For months now, I’ve thought about what justice for Breonna Taylor should look like. Beyond the outrage of yet another INNOCENT black person being killed at the hands of police, what did justice, not revenge, look like (though innocent or not, the punishment should fit the crime – even if they found drugs at her place, it wouldn’t have justified her murder)?
A few things stood out to me as obvious:
- The use of no-knock warrants in this case was poorly executed. I’m not a cop or an expert in this, but, it seemed excessive for a ‘potential package’ at the true suspect’s EX-girlfriend’s house. And to execute it after midnight? I can kind of see the use of no knock warrants in really dangerous/extreme/violent cases where you need the element of surprise, but this didn’t seem the appropriate use of it. BAD SYSTEM. BROKEN SYSTEM. I’m glad they got rid of it in Louisville, though we need stricter guidelines on this nationwide, if not entirely eliminating it.
- On that note – who is the judge that signed off on this warrant?! BAD SYSTEM.
- At the very least, these cops weren’t very good at their jobs – poor surveillance (they thought Breonna was alone), the suspect had already been apprehended, excessive use of force leading to the death of a civilian. I think all 3 should have been fired immediately, though I’m guessing unions make that more difficult. Again, while I’m generally pro-Union, BAD SYSTEM.
- This is also clearly not the intended outcome of this ‘botched raid’ so at a minimum, justice must include a civil penalty – which it did with the $12M civil settlement… totally made sense and they had multiple grounds for the civil penalty.
What was less clear to me is the criminal penalty for the individual officers. I do think it’s important in these cases to separate the bad system from the bad individual if you’re going to enforce an individual criminal penalty.
So let’s break that down – what did these cops do that was actually illegal? They legally executed a legally obtained search warrant (again, obtained under a BAD SYSTEM – while there are some questions on whether the information provided was accurate, that officer was not one of the ones that served the warrant). Even though they claim they announced themselves as police, under the no-knock warrant, they actually aren’t legally obligated to (again, BAD SYSTEM). They got shot at by Kenneth Walker, who was exercising his rights against a perceived intruder under the Castle doctrine (“stand your ground”) and the cops shot back in self-defense. In that crossfire, Breonna Taylor was killed – unfortunate, but it happens, right? Blame the system, not the cops?
While the system is definitely in large part to blame – hence the calls to Abolish the Police which I’ll get to – what about the officers? There were 3 officers involved:
- Brett Hankison – he was charged with wanton endangerment because he just shot anywhere and everywhere and was charged with bullets going into a neighboring apartment. His bullets did not kill or strike Breonna Taylor (though this seems to be under contest? State Attorney General Cameron said none of his bullets hit her). He also had some ongoing complaints and I’m guessing this made him an easy scapegoat and was actually fired (the only officer).
- Jonathan Mattingly – he was the officer that Kenneth Walker shot and he also fired into the apartment multiple times.
- Myles Cosgrove shot into the apartment 16 times. It was his bullet that was the fatal shot (again, per Cameron).
The grand jury found that the use of force was justifiable, self-defense, and therefore, no charges could be brought against the 3 cops for any shots that hit Taylor. Because Hankison’s bullets hit the neighboring apartment, they were able to charge him with wanton-endangerment as they weren’t shooting at him.
I would LOVE to see the evidence that lead to a grand jury thinking that shooting into an apartment 32 times (THIRTY-TWO TIMES) in response to ONE SHOT by Kenneth Walker was a justifiable use of force. Two of the officers, including Cosgrove, weren’t even shooting from inside the apartment (Cameron said only Mattingly actually entered the apartment). Is that how LMPD trains their cops in ‘justifiable use of force’ and de-escalation (BAD SYSTEM)? What did they think was going to happen when spraying bullets into a residence? How did this make sense? I get that being shot at is difficult and scary, but that’s the best you could do? Or did the Black lives inside not deserve whatever you learned in ‘de-escalation’ training. What would have been considered excessive (wanton endangerment) if this wasn’t?
You also have to wonder how strongly Cameron presented the case that the use of force was NOT justified (I’m guessing not very) to let it go to full jury – BAD SYSTEM.
I’ve tried to highlight here the problems with the SYSTEM as I honestly believe that’s the bigger issue here. You can put GOOD PEOPLE in a BAD SYSTEM and it will drive NEGATIVE RESULTS.
(I’m not saying any of these cops were good people – I don’t know them. Hankison clearly already had some issues, and Mattingly sounds like a real peach here…).
This is the root of the calls to Abolish the Police. It’s not to say we don’t need some form of law enforcement – it’s to say that the system is so effed up, it’s resulting in the death of people for no reason. Not to mention the over-incarceration and systemic racism within the justice system. It needs to be broken down and built a new, not patched up with ‘reforms’. Good people in a GOOD system can do great things while serving and protecting ALL of us in a system that works for ALL of us.
In the end, we failed to get complete #justiceforbreonna. But, we can still work to CHANGE THE SYSTEM. Vote. Find out what your local PD’s are doing. Hold them accountable. Find out how schools are handling school resource officers. Push them to do better. Vote. Protest. Resist. Teach your kids to be anti-racist. Check your privilege. And oh yea, vote.