As It Happens

Breonna Taylor's aunt says: 'We want to know what happened to our baby girl'

Breonna Taylor's aunt says she's grateful her niece is finally getting "the attention she so well deserves" — but her family is still desperately pursuing answers and justice.

Case of 26-year-old Black EMT killed by police in her home has become a rallying cry for protesters

Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American emergency medical technician, was shot and killed in her bed by plain-clothed police officers in Louisville , Ky., on March 13.  (Submitted by Bianca Austun)

Breonna Taylor's aunt says she's grateful her niece is finally getting "the attention she so well deserves" — but her family is still desperately pursuing answers and justice.

Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American emergency medical technician, was shot and killed in her bed by plain-clothed police officers in Louisville, Ky., on March 13. 

The officers busted into Taylor's apartment during a drug investigation and exchanged gunfire with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Taylor was shot eight times. 

Walker, a legal firearm owner, has said he believed the officers were intruders and he was acting in self-defence. He was initially arrested for attempted murder of a police officer, but those charges were later dropped.

The raid on Taylor's apartment was executed with a no-knock warrant, which means the officers were not legally obligated to knock on the door and announce themselves before entering. The police claim they identified themselves, regardless.The family disputes this. Two of Taylor's neighbours told the L.A. Times they heard banging on the door, but no verbal warnings.  

A 1997 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found no-knock warrants are unconstitutional unless police have reason to believe a suspect will dispose of evidence, flee or attack. Congressional Democrats are pushing a bill that would ban them nationwide, arguing that police too often exploit this legal loophole.

Police entered Taylor's apartment on a tip that an alleged dealer — who was arrested that same night — once picked up a package there. No drugs were found. The postal inspector named on the police warrant told the WDRB news agency there was no record of suspicious deliveries to the address.

In the wake of widespread protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many in the streets are shouting Taylor's name and demanding the officers involved in her death be arrested. 

Those officers — Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove — are all on administrative leave while the investigation continues.

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke to Bianca Austin, Taylor's aunt, on Friday — which would have been Taylor's 27th birthday. Here is part of their conversation. 

In the wake of what's going on across the United States, does it feel that your niece's death is finally getting the attention it deserves?

Most definitely. It's definitely getting the attention she so well deserves. Especially after 2 ½ months of just silence and our family just trying to fight to get her name put out there and get her story told, and just trying to move forward getting justice for her.

It's been a rough road, so it's definitely much appreciated that when we turn on the radio or we turn on the TV and people are saying her name, Breonna Taylor.

A birthday message for Taylor surrounded by roses in front of the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles on June 5. She would have been 27 on Friday. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Do you think [after] what has happened in the wake of George Floyd's killing, that there is now going to be more pressure on Louisville and on the mayor [Greg Fischerto actually get some answers about why Breonna was killed?

The city Louisville, they have our full support. And not only do Breonna's family want answers, but I believe [the mayor] owes the city of Louisville an explanation.

We all are just torn and heartbroken behind this incident and the behaviour and just the incompetency.

This whole thing is just a nightmare. It's unbelievable.

For a Canadian audience who hasn't perhaps known enough about the story of Breonna Taylor and what happened, can you just give us some details about that? The police arrived with what's called a no-knock warrant. They had a search warrant, but they were not required under this search warrant to knock, to let anyone know they're coming in. What happened?

As far we're concerned, we don't really know what happened.

There's just so many conflicting stories. We haven't had anybody to sit down with us and actually tell us, like, these are the facts, this is what happened. 

That's the only thing we've been asking since day 1 is the truth, and we have yet to receive it.

In order for our family to move forward and to grieve, we want to know the truth. We want to know what happened to our baby girl who's no longer with us today, and we have to sit here and celebrate her birthday without her. So it's very heartbreaking. It's very hard.

We're trying to be as patient as we can be as a family and to support each other. And that's where we're at with things.

Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American emergency medical technician, was shot and killed in her bed by plain-clothed police officers in Louisville , Ky., on March 13.  (Submitted by Bianca Austin )

The police, when they came in with this no-knock warrant, she was in bed. They shot her multiple times, as I understand.

She was sleeping peacefully in her bed and they came to her home and terrorized her, basically. I don't think she was given the opportunity to even, you know, process what was going on or open a door or anything like that.

You just feel joy just from her presence, just being around her. She loved to laugh and smile and just hang out with her family.- Bianca Austin, Breonna Taylor's aunt 

Can you tell us a bit about, Breonna, just what she was like?

Breonna was just a family sweetheart. She really was just an all-around good person, you know. She was the type of person, she lights the room up when she comes. Just her presence, you just feel joy just from her presence, just being around her. She loved to laugh and smile and just hang out with her family.

So we're really missing that today.

And do you think if you're able to get at least some answers to those questions that you're posing, that it would go some distance to giving you comfort?

I believe it is the first step to a long process, but I think we need those answers in order for us to even just kind of start moving forward and get any type of comfort or peace with this.


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Tayo Bero. Edited for length and clarity. 

 

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