Grand Jury Indicts One Officer – Not For Murder – in Breonna Taylor Killing (updated)

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By Peter J. Williams

LOUISVILLE ー With protesters already gathered in downtown Louisville, Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced Wednesday the much anticipated findings of the Grand Jury investigation into the case of the death of Breonna Taylor, fatally shot by police in her apartment on March 13 this year.

The Grand Jury indicted one officer, Detective Brett Hankison, who has been terminated from the force, with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for firing recklessly.

Markedly, the officer was not indicted for the killing of Taylor.

Within an hour or so of the announcement, disappointed demonstrators protested in the streets as tensions increased – shortly, police had already made arrests of demonstrators.

The two other officers involved in the shooting were not indicted, based on the conclusion that the officers fired in self-defense. The Attorney General also announced that his office will be creating a task force that will investigate and seek ways to reform the search warrant process in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Attorney General Cameron prefaced his announcement with the statement that the shooting and death of Taylor is “unequivocally” a tragedy, expressing his first-hand knowledge of the pain that this loss has left in the lives of Taylor’s family. This, he argued, should not affect, or alter the proceedings of justice.

“Despite passions [and] opinions,” he stated, “…the rule of law must apply, justice must be done.”

Cameron explained the process of the Grand Jury investigation and review of evidence, which only just concluded with final interviews last Friday. The evidence presented to the Grand Jury, the Attorney General explained, was limited to ballistic forensics, 9-1-1 phone calls, and statements from the officers and civilian witnesses. No video evidence exists of the actual shooting.

The compiled evidence, Cameron explained, demonstrates that the three plain-clothes officers arrived at the location on the matter of executing a search warrant in a narcotics investigation.

Soon after the announcement, Breonna Taylor’s family attorney, Benjamin Crump, criticized the findings.

He accused the Attorney General – who was a speaker at the GOP convention and Trump supporter – as well as President Trump of denying systematic racism. “[Taylor was] in the sanctity of her home, the place where you are expected to be safe.” Crump argued that Taylor’s death is indicative of historic and continuous racism against African-Americans.

In a pointed tweet, Crump said, “The rallying cries that have been echoing throughout the nation have been once again ignored by a justice system that claims to serve the people.”

He continued, “But when a justice system only acts in the best interest of the most privileged and whitest among us, it has failed.”

“For the sake of Breonna Taylor, for the sake of justice, and for the sake of all Americans, law enforcement agencies and their representatives throughout the country need to take a long, hard look in the mirror,” he said.

Critics have focused on whether the officers in question knocked and announced their presence. The warrant itself was originally a no-knock warrant. However, by the night of the incident, the court had changed it to a knock and announce warrant, as the Attorney General confirmed in his announcement.

Witness testimony seemed to corroborate the officers’ statements that they knocked then announced their presence, which led the Grand Jury to determine that the officers were not in violation of their requirement to make their presence known.

However, there are other accounts that as many as 12 witnesses – including two who called 911 asking for police – who said they heard no announcement.

And the one witness cited by the AG who said he heard the announcement, and only told police that after numerous times denying he had heard the announcement. That is being investigated.

Sergeant Mattingly “was the first and only to enter the apartment,” according to the AG, after there was no response from inside the residence and officers made the decision to breach the door. In the hallway, he encountered a male and female, who was Kenneth Walker and Breonna Taylor.

According to Mattingly’s statement, Walker was holding a gun with his arms outstretched. Mattingly then testified that he was shot in the foot, which led to an opening of fire from the officers; Walker admitted that he was the first who fired his weapon, which is also shown by the ballistics report.

“The round that struck Sergeant Mattingly was fired from a nine millimeter handgun. The LMPD Officers fired 40 caliber handguns,” said the AG

“Within a matter of seconds,” he said, Taylor was struck by six bullets, with one being the fatal shot. According to the evidence, this shot came from Detective Cosgrove, not the indicted officer. Hankison fired his weapon 10 times from outside the residence through a sliding glass door and a window, with bullets traveling through apartment four and three.

“We had to try every means necessary” to find who fired the fatal shot, and the Attorney General said that the ballistic evidence does not show any indication that Hankison shot Taylor.

Cameron contends, that given that the Grand Jury found that the officers fired in self-defense, the officers were not indicted for the shooting that killed Taylor. The fact that Hankison fired his weapon from outside through the window and glass door, and landed bullets in two apartments, is what secured the Grand Jury’s indictment against the officer for first degree wanton endangerment.

If convicted, Hankison is facing up to fifteen years, or five years for each of the three counts. First degree wanton endangerment is considered a class D felony.

The Attorney General recognized that “not everyone will be satisfied” with these findings and the indictment, but assured the public that the Grand Jury conducted their investigation and review “with a specific goal in mind: pursuing the truth.”

Cameron urged protestors and those who contest the indictment to protest peacefully. “Mob justice is not justice; justice sought by violence is not justice.” He restated that this shooting is a tragedy, but “criminal justice is not a quest for revenge.”

