Was the grand jury decision on Breonna Taylor’s case fair?


Fact Box

  • March 12, Louisville Detective Joshua Jaynes requested a 'no-knock' search warrant of Breonna Taylor's home after investigating ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, who was known to the police as a drug trafficker.
  • Midnight of March 13, Officers Cosgrove, Hankison, and Sgt. Mattingly entered Taylor’s apartment using a battering ram to open the door. Boyfriend Kenneth Walker shot a bullet, and wounded Mattingly in the thigh. All officers returned fire with over 25 bullets, killing Taylor with approximately eight bullets
  • Walker was accused of attempted murder and assault. He told officers “he was the only person inside the apartment to fire a shot as an act of self-defense.” May 22, Attorney Tom Wine announced that the charges against Kenneth Walker were temporarily dismissed.
  • Her family sued Kentucky city in May and reached a $12 million settlement. They demanded criminal charges for the three officers who fired the shots. 
  • The grand jury decided to indict Brett Hankison with “wanton endangerment, not for the killing of Taylor but for firing recklessly when he was still outside the apartment and causing bullets to penetrate into neighbors’ apartments, putting them at risk.” In addition, the other two officers were not charged with Taylor’s death.

Elizabeth (Yes)

Breonna Taylor's death is undeniably tragic. However, the grand jury's decision in Kentucky not to bring charges against two of the three officers involved appears warranted under the circumstances. Though it is justifiable to argue against officers' actions in any situation, in this instance, the decision is just. The outraged deny the legitimacy of this decision, handed down via due process examination of evidence, and is ultimately the fulfillment of the Rule of Law. The fact that people are angry with police and the false perception that police disproportionately kill Black people cannot itself be used as 'proof' to judge every single police shooting as racial or unjust.

Based on the information these officers had (none were involved in obtaining the legal search warrant), they were entering a home where an occupant, named on the warrant, was a prime suspect in a drug investigation. With the police pounding on the door at 12:40 AM, perhaps Breonna's boyfriend missed hearing them announce they were police and proceeded to fire at the officers. Still, it's entirely understandable that in a chaotic situation, and after the shots fired had already wounded one officer, that they would return fire. Though criticism has been leveled against the officers for their use of deadly force, as the charged officer was not inside the apartment to get a clear view at the time of the shooting, returning fire was lawful. It remains to be seen if the search warrant itself was justified (which is currently under FBI investigation), but, though tragic and regrettable, Breonna was not murdered in cold blood.

Sharon (No)

These highly militarized no-knock/knock, announce, and enter raids have been problematic from the beginning. Sadly, Breonna Taylor has joined a long list of people, including children, who've been injured and killed by police in botched raids. Shoddy, out-dated information is shamefully common when there are safer apprehension options. When police choose this more dangerous route and perform poorly, resulting in people being injured or killed, there should be real consequences.   

Such raids are meant for apprehending the most dangerous of criminals. That wasn't Breonna. Neither she, a health care worker, nor her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, have past drug offenses. There's no indication whatsoever of them being dangerous criminals. The primary suspect was arrested in a different location, 10 miles away. The militarized midnight attack simply was not justified by the circumstances.

In their warrant request, police claimed they had postal inspector confirmation that she'd received drug packages for an ex-boyfriend. US Postal Inspector Tony Gooden said he had no role in an investigation of Taylor's packages and, according to civil rights attorney Ben Crump, no indication of suspicious packages going to Taylor's address. No drugs were found at the scene.

Police say they announced themselves. That's disputed by neighbors and by Walker, who, crying, called 911 to report intruders kicking in the door and shooting his girlfriend. Initial charges against Walker for shooting Officer Mattingly were dismissed. The danger of these types of raids, for citizen and officer alike, are well documented. In this case, the police needlessly risked Taylor and Walker's lives and must face serious consequences for Taylor's death. The grand jury decision was absolutely unfair.

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