A Kentucky grand jury on Wednesday indicted a single former police officer for shooting into neighboring apartments, but did not hand up charges against any officers for their alleged roles in the death of Breonna Taylor.
Former Louisville Detective Brett Hankison, fired for his role in the incident, is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree, but was not charged directly in Taylor’s death.
“My office is prepared to prove these charges at trial,” Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said at an afternoon news conference, adding that if convicted Hankison could serve up to five years for each count.
“However, it’s important to note he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Two other officers involved in the shooting — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove — were not indicted. The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in the case.
“I’m not surprised,” former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said on CNN following the announcement. “I always thought this was going to be a difficult case once it went beyond the one officer that was firing blindly.”
Ben Crump, the attorney for Taylor’s family, called the decision not to charge Hankison for murder “outrageous and offensive.”
After the decision protesters gathered in downtown Louisville chanting “No justice, no peace!” and began marching through the streets. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a 72-hour curfew effective from 9 p.m. Wednesday. Louisville Metropolitan Police Department interim Chief Robert Schroeder said Kentucky National Guard members would be in the city.
Louisville police said Wednesday night that two police officers had been shot during the protests.
Interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said Wednesday night that both officers were in stable condition and a person was in custody.
He says the officers had gone to investigate reports of gunfire when they were shot. He says they’re both expected to recover.
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by officers who entered her home using a warrant connected to a suspect, a former boyfriend, who did not live there.
Cameron, who is the state’s first Black attorney general, said he couldn’t discuss the specifics of the case as it makes its way through the legal system. But he did say the other two officers on the scene were “justified in their use of force" because Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, fired first. (Walker was charged with attempted murder of a police officer, but prosecutors later dropped the charge.)
Cameron also said evidence showed the officers knocked before entering and announced they were police officers before the shooting. Walker told police he heard knocking but didn’t know who was coming into the home and fired in self-defense.
“The warrant was not served as a no-knock warrant,” Cameron said. “According to Kentucky law, the use of force by (Officers Jonathan) Mattingly and (Myles) Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves. This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor’s death.”
The use of no-knock warrants has since been banned by Louisville’s Metro Council.
Addressing the disappointment at the lack of criminal charges, Cameron said the facts and evidence in this case were “different” from other recent incidents involving fatal police shootings.
“If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice,” Cameron said. “Mob justice is not justice. Justice sought by violence is not justice. It just becomes revenge.”
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, urged Cameron to post online all the evidence and facts that can be released without affecting the charges filed.
“Those that are currently feeling frustration, feeling hurt, they deserve to know more,” he said. “They deserve to see the facts for themselves. And I believe that the ability to process those facts helps everybody.”
Taylor’s death led to widespread protests across the country, including in Philadelphia, where officials said police will increase their presence Wednesday night in Center City and in commercial districts throughout the city. Drivers should expect some delays around City Hall.
Philadelphia officials said they were aware of one protest planned in Philadelphia on Wednesday evening, though they warned additional demonstrations could develop.
“I know that many Philadelphians are feeling disappointed, frustrated, and even outraged, following today’s announcement by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “The City of Philadelphia fully supports the First Amendment rights of our residents, but we also want to ensure that any demonstration activity that happens is done in a safe, lawful manner.”
Cameron, who is a Republican, is a protégé of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has been tagged by some as his heir apparent. His was also one of 20 names on President Donald Trump’s list to fill a future Supreme Court vacancy.
At a news conference, Trump read a statement from Cameron saying “justice is not often easy.” He praised both Cameron’s handling of the case and the governor’s calling up of the National Guard.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told reporters that he didn’t have enough information on the decision to comment fully but warned protesters to keep demonstrations peaceful.
“Do not sully her memory or her mother’s by engaging in any violence,” he said.
Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate and a former prosecutor, also told reporters she hadn’t fully read the decision.
“But there’s no question that Breonna Taylor and her family deserved justice yesterday, today and tomorrow, so I’ll review it,” she said.
Before charges were brought, Hankison was fired from the city’s police department on June 23. A termination letter sent to him by interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said the white officer had violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 rounds of gunfire into Taylor’s apartment in March.
Hankison had previously been placed on administrative reassignment, as were Mattingly, Cosgrove and the detective who sought the warrant, Joshua Jaynes.
On Sept. 15, the city settled a lawsuit against the three officers brought by Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, agreeing to pay her $12 million and enact police reforms.
Protesters in Louisville and across the country have demanded justice for Taylor and other Black people killed by police in recent months. Several prominent African American celebrities including Oprah and Beyoncé have joined those urging that the officers be charged.