He then finished his statement by discussing the creation of the task force. This task force will review the process of securing search warrants, offering a “top to bottom” review. “I am committed to being part of the healing process,” he added, “you have my word that I will vigorously prosecute the charges … I choose the side of justice, truth, that moves the commonwealth forward and towards healing.”

During the question period, the press asked several times about the evidence indicating that officer’s did in fact announce their presence before breaching the door. The Attorney General responded by returning to the civilian witness testimony mentioned earlier in the announcement.

When asked if he recognized that some may feel that the “black community is not getting full justice” and how can the community heal, Cameron replied that he understands the pain: “I understand [the anger] as the Attorney General… I understand that, as a black man, how painful this is, which is why it was so incredibly important to make sure that we did everything we possibly could to uncover every fact…”

Protesters gathered in the downtown area to express their disapproval of the indictment, before and after the announcement. As shown by the attorney’s reaction, those protesting are concerned primarily that these findings are not satisfactory, and that the case is representative of nationwide insufficient justice for not just Taylor, but numerous African-Americans involved in police shootings, recently and in years past.

The Attorney General’s statement defends the indictment, arguing that while it is a tragic case, any further indictment, such as manslaughter or homicide, would not be in keeping with the evidence, criminal law, and justice.


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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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36 thoughts on “Grand Jury Indicts One Officer – Not For Murder – in Breonna Taylor Killing (updated)”

  1. Ron Oertel

    Apologies in advance for my cynicism, but I’m not hopeful regarding the reaction by some (e.g., over the next few days).

    And, it might even strengthen Trump’s chances.

  2. Keith Olsen

    The officers knocked on the door and identified themselves.  Kenneth Walker shot first and shot one of the officers in the leg.  The officers returned fire.

    Witness testimony corroborated the officers’ statements that they knocked then announced their presence, which led the Grand Jury to determine that the officers were not in violation of their requirement to make their presence known.

    I don’t see how or why this justifies rioting in Louisville.

    This is what needs to be refined:

     reform the search warrant process in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

    I totally agree with that.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      “I don’t see how or why this justifies rioting in Louisville.”

      Not sure anything justifies rioting anywhere. But I do think there is a lot of anger and frustration out there.

      1. Keith Olsen

        At some point people are going to have to come to their senses and look at the facts.  Wanting officers to be indicted for murder when it wasn’t murder and then rioting because they didn’t get their way turns the country against them.  This is what’s going to get Trump re-elected.

        1. Eric Gelber

          You are accepting everything the AG said at face value. Breonna Taylor was unarmed and posed no threat justifying self defense. Witnesses differ as to whether police properly identified themselves. There’s a factual issue as to whether Breonna and her boyfriend reasonably believed this was a home invasion. Indictments only for reckless endangerment of a nearby apartment but no consequence at all for the death of Breonna Taylor makes public outrage understandable. Because of the disputed facts, this matter should have been decided by a jury.

          1. David Greenwald

            This is another example that the GJ process is useless. The AG didn’t want to prosecute murder. So the GJ didn’t indict.

        2. Keith Olsen

          Who fired first?  Walker admitted that he did, he shot an officer in the leg.  The officers fired back in self defense.

          Two officers have been shot tonight in the Louisville riot.

          1. David Greenwald

            The term self-defense is a lot more subjective here than you think because if the officers acted wrongly in busting down the door, then the resident has a right to self-defense and the cop isn’t acting in self-defense because he triggered the confrontation.

        3. Eric Gelber

          If you pose a threat to someone who broke into your home (lawfully or not), are they justified in shooting your family members? Also, Kentucky is an open carry state and Walker was arguably reasonably acting in defense of his domicile. Again, this should all be for a jury to decide.

        4. Eric Gelber

          As far as I know, he’s not being charged. But this all goes to whether the police were justified in responding with deadly force, particularly in the excessive manner they did. Once again, these should be jury issues.

        5. Keith Olsen

          The police had a warrant, they identified themselves and knocked on the door as per a witness that lived in the building.  The police were doing their jobs.  Walker fired first.  This isn’t hard.

        6. Ron Oertel

          Once again, these should be jury issues.

          What – you don’t want to “try” this on a blog?  😉

          As far as I know, he’s not being charged. 

          Nor should he be, from what I understand.

  3. Ron Oertel

    Keith:  At some point people are going to have to come to their senses and look at the facts.  

    Good luck with that.

    It would probably be helpful if the family members made a statement promoting peace.  (Rodney King did so, as have others. I recall that Rodney King did so after he was appalled at the response.)

     

        1. Eric Gelber

          Are you serious?! You are criticizing this Black family for not responding in, as you deem, an appropriate manner to the shooting death of their loved one by white cops and the subsequent  whitewashing of an investigation and no opportunity for a jury determination of the facts? Unbelievable.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Are you serious?!

          Yes – quite serious.

          You are criticizing this Black family for not responding in, as you deem, an appropriate manner to the shooting death of their loved one by white cops and the subsequent whitewashing of an investigation and no opportunity for a jury determination of the facts? Unbelievable.

          I’m not necessarily criticizing them, as I don’t know what they may/may not have said.  The rest of your comment is full of assumptions and judgements.

