Anger over Breonna Taylor’s death spills on to America’s streets

24 September 2020, 16:34

Police stand guard on the perimeter of a crime scene
Racial Injustice Breonna Taylor. Picture: PA

The decision not to charge Kentucky police officers after she was shot dead in March has led to violence in Louisville and elsewhere.

Anger, frustration and sadness over the decision not to charge Kentucky police officers for Breonna Taylor’s death has poured into America’s streets.

Protesters have lashed out at a criminal justice system they say is stacked against black people.

Violence seized the demonstrations in her home city of Louisville as gunfire rang out and wounded two police officers.

Breonna Taylor Protests Chicago
Protesters march through Chicago (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times/AP)

Police said they will enforce a curfew for the next two nights in Louisville, where Mayor Greg Fischer said “violence is not the answer”.

“I’m asking everyone to reject violence,” he said.

“Our community is hurting … the question obviously is what do we do with that pain.”

Activists, celebrities and everyday Americans have been calling for charges since Ms Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by white officers who entered her home during a drugs investigation in March.

State attorney general Daniel Cameron, a Republican and Kentucky’s first black top prosecutor, said while the officers had a no-knock warrant, the investigation showed they announced themselves before entering.

A grand jury returned three charges of wanton endangerment on Wednesday against fired officer Brett Hankison over shooting into a home next to Taylor’s with people inside.

Hundreds of demonstrators chanted Taylor’s name and marched in cities including New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Portland.

People gathered in Millennium Park, Chicago, chanting demands for justice as drivers in Michigan Avenue honked their horns.

Police in Atlanta unleashed chemical agents and made arrests after some protesters tried to climb on a SWAT vehicle.

In Wisconsin, peaceful marchers blocked traffic on an interstate and spoke about Ms Taylor on the steps of the state Capitol.

Racial Injustice Breonna Taylor
Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said a suspect is in custody after two officers were shot (John Minchillo/AP)

In Louisville, police said they arrested 127 people after what began as peaceful protests.

Officers declared an unlawful assembly after they said fires were set in bins and several vehicles were damaged.

A police statement also described the “looting” of several stores.

Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder said a suspect was detained in the shooting of two officers, who are expected to recover from their wounds.

Jail records later confirmed Larynzo D Johnson, 26, was charged with two counts of assault on a police officer and multiple charges of wanton endangerment of police officers.

Along with George Floyd, a black man killed by police in Minneapolis in May, Ms Taylor’s name became a rallying cry during nationwide protests that called attention to entrenched racism and demanded police reform.

Her image is painted on streets, emblazoned on protest signs and silk-screened on T-shirts worn by celebrities.

The FBI is still investigating potential law violations in connection with the raid at Ms Taylor’s home on March 13.

After the announcement, Ben Crump, a lawyer for Ms Taylor’s family, denounced the decision as “outrageous and offensive”.

Mr Cameron said the officers acted in self-defence after Ms Taylor’s boyfriend fired at them.

Kenneth Walker told police he heard knocking but did not know who was coming in and fired in self-defence.

The warrant was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside. The city has since banned such warrants.

“According to Kentucky law, the use of force by (Jonathan) Mattingly and (Myles) Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves,” Mr Cameron said.

“This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor’s death.”

US President Donald Trump read a statement from Mr Cameron saying “justice is not often easy”.

He later tweeted he was “praying for the two police officers that were shot”.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, called for policing reform.

Mr Biden said “we do not need to wait for the final judgment of that investigation to do more to deliver justice for Breonna”.

He said the country should start by addressing excessive force, banning chokeholds and overhauling no-knock warrants.

“We must never stop speaking Breonna’s name as we work to reform our justice system, including overhauling no-knock warrants,” Ms Harris said on Twitter.

Hankison was fired on June 23.

The three wanton endangerment charges he faces each carry a sentence of up to five years.

A termination letter said he had violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” fired his weapon.

Last week, the city agreed a settlement with Ms Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, which includes 12 million dollars (£9.26 million) and police reforms.

By Press Association