It’s been a year since the death of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-lold emergency medical tech worker who was shot to death by Louisville police officers in a botched drug raid. Since then, her name has been added to that of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery and many other Black people who have died at the hands of police or due to hyper-vigilantism.
But in that year, her story has gone from an obscure, overlooked local news story to one that has sparked an international movement, caught the attention of legislators and other politicians and influenced policy.
Below is a video timeline of Taylor’s story from her unfortunate and untimely death through the fight that continues today for Justice for Breonna.
Breonna Taylor was at her apartment, which she shared with boyfriend Kenneth Walker when just before 1:00 a.m., police burst into her door, using a no-knock warrant. Walker, believing intruders were breaking in, grabbed his firearm, which he legally owned and fired, wounding one of the officers. Police opened fire, striking Taylor six times, killing her. The raid was an attempt to arrest another individual, her ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, who was already in custody. Taylor’s family maintains police never announced themselves, while officers say they did. No drugs were ever found on the premises.
Few people outside of Louisville knew much about the shooting in the weeks after, but pressure grew on law enforcement officials to address it. By mid-May, Jefferson County, Ky., Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine asks for a special prosecutor. He makes the request because Walker has been charged with the shooting of Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly during the raid and he is involved in that case. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announces his office will take charge.
Meanwhile, internal investigations are announced by the Louisville Police Department and another is announced by the FBI. Cameron’s office is also investigating and he promises a thorough probe of the case.
By the end of May 2020, protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police there influenced others to demonstrate against similar incidents in other cities. People began to show up in downtown Louisville, angered that no charges had been filed against the officers involved. Those early demonstrations were peaceful, but did have violent incidents in which several people were shot. Taylor’s family thanked the public for their support, but urged them to protest peacefully. Meanwhile, city leaders begged for calm as the investigations continued.
With increasing protests and demands for justice, the mayor terminates Chief Steve Conrad after an investigation reveals that officers did not wear body cameras in June when David McAtee, a beloved local barbecue owner, was shot and killed. LMPD officers and National Guard troops had opened fire in response to gunshots. Fisher said that the city would do an extensive review of the practices of officers ranging from bias-free policing to use of force tactics to accountability. But he also says to a group of local activists that he could not yet fire the officers whose gunfire killed Taylor.
On June 11, the council unanimously approved legislation prohibiting law enforcement in Jefferson County from the use of “no knock” warrants. The ordinance regulates how warrants are carried out and mandates the use of body cameras. There was no direct body camera footage of Taylor being shot. Other municipalities and states are motivated to pass similar laws, noting that such procedures are dangerous to civilians and police alike.
On June 19, after a predetermination hearing, interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder moved to terminate Det. Brett Hankison, saying that he showed “extreme indifference to the value of human life.” In his termination letter, Schroeder blasted Hankison’s procedure on the night Taylor was shot. "I find your conduct a shock to the conscience," Schroeder wrote in a letter to Hankison, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. "I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion."
The movement surrounding Breonna Taylor and other victims of police shootings inspired not only international demonstrations, but murals and artwork in cities and towns everywhere. Through summer 2020, dozens of paintings with Taylor’s image adorned walls, playgrounds and other places. In Annapolis, Md., a 7,000-foot mural on a basketball court was unveiled in July, painted by artists and volunteers.
Taylor’s family filed a lawsuit against the city over the shooting but when the settlement was awarded in September 2020, it included a list of reforms for police that changes LMPD policy, changes the search warrant policy, and ensures transparency and accountability for officers. But the settlement allows city and the police department to avoid admitting any wrongdoing and it also prevents the family from suing in the future.
Based on findings from Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office, the Grand Jury empaneled to investigate the shooting decided not to charge Detectives Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove and Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in Taylor’s death. Hankson was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment because one of the rounds he shot entered a neighboring apartment. Shortly after the grand jury announcement Cameron says that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in opening fire and that without body camera footage, coming to a conclusion was difficult. The decision spurs even angrier protests at what many felt was a miscarriage of justice.
More than a month after the indictment was declined two grand jurors stepped forward to publicly blast Cameron, telling "CBS This Morning" that he misrepresented their position on the case and they were never given the chance to consider making indictments against the officers. "It was a betrayal," said Juror No. 2. "They didn't give us the charges up front… when they gave us all of that testimony, over 20-something hours, and then to say that these are the only charges that they're coming up with, it's like, 'Well, what did we just sit through?' "
Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend said that officers simply burst into their apartment without saying it was the police. Officers denied this, but he was adamant that if he had known, he would not have grabbed his firearm to defend himself and Taylor. “If it was the police at the door and they just said ‘we’re the police,’ me or Breonna didn’t have a reason at all not to open the door and see what they wanted.”
Walker was cleared of wrongdoing two months after Taylor’s death and most recently, a judge has permanently closed the case against him.
In a sit-down with “Good Morning America’s” Michael Strahan in October 2020, the veteran policeman, who was wounded in the incident, said that the shooting was not a case of racial profiling. He denied he was racist and does not use racial profiling in his work. “Good police, anyway, police I work with don’t racial profile, you criminal profile,” he said. , noting that stereotyping Blacks as threatening is “not the case.” To which Strahan responded: “Well that’s how Black men feel. That’s how Black women feel.”
“Does that make it real?” Mattingly asked.
“If it’s how you feel, it’s real,” Strahan replied. “What is the difference between criminal profiling and racial profiling?”
Mattingly remains a sergeant with the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department.
In January 2021, Detectives Myles Cosgrove and Joshua Jaynes were terminated by the LMPD for their actions during the raid on Taylor’s apartment. The FBI determined that Cosgrove fired the shot that killed Breonna Taylor. The department said that he violated use of force procedures and also failed to use his body camera. Jaynes obtained the search warrant for the raid and was found to be in violation of department policy, according to interim Louisville Police Chief Yvette Gentry.
In an interview with NBC News, Palmer, spoke about what her life is like almost a year since the shooting. She has been vocal and outfront during the entire ordeal, lobbying for justice and supporting others who have experienced the same thing. She says the global support of activists and demonstrators in the streets is what has kept her going. “It’s been plenty of times I don’t want to get up, but you roll over and you look at your phone or the TV and they’re there before you,” she said. “So how do you not show up?”
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