• Thu. Feb 25th, 2021

What happened to Breonna Taylor?

Regular vigils have been held in Kentucky for Ms Taylor Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Regular vigils have been held in Kentucky for Ms Taylor

The death of unarmed black woman Breonna Taylor – who was shot in her Louisville home by US police in March – has resonated around the world, with protesters demanding that the public “say her name” so she is not forgotten.

Her family sued the city for the death and reached a multi-million dollar settlement, which included several major police reforms. But they, alongside social justice advocates, are still demanding criminal charges for the three officers who fired the shots.

Two of the officers remain on the force and the third has been fired, but none have been charged. Investigations by state authorities and the FBI continue, with a decision on charges expected in the coming days.

“It’s only the beginning of getting full justice,” said her mother, Tamika Palmer, after the settlement was reached in Septembere.

“It’s time to move forward with the criminal charges because she deserves that and much more,” she continued.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Breonna Taylor, 26, was a decorated emergency medical technician

What happened to Breonna Taylor?

Ms Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was at home in bed in Louisville on 13 March, when police officers entered her apartment shortly after midnight, her family says. She died after being shot in her hallway at least five times.

The Louisville Metro Police Department narcotics officers raided her home, using a battering ram to take her front door off its hinges. No drugs were found on her property and Ms Taylor has no criminal record.

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Media caption“Questions still aren’t answered”: Breonna Taylor’s family are worried about a “cover-up”

Police were acting on a “no-knock” warrant, a controversial type of search warrant that allows police to enter the home without warning. Police claim they did knock before entering but Ms Taylor’s family and a neighbour have disputed this.

Ms Taylor was asleep with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker, a licensed gun owner, according to her family. After being awoken, Mr Walker opened fire with his pistol.

Mr Walker believed people were breaking in and he fired in self-defence, he told police during an interview on the night of Ms Taylor’s death.

In an audio recording of Mr Walker’s call to 911, he is heard telling the emergency dispatcher: “I don’t know what’s happening. Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.”

Louisville police say they returned fire after one officer was shot in the leg. Officers did not provide medical aid to Ms Taylor, as they were helping their colleague who had been hit in the shootout.

The police report contained numerous errors, including listing Ms Taylor’s injuries as “none” and saying no force was used to enter, when a battering ram had been used.

Mr Walker was initially charged with attempted murder and assault of a police officer, but the case against him was dropped in May amid national scrutiny of the case.

Why were police at her home?

The search warrant obtained by police included Ms Taylor’s address because authorities believed a suspect in a drug ring – her ex-boyfriend – used her apartment to hide drugs, according to US media.

The ex-boyfriend, who was arrested on the same night of her death for drug possession, has said that prosecutors pressed him to name Ms Taylor as a “co-defendant” in the case against him.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Billboards around Louisville call for the three officers to be arrested

In May, Ms Taylor’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. That civil suit concluded in September with a $12m (£9.3m) pay out from the city, but family members say that was only one “layer” of justice for Ms Taylor.

What are ‘no-knock’ search warrants?

No-knock warrants allow police to enter a residence unannounced. They are often used in drug raids to prevent suspects from flushing evidence down the toilet. But they have long been controversial, with critics saying they can have a traumatic effect on unsuspecting suspects or innocent bystanders.

Only Florida and Oregon ban no-knock warrants state-wide, but after Ms Taylor’s death other states and cities have begun working on similar legislation.

Louisville’s city council banned them as a direct result of the case, calling the action “Breonna’s law”.

In June, the Democrat-controlled US House of Representative voted to ban no-knock warrants for federal police nationwide, but the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to take up the bill.

What has changed since her death?

The financial settlement included a series of police reforms, including a requirement that all search warrants be approved by a senior officer and a housing credit to officers who move to the low-income neighbourhoods they patrol.

The officers who entered Ms Taylor’s apartment were not wearing body cameras.

The Louisville Metro Police Department now requires all officers to wear body cameras. The former police chief was fired in June after officers failed to turn on their cameras before a separate fatal shooting of an African-American restaurant owner, David McAtee.

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Media caption“It’s only the beginning of getting full justice”: Breonna Taylor’s mother reacts to the settlement

The city now plans to bring in their third police chief since Ms Taylor’s death. Yvette Gentry, who takes over on 1 October, will be the department’s first black female police chief.

One of the three officers involved in Ms Taylor’s death – Brett Hankinson – was fired from the force in June after investigators found he had “wantonly and blindly fired ten (10) rounds” into Ms Taylor’s apartment, according to his termination letter.

The other two officers who fired their weapons that night, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, have been re-assigned to administrative duties.

How big has the campaign become?

Ms Taylor’s name circulated widely during the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality, which erupted in May after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

Many felt her death had been overlooked and deserved more attention.

Since then, more and more Americans have called for justice in her memory.

At the Democratic National Convention in August, both former First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris mentioned her. Presidential candidate Joe Biden has said the officers should be criminally charged.

Major league sports athletes have worn her name on their helmets, jerseys and shoes, and chat show host Oprah Winfrey commissioned billboards in Louisville to call for her killers to be arrested.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption US athletes have been wearing Breonna Taylor’s name on their uniforms