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“Outrageous and Offensive”: No Officers Are Charged Directly in Breonna Taylor Killing

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In a closely watched decision, Brett Hankison, one of three officers who fired their weapons in the fatal March raid that killed Breonna Taylor, was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree, a felony charge that carries up to five years in prison on each count. Two other officers, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove, are not facing any charges. Both Mattingly, who was shot in the leg during the midnight raid, as well as Cosgrove, are currently on administrative reassignment. 

The announcement from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron comes almost six months after massive demonstrations erupted across the country over police brutality and anti-Black racism in policing. Ben Crump one of the attorneys representing Taylor’s family in calling for charges against the officers involved, tweeted that the wanton endangerment decision was “outrageous and offensive,” as it only applied to the bullets which went into other apartments, but “nothing for the murder of Breonna Taylor.” The NAACP and the ACLU issued statements condemning what they called an “injustice” regarding the wanton endangerment charge, with the former asserting that Cameron’s “failure to bring substantial charges against the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor causes angst and pain for far too many Americans still reeling from a pandemic.”

During a press conference after the grand jury announcement, Cameron issued an apology to Taylor’s family saying, “There is nothing I can say today to take away the grief and heartache this family is experiencing as a result of losing a child, a niece, a sister and a friend.” Cameron visited Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, in August, about five months after the shooting and amid increased protests and media coverage surrounding the investigation. As for the actions of Mattingly and Cosgrove—the latter for fired the fatal shot, according to an FBI analysis— Cameron found the officers “justified in their use of force after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker.”

Walker, who was Taylor’s boyfriend, fired one shot and has said in numerous interviews that he was unaware he was firing at police, who, according to him and several witnesses, did not identify themselves prior to entering their apartment with a battering ram. The alleged use of “no-knock” search warrants has come under scrutiny, though Cameron said Wednesday that police did announce themselves. Cameron also announced a task force that would review the process for securing and executing search warrants in Kentucky, which would include members of the public, law enforcement, elected officials, defense attorneys and representatives from the judiciary. He also vowed to “vigorously prosecute” the charges filed against Hankison and said, “It’s important to note he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

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