve now anonymously spoken out to tell the truth about the proceedings that Cameron lied or misled the public about.
In an interview last week with Good Morning America, Kentucky police officer Sgt. John Mattingly spoke out for the first time to give his perspective on the tragic shooting of EMT Breonna Taylor. He was adamant that the police (including himself) did all the right things: that they announced themselves after knocking on the door. That they knocked on the door at least three times, and that they only fired through the door when fired upon by someone on the other side of the door. What he did not express was remorse for Taylor’s death, or that the police got it wrong by serving a warrant on a house that did not have the person they were looking for: a man named Jamarcus Glover.
That was a very different account of the facts from what we had heard to date from Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who shared the harrowing details of what he experienced that night with Gayle King on CBS This Morning. Walker says there was a knock. That they repeatedly asked who was at the door. No answer came. Shots rang out. Walker fired shots back, and that is when Taylor was struck by the bullets. And lay fighting for her life until she died. No ambulance was called. No help to save this young EMT’s life was offered.
And that is what sparked protests when this story broke, and again as grand jurors make clear that they were never given a chance to get justice for Taylor. That Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, when he announced after the grand jury proceedings that there would be no murder charges against the officers who entered Taylor’s home with a “no-knock warrant,” did so without revealing what charges the grand jury was asked to consider. They were never offered murder or some lesser charge that addressed Taylor’s death.
That is the source of outrage that has kept this case going. That is the source of Black pain that resonates all throughout the nation as we still grapple with the videotaped murder of George Floyd. Our lives simply do not matter. There is no justice in the form of criminal penalties. Settlements, sure. Crazy right the city of Louisville pays out $12 million dollars and agrees to implement police reforms. But not one officer is held accountable. Not one officer has had to answer for killing an innocent young woman, in her own home.
The bottom line is they got it wrong. The wrong house. The wrong people inside. They got it wrong. And until Taylor gets justice, everything about this case will be wrong.