The family of a Louisville, Kentucky woman who was killed by police is speaking out and looking for answers. It has been more than two months since Breonna Taylor was shot to death by police who came into her house to execute a drug warrant, except they had the wrong location. The death of the 26-year-old had been buried in the headlines due to the coronavirus pandemic but details are now surfacing because of other news regarding African Americans and police violence.
“Not one person has talked to me. Not one person has explained anything to me,” Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, said in an interview with The 19th., an online news platform that covers gender, politics and policy. “I want justice for her. I want them to say her name. There’s no reason Breonna should be dead at all.”
Palmer said that before she found out about her daughter’s death, she was more concerned about Breonna’s exposure to the virus in her role as an emergency medical technician than anything else. She never imagined her personal safety with police would be in question.
“She was an essential worker. She had to go to work,” Palmer said. “She didn’t have a problem with that. … To not be able to sleep in her own bed without someone busting down her door and taking her life. … I was just like, ‘Make sure you wash your hands!’ ”
A lawsuit filed April 27 says that police came to her apartment looking for a suspect that the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department already had in custody -- and who didn’t even live in the same complex. Officers attempted to come into the apartment at 12:30 a.m. without identifying themselves, although they had a knock and announce search warrant.
According to the document, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was in bed with her at the time, attempted to call 911, but the three officers named in the lawsuit, LMPD officers Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove, and Jonathan Mattingly, entered and opened fire. Taylor was hit eight times. No one has been charged in the shooting.
Neither Walker nor Taylor had any criminal history, although after the shooting she had initially been considered a suspect by the LMPD.
Police, however, are saying that Walker, who kept a weapon in the home, fired at officers, striking one. He was arrested and faces first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer charges, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
The family has enlisted the help of civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is also part of the legal team representing Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Brunswick, Georgia man who was killed by two assailants who believed he was burglarizing property. On Monday, Crump said that Taylor’s death was “inexcusable” and that the LMPD officers must be held responsible.
“We stand with the family of this young woman in demanding answers from the Louisville Police Department," Crump said. "Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding her death, the department has not provided any answers regarding the facts and circumstances of how this tragedy occurred, nor have they taken responsibility for her senseless killing."
He wants the same attention given to Taylor that is finally being given to Arbery.
“If you ran for Ahmaud, you need to stand for Bre,” Crump said.
Taylor’s death has similarities to that of Atatiana Jefferson in which police entered her Fort Worth, Texas home unannounced, shooting and killing her, as well as Botham Jean, in which an off-duty Dallas police officer entered into the wrong apartment and shot him dead. It has also brought an outcry from a community that remembered her as a dedicated EMT who was working in the midst of the pandemic despite the risk to her own safety.
Breonna Tayler became an EMT in 2017 and also was a part-time nurse at a local Louisville hospital, the Courier-Journal said.
The case flew under the radar until activist Shaun King posted the story on social media calling for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to intervene.
“For weeks the city treated Breonna like she was a criminal. Police literally called her a ‘suspect,’ and said they killed a suspect for weeks, until finally being forced to admit they got the whole [thing] wrong,” King said on Instagram.
Taylor’s sister, Ju’Niyah Palmer, who lived with her but wasn’t home when the shooting occurred, has led a campaign to let the public know about her sister’s death and to encourage others to call for justice with hashtags including #JusticeForBre.
“I’m just getting awareness for my sister, for people to know who she is, what her name is,” she said. “It is literally just as equal. There’s no difference.”
Photo Courtesy of Attorney Benjamin Crump