- Adam Shamsi
The Breonna Taylor Case: What We Know and What We Don't Know
Just past midnight on March 13, three Louisville police officers executed a warrant at Breonna Taylor’s apartment. The police forcibly entered the apartment using a battering ram. Upon entering, Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, thought there was an intruder and shot at the officers.
Walker struck officer Johnathan Mattingly in the leg. The officers returned fire, discharging 32 shots. In the crossfire, Taylor, a 26-year-old medical technician, was shot six times and died in the hallway of her apartment.
Since her passing, many protests in many forms have broken out demanding justice in her name. Oprah put up 26 billboards, protesters went on hunger strikes, websites got put up in her name, hacktivist group Anonymous has leaked more than 200 police documents, murals have been put up in her name, Go Fund Me campaigns have been created and so much more.
The intensity of the protests only increased after the investigation of the three police officers concluded, with a grand jury only indicting one of them with wanton endangerment.
Under Kentucky Law, wanton endangerment is similar to what many people may think of as “reckless endangerment.” It is when a person is “manifesting extreme indifference to the value of humans” and, as a result of their carelessness, “engage in conduct which creates a substantial danger.”
This decision enraged many people. Immediately after the decision from the grand jury to not charge any of the officers with murder, protests broke out across the country. People demonstrated their frustration in the form of various protests across the country, criticizing that a “Black woman died and the cop was charged for the shots missed”.
The criticism is understandable. If they charged the cop with wanton endangerment, then why was he not also at least charged with accidental manslaughter? In order to understand the decision made by the grand jury, it is necessary to understand the context of the decision. The reason the officers were at Taylor’s apartment was because they were investigating her ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover. Glover is an alleged drug dealer, and investigators suspected that he was using Taylor’s apartment as a place to keep the drugs.
According to the affidavit for the search warrant, they suspected Taylor’s apartment as a place to store his drugs because:
Glover's car had made "frequent" trips to Taylor's apartment.
Glover walked directly into Taylor's apartment on Jan. 16.
A U.S. postal inspector verified Glover received packages at Taylor's apartment.
Judge Mary Shaw approved this warrant as a “no-knock warrant.” A no-knock warrant allows for police officers to enter a property without knocking or ringing the doorbell. Notably, the officers claimed they did not execute the warrant as a no-knock warrant and instead knocked and announced themselves before entering. However, Walker said that he did not hear them announce themselves as police, which would explain why he called 911 saying, “somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.”
Whether or not the cops served the warrant as a no-knock warrant, the Attorney General of Kentucky, Daniel Cameron, has pointed out that the cops are “justified to protect themselves and the justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges.” In the eyes of the Attorney General, this is a peculiar case in which both the cops and Walker had the right to defend themselves. The mistake that the officer made was firing his gun without having a line of sight to his target, which could have resulted in the injury of neighbors.
Since the grand jury’s decision came out, an anonymous juror has come forth claiming their decision is being misrepresented. The juror wants the ability to speak freely about the case because they believe Cameron is using their decision “as a shield to deflect accountability and responsibility.” The juror claims that the prosecutorial team never asked them to consider murder as a possible charge and therefore Cameron can not consider the officers actions as justifiable. It is still unclear if there were any other criminal charges explored by the grand jury.
On Oct. 2, Cameron released roughly 15 hours of the grand jury proceedings audio upon the request of a court order. However, the anonymous juror’s lawyer released a statement saying this is not enough because much of the proceedings could have occurred outside of the recordings. Generally, the law prevents grand juries from speaking about the case for several reasons, not least of which is the protection of the jurors themselves.
We do not know who is on the grand jury, let alone their personal beliefs. With how passionate people are about this case, if details of the grand jury were to come out, it might result in either physical or emotional abuse to the people on the grand jury. It would also make people fearful of partaking in a grand jury in future cases, as they would not be comfortable speaking their minds.
This case is ongoing as the anonymous juror continues to fight his way through the court system so that he can speak “the truth.” Meanwhile, protests persist and people continue to fight for change. The Kentucky legislature passed a bill to ban no-knock warrants. Whether or not you think the officers were in the right, America needs to fight to make sure situations like this do not happen. A ban on no-knock warrants is a step in the right direction, but it is not the end.