‘A Miscarriage of Justice,’ Only One Officer Charged In The Murder of Breonna Taylor

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Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com

Months of protests, campaigns, and social unrest seem to have fallen on deaf ears when a Kentucky grand jury decided to indict only one of the three Louisville Metropolitan Police Department officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor last March.

According to NPR, Brett Hankison, who was fired in June, has been charged with three counts of life-threatening danger for shooting at neighboring apartments. With $15,000 bail, justice seemed to be served.

But the grand jury did not announce charges against Jonathan Mattingly or Myles Cosgrove, the other two officers involved, and none of the three faces charges directly for Taylor’s death.

The statements by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron seemed like a slap in the face to the millions of people suffering the consequences of systemic racism in the country.

Cameron said that because Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker first opened fire on Mattingly and Cosgrove, the agents “were justified in their use of force.”

For his part, Walker has repeated that he did not hear the officers announce themselves before entering the house. He said he mistook them for intruders and fired a warning shot, which hit Mattingly in the leg. The officers then opened fire.

But according to Cameron, “evidence shows that officers both knocked and announced their presence at the apartment.” He cited the officers’ statements and one additional witness. There is no video or body camera footage of the officers executing the search warrant, he said. 

“While there are six possible homicide charges under Kentucky law, these charges are not applicable to the fact before us, because our investigation showed, and the grand jury agreed, that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their return of deadly fire,” the Attorney General said.

He also added a ballistics report by the FBI determined that Mattingly fired six times and Cosgrove fired 16 times, corroborating the discrepancies between the investigation carried out by Kentucky State Police and the FBI over which officer fired the shot that killed Taylor, NPR continued.

State investigators could not determine which of the officers killed Taylor, while the FBI found that Cosgrove fired the fatal shot, Cameron said.

Cameron said his office would vigorously prosecute the charges brought against Hankison. He could face a maximum sentence of five years for each count. The FBI will continue to investigate potential violations of federal law, the attorney general added.

Six months after the nation learned of the officers’ narcotics operation fiasco, and after Taylor became one of the names at the top of a long list of police violence victims, the Kentucky jury’s decision is further evidence of the rot that eats away at the system.

Shortly after the grand jury returned its indictment, Taylor’s family attorney Ben Crump expressed disappointment about the decision.

“Jefferson Grand Jury indicts former ofc. Brett Hankison with 3 counts of Wanton Endangerment in 1st Degree for bullets that went into other apartments but NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor. This is outrageous and offensive,” Crump said in a tweet.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky in a tweet called the decision to not charge the officers in her death “the latest miscarriage of justice in our nation’s long history of denying that Black lives matter.”

“Once again, a prosecutor has refused to hold law enforcement accountable for killing a young Black woman. Breonna Taylor should still be alive today.”

The NAACP said in a statement that the justice system “failed” Taylor and the charges against one officer do “not go far enough.”

Immediately, protests began to be organized in Louisville’s streets, and Mayor Greg Fischer issued a declaration of a state of emergency, anticipating possible riots.

According to the Financial Times, police chief Robert Schroeder invoked emergency provisions to cancel the police officers’ vacation, and the department restricted access to downtown. It also declared a curfew from 9:30 pm to 6:30 am, beginning Wednesday and lasting 72 hours.