As It Happens·Q&A

'Justice is not served,' says Ky. state rep after no charges laid for Breonna Taylor's death

The fight for justice for Breonna Taylor is far from over, says a Kentucky state legislator. 

Kentucky grand jury indicts 1 officer, but not for killing the 26-year-old paramedic in her home

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. The officers will not not charged for her killing, the state's attorney general announced on Wednesday. (Submitted by Bianca Austun)

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The fight for justice for Breonna Taylor is far from over, says a Kentucky state legislator. 

A grand jury on Wednesday brought no charges against Louisville, Ky., police officers for shooting and killing the 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician when they busted into her apartment on the night of March 13.

Taylor was shot multiple times by officers who entered her home using a no-knock warrant during a botched narcotics investigation. The warrant was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.

The grand jury instead charged Brett Hankison, who was fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department over Taylor's death, with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing into Taylor's neighbours' homes during the raid. 

Prosecutors said the two officers who fired their weapons in Taylor's home were justified in defending themselves against Taylor's boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who opened fire on them, believing them to be intruders. Walker was initially arrested for attempted murder of a police officer, but those charges were later dropped.

No-knock warrants — which allow police to enter a home without announcing themselves — have since been banned in Louisville. State Rep. Attica Scott wants to expand that ban, called Breonna's Law, statewide. The officers involved say they knocked and announced themselves despite the warrant, and the state's attorney general says a witness statement corroborates this. 

She spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off on Wednesday from Louisville's Jefferson Square Park, renamed Injustice Square Park by protesters. Here is part of their conversation. 

Representative Scott, how did people at Jefferson Square Park react when this grand jury decision was released today?

There was disappointment, although there was not one person here who was surprised, and everyone that I've spoken to have been very clear that justice is not served today.

In what ways did it fall short?

It fell short because only Brett Hankison, who was already fired, received any charges. [Officers Jonathan] Mattingly and [Myles] Cosgrove ... are basically getting away with murder. 

And so people, quite frankly, especially Black folks out here, are very clear that the system worked for these white officers the way that it always has.

People react after a decision in the criminal case against police officers who shot and killed Taylor. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

The Kentucky Attorney General [Daniel] Cameron ... said that although there was a no-knock warrant, one of these controversial warrants, that had been issued to go into the apartment, that they did not serve one, that they did knock and announce themselves before they raided Breonna Taylor's home. Does that conflict with what you believe actually happened?

The reality is because they failed to turn on their body cameras, we have no footage from that moment of the warrant being served. So we don't really know whether or not they not they knocked. 

But the attorney general said that there was a witness [who said] that they had knocked on the door, that they had announced themselves.

Well, you know what? There was one witness in that entire apartment complex who said that. And yet, people were calling the police to say something's going on in an apartment in our building, that there's things that could contradict that claim.

Another contradiction is that their witnesses did see that they used a battering ram to get into the apartment. Has that been acknowledged by the police, that they did that, according to the witnesses?

There really has not been any acknowledgement of that fact. And it just seems to me that even if you had knocked their door after midnight, who in the world is going to answer their door? And then you decide to use a battering ram to enter their premises? It just — none of it is right. It just all shows many of us that the system failed us yet again.

I guess key to what the attorney general said today was that [the grand jury] had said that ... two of the officers were not being charged at all because they were justified because they were returning fire when Ms. Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, he was the first to shoot, and shot one of the officers in the leg. He hasn't denied that. He said that that's the case. So is there some analysis, some understanding of this, that they were firing in self-defence, the police?

I just cannot accept that they were firing in self-defence. Kentucky has the Castle Doctrine, which is basically our Stand Your Ground law. So Mr. Walker had every right to defend the premises when he had no idea who was busting into his home because they did not announce themselves. 

They should not have been there in the first place. And that's the conversation we need to be having — that they got it all wrong. The person they were looking for, they already had in custody. 

Demonstrators confront police after the attorney general announced there would be no charges relating to Taylor's death. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

Is it that something much larger has to be investigated here than the single event that happened in that apartment?

I believe that we have to be comprehensive in our approach, that we have to look at the judicial system. Judge Mary Shaw should never have signed those search warrants so quickly.

We have to look at the issue of no-knock warrants in the first place. We should not be issuing no-knock warrants. And I have legislation, Breonna's Law, to address that very issue.

We should not have law enforcement walking around without body cameras and being allowed not to have those body cameras on in these situations. That is unacceptable.

And we should not allow any officer to leave the scene of an incident. For over an hour, we have no idea where they are or what they're doing, and they don't get alcohol and drug tested.

None of it is acceptable, and we have to address all of it.

It's definitely not a setback, because I actually believe that it has been yet another reminder to people that the system doesn't work for us, so we need to dismantle the system.- Attica Scott, Kentucky state representative 

There's one other thing that was revealed today, or at least fleshed out, from Kentucky Attorney General [Daniel] Cameron — that the other apartment, neighbouring apartment, was also fired into blindly and that the three people in there, including a pregnant woman, were not hit, but they were there at the time. So what did you make of that revelation?

We've known that for some time now, and it just is yet another piece of evidence that law enforcement just gets to act wildly. I mean, they fired wildly, thoughtlessly, endangered everyone in that apartment building — not only the neighbours who were directly adjacent to Breonna's apartment, but everyone in that apartment was in danger.

So those are the kinds of issues that we have to address, that we can no longer allow police to act as if they are just, you know, cowboys in the wild, wild west.

Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott is trying to pass Breonna's Law to ban no-knock warrants in the state. (Attica Scott/Twitter)

But do you think this is where they'll just say justice has been done, we have gone this far and that's it? Where do you see the possibility that a larger investigation, a larger look at the issues that you're raising, is actually going to happen?

It's definitely going to happen. I'm here at the Injustice Square Park downtown, and it's full of people, and not one person here is acting as if this is it.

We're going to continue to fight for justice. As a state representative, I'm going to continue to fight for Breonna's Law, for Kentucky to address all of these issues that we've just talked about.

Because that work has to continue. We have to address these policy issues. And we also have people who are already looking at upcoming elections and being very clear that we need to look at these judges and get some of these judges out of office who are making these thoughtless decisions.

Do you think this decision, though, is a setback for that broader movement against police violence?

It's definitely not a setback, because I actually believe that it has been yet another reminder to people that the system doesn't work for us, so we need to dismantle the system. So I think there's actually going to be an even stronger call to both defund and dismantle the police department.

That's not going to go away. That's going to continue.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters and The Associated Press. Interview produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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