          Yes – I think this would be a PERFECT time for the family to advocate for peace (for the benefit of all).  I can’t imagine that they would want rioting to occur in the name of their family member.  Can you?  

          They did win a substantial civil judgement, already. (Which is where mistakes like this are often addressed.)

          There is one criminal charge, and the officer has been fired.

          Now, if they want vengeance and retribution (and want others to act on that), it’s not something I would support. Do you?

        3. Ron Oertel

          Yes – I think this would be a PERFECT time for the family to advocate for peace (for the benefit of all).

          And really, they’re the only ones who might have the credibility (“authority”) to make a difference.  It often doesn’t matter so much if politicians do this, instead.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Something along the lines of, “please don’t think that engaging in violence or destruction honors our daughter in any way – and contributes to the overall environment which results in deaths and injuries.”

        1. David Greenwald

          Maybe if you record a statement saying, “Please Mr. Policemen stop killing Black and brown people.”

          They’ll say, “Please protesters, be respectful of people’s property.”

        2. Ron Oertel

          You should really think about what you’re stating here, and the implications of it. It goes beyond property, as well.

          You don’t strike me as someone who supports vengeance and retribution in the first place. Which I kind of admire. Too bad that others may not.

          1. David Greenwald

            My point is that there’s nothing anyone can really say at this point. This is largely a failure of the entire system. Keith wants to split hairs and parse it. But the reality is that Breonna was an innocent and people are tired of authorities making excuses for the innocent loss of life.

        3. Ron Oertel

          My point is that there’s nothing anyone can really say at this point.

          I don’t agree, as noted above.

          And I wouldn’t conclude that “excuses” are being made in this case (except for self-protection from possible legal ramifications). The error has already been acknowledged (and judged, in the civil system).

        4. Ron Oertel

          Actually, was that a “settlement”, or a judgement?

          (Like I said, statements from the family members are the only ones who might make a difference. Obviously, they are not obligated to do so. But again, I can’t imagine that they would want possible riots, injuries, deaths, or arrests to be part of the legacy of this case.)

          Things like this can go back to “retribution and vengeance”, for some. Maybe that makes them feel better, but I doubt it.

  4. Ron Oertel

    I just found this quote:

    At a news conference, Cameron spoke to that disconnect: “Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief.”

    https://apnews.com/28a283922de8784f6fca5c42fe8e5bca

    (I believe that’s what civil law is primarily for. And, which has already been applied in this case.)

    Neither type of law brings back a life that is lost. Neither type of law necessarily prevents all such incidents in the future, either.

    There are LOTS of people shot and victimized by violence every day, throughout this country. Normally, not involving the police (and often without any “redress” whatsoever).

      1. Ron Oertel

        Not what I said.

        I’m not even sure that they knew what skin color they had.  I suspect that the guy who shot at the cops didn’t know what skin color they had.  (Why do you suppose he had a gun – perhaps a dangerous neighborhood to begin with?)

        Thought I saw about 6 cops involved with this, one of whom was a person of color.  (Not sure, as I’m not keeping score.)

        Do you support vengeance and retribution in this case?  Or in other words, do you believe that criminal actions occurred (beyond what the officer is charged with)?

        And if you don’t have an opinion, why would anyone else?

        1. Eric Gelber

          Do you support vengeance and retribution in this case?  Or in other words, do you believe that criminal actions occurred (beyond what the officer is charged with)?

          No, not vengeance and retribution. Accountability and justice. I believe there’s enough uncertainty to warrant a jury determination of whether a criminal act occurred.

          Irrelevant why Walker had a gun. It was lawful in Kentucky.

          I’m not even sure that they knew what skin color the occupants had.

          Of course the cops would have had a description of the occupant of the residence they broke into. Regardless, it’s pretty certain that if the victim had been white, there would have been charges filed for killing her. But, as we’ve seen in myriad cases of police violence, all too often, Black lives don’t matter.

        2. Ron Oertel

           I believe there’s enough uncertainty to warrant a jury determination of whether a criminal act occurred.

          There is one, but apparently not the one that you and others believe should occur.

          I have no opinion.

          Regardless, it’s pretty certain that if the victim had been white, there would have been charges filed for killing her. 

          I assume that you’re referring to charges in addition to those described in the article.

          In my opinion, statements such as this are inflammatory, unsupported, and somewhat irresponsible.

           

        3. Eric Gelber

          There is one, but apparently not the one that you and others believe should occur.

          Wrong. There were no charges brought for the shooting of Breonna Taylor, only for the shooting of a next door apartment.

        4. Ron Oertel

          Or more accurately, three counts (according to the article, above).

          You didn’t initially specify what you were referring to. I already knew what the charges referred to.

          In any case, I’m not putting forth an opinion regarding that.

          Actually, I don’t even have an opinion regarding that, other than not arriving at conclusions regarding what might have happened, if skin colors were different.

  5. Keith Olsen

     Regardless, it’s pretty certain that if the victim had been white, there would have been charges filed for killing her.

    In this case that’s not certain at all, in fact there probably wouldn’t have been any indictments at all.  The Grand Jury didn’t have a case to indict two of them and the third only got indicted as a way to try and appease the mob.

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