Officers Avoid Murder Charges in Death of Taylor: Protest Wrap

A Kentucky grand jury decided not to file murder charges against any police officers involved in the shooting of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid on her home in Louisville, Kentucky. A single officer was charged with wanton endangerment for firing into neighboring apartments.

The grand jury told a state judge Wednesday that it had charged Brett Hankison, one of three officers involved in the incident that left the 26-year-old Black woman dead in March. The other two officers weren’t charged. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment, and the target of the investigation, an ex-boyfriend, didn’t live with her.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, said the two uncharged officers were justified in their use of force and that it was inconclusive whether Hankison fired shots that struck Taylor. Cameron also rejected reports that the officers were serving a no-knock warrant, saying a witness supported the officers’ claims that they knocked and announced themselves.

At a later news conference, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, called on the attorney general to post online “all the information, evidence and facts that he can release without impacting” the indictment. “Those that are currently feeling frustration, feeling hurt, they deserve to know more,” he said.

The grand jury’s decision is likely to outrage protesters, who have called for murder charges and made Taylor the center of the #SayHerName campaign highlighting police brutality against women. Ben Crump, a lawyer for Taylor’s family, called the outcome of the investigation “outrageous and offensive” on Twitter. Protesters began taking to the streets shortly after the charges were announced. At least one group of armed counterprotesters appeared, according to videos posted on social media.

Anticipating civil unrest, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer declared an emergency, announcing a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. for the next three days. The city will have resources from the National Guard, the FBI and other federal agencies to help deal with any unrest, said Robert Schroeder, the city’s interim police chief. He didn’t specify the number of troops or federal officials that would be on hand.

Large protests over Taylor’s death erupted in late May, but most demonstrations in Louisville since then have been peaceful.

In neighboring Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker called the grand jury’s charge of the single officer a “gross miscarriage of justice.” Pritkzer joined Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who planned to hold a citywide moment of silence in Taylor’s memory Wednesday evening, as well as Reverend Jesse Jackson and other local leaders at a news conference to urge that any protests be peaceful. “We want people to express themselves but do it peacefully,” Lightfoot said.

A Pritzker spokesperson said he had put Illinois’s National Guard “in a state of readiness to ensure they are available if municipalities request their assistance.”

Campaign Issue

The issue of protests and the police response to them continues to shape the U.S. presidential campaign. President Donald Trump has touted himself as the law-and-order candidate, and his attorney generaldeclared on Monday that New York City, Seattle and Portland, Oregon, have become anarchies that aren’t performing basic governmental functions to keep people safe.

The cities’ mayors, all Democrats, dismissed the announcement as a campaign stunt and said threats to restrict federal money on this basis were unconstitutional. “The President is playing cheap political games with Congressionally directed funds,” New York’s Bill de Blasio wrote in a joint statement with Portland’s Ted Wheeler and Seattle’s Jenny Durkan.

In the nation’s biggest swing state, Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis proposed controversiallegislation that targets participants in “violent or disorderly” protests. The proposals, meant to rally law-and-order voters ahead of the presidential election, would make disorderly assemblies a third-degree felony.

Organizers could be held accountable for demonstrations that turn violent. Yet drivers would be off the hook if they hurt or kill a protester with their vehicles while fleeing from what the legislative outline described as a “mob.”

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— With assistance by Fola Akinnibi, Jonathan Levin, Henry Goldman, Chris Dolmetsch, and Shruti Singh

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