Breonna Taylor, a twenty-six-year-old Black woman, was murdered in Louisville, Kentucky, in her apartment on March 13th, 2020, at 12:40 AM. According to Statista, police in the United States have killed over 600 people this year alone. Taylor’s death started garnering media attention at the beginning of May 2020, and after the murder of Geroge Floyd, many people were fighting to get justice for her.
Shortly after midnight, officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove entered Taylor’s home with the help of a battering ram. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was also present in the home, and when the officers entered, Walker fired one shot. He believed that the officers who entered were intruders and only fired as a warning. The bullet hit officer Mattingly in the leg, and the officers proceeded to fire thirty-two rounds around the apartment. The autopsy performed ultimately ruled Taylor’s cause of death as homicide sustained from five gunshot wounds to her body.
Much to the general public’s shock, the first charges made were against Taylor’s boyfriend Walker. The Louisville Police Department initially charged Walker with first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer. Kentucky attorneys dropped all charges against Walker in late May, nearly three months after Taylor’s murder. The charges against Walker were not the only shocker of the legal handling of the case. The police report that officers Mattingly, Hankison, and Cosgrove initially reported no forceful entry into the apartment, and that Taylor and Walker hadn’t sustained any injuries. All three of the officers were placed on administrative reassignment pending future discoveries in the investigation. The only indictment was for Hankison, who fired several shots with no clear target. On September 23rd, 2020, a grand jury indicted Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment for the shots that entered one of Taylor’s neighboring apartments.
Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, gave a press conference on September 23rd, 2020, where he made several statements about the case and released the grand jury’s decision. Cameron asserted that “there will be celebrities, influencers, and activists, who, having never lived in Kentucky, will try to tell us how to feel, suggesting they understand the facts of this case and that they know our community and the Commonwealth better than we do. But they don’t.” You don’t need to be a part of the Kentucky community to realize that Breonna Taylor and her family didn’t receive justice. They were failed by the legal system that has deserted Black people since its birth. The critics of the grand jury’s decision are critics because the indictments were about the endangerment of Taylor’s neighbors, not her murder.
When you have politicians and lawmakers preaching and advocating for change in the justice system, you would expect eradication of those injustices. Instead, after Micheal Brown, Eric Garner, and George Floyd, we continue to receive decisions like Taylor’s that reflect the inequities in a system the public should have trust in. During the days following the decision, several CA community members posted on social media about the justice system failing Taylor. Yet when the C&E Office held an open space to discuss the decision, fifteen people were in attendance (around half of whom were Black.) Was it because the meeting was on such short notice? Was C&E not clear enough about the intentions of the space? Whatever the reason may be, there is no excuse for the lack of students and faculty willing to engage in a simple discussion about racism in America.