Student Opinion: The Justice System Fails Black People Again: The Breonna Taylor Case

By Sabrina Williams 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”- Martin Luther King Jr. 

On Sept. 23, protestors from across the world waited for the verdict on the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. The grand jury announced that former Louisville, Kentucky sergeant Brett Hankison was indicted with three counts wanton endangerment that led to the firing shots that ended up in a neighbor apartment next to Taylor’s house but won’t be charged and or responsible for her death. 

The other two officers involved in the shooting also won’t be charged for her death. Hankison was fired back in June, but the other two officers Jon Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove remain in the force. 

The verdict was announced and caused an uproar not just in Louisville but also in other states because officers involved in the killings of Black people often never get served justice, and this has been a problem in the Black community for decades.

Brenna Taylor’s mother, Tamakia Palmer, stated that “I was reassured of why I have no faith in the legal system.” Palmer meant that police brutality against people of color never changes; it keeps happening and happening. 

Also, the police don’t take accountability and responsibility for their actions and don’t protect Black and brown people. 

Kentucky attorney Daniel Cameron announced that “In Kentucky Law, the use of force by Medley and Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves.” 

This means that the officer’s actions were justified because of the fact that they were shot at first by Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, and many people are blaming him for Taylor’s death. 

Many celebrities, politicians and leaders, like Queen Latifah, Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna and Colin Kapernick, shared their thoughts on the verdict decision. George Clooney who is from Kentucky even stated that “The justice system I was raised to believe in holds people responsible for their actions”. 

Clooney continued to say, “I know the community. I know commonwealth. And I was taught in schools and churches of Kentucky what is right and what is wrong. I’m ashamed of this decision”.   

After the verdict was announced, a video from CBS surfaced, showing that after the shooting raid, the police were telling Kenneth Walker to come out while pointing a gun at him. Walker had said, “My girlfriend in there; she was shot.” It goes to show that the well-being of Taylor was never considered or important. 

What happened during the night of the shooting? 

Breonna Taylor worked for the University of Louisville as a full-time ER technician and was a former emergency medical technician. On Mar. 13, 2020, Louisville police entered Taylor’s apartment because they believed that two men were selling drugs, but the apartment had a “no-knock search warrant.” 

It ended up being a case of false identity because it was actually Taylor’s apartment, and she was with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker.

During the search, Taylor’s ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover was reportedly receiving packages that contained drugs from Taylor’s apartment, but in the end, no drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.

During the raid, it was said that police knocked on the door. Walker thought that an intruder was trying to break into the apartment and confessed that the warning shot ended striking officer Johnathan Mattingly. 

Mattingly fired six shots, and Cosgrove fired 16 shots, then Hankison fired ten times. The police stated that they did knock on the door. It was reported that Taylor was sleeping during the shooting when she got shot but was shot while in the hallway outside her bedroom. 

Taylor was shot eight times but only one was fatal.

When the story came out about the killing, many people were heartbroken, especially Taylor’s family. 

They are fighting to make sure that justice prevails even after the verdict was announced. And with protests going on and the hashtag #SayHerName, they serve as a reminder to not forget about her because justice hasn’t been found. 

Since she is a Black woman, a lot of the time they are forgotten when it comes to police brutality. Taylor’s name and fighting for her justice are still continuing with protests. In the Black community, losing a member can put strain because the life of another person is gone. 

Senator Kamala Harris did a video call with Attorney Angela Rye. Harris stated that Taylor’s life “deserved to be valued and be honored; she and her family including the rest of the community need justice.”     

The fight is not over for Breonna Taylor, and justice is still going on. Justice in America cannot happen if the same narrative happens again when African American people are being killed.

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1 Comment

  1. Alan Miller

    This is well written.  The issue I have with this case and many others is the media/community focus on whether the officers are prosecuted or not.  The problem is, in many cases the officers followed protocol, so they won’t be prosecuted.  The problem is the protocol.  The all-too-common violently ramping up of a confrontation by the police that results in a predictable reaction by those on the receiving end — and if they happen to be innocent – oh, well — we followed protocol.

    Most apartments have one door, so patience and negotiation could be used.  Nearby apartments within firing range could have been evacuated.  The apartment could have been watched, the suspects could have been confronted outside.  If the idea is that swift action in the middle of the night can lead to disarming everyone before they fire into the building, well, clearly that can backfire big time, as it did.

    I’m thinking of the theater show I witnessed a few weeks ago from my porch.  The attempt to capture a singular, possibly armed, bugler from a mental health facility with drugs — Davis Police let this play out for six hours and tried to coax him out.  When they finally went in and he fell from the ceiling, they retreated, then sent in a police dog.  No shots fired, no one died, lots of patience.  True, lots of overtime and helicopter launch — but compare that cost to dead people, trials, community unrest.

    Many of us have experienced someone with power provoking us and then ‘justifiably’ using physical means against us when we react.  It’s the oldest trick in the book, and it’s despicable.  I’ve had this happen a few times with me, and I’m sure this happens with impunity in many communities of color.  Those cops that abuse their power take advantage of this, and other cops protect those cops – this is as old as time.

    There is national recognition that this is ‘systematic’.  The cops in many of these cases may be doing everything by the book – and even if they are complicit in the literal violence, they may be executing the warrant (in this example) more-or-less properly, including the violent response to an interior gunshot.  Thus, focusing on the prosecution of the officers involved will almost always lead to disappointment, and will do nothing to change the actual problem.  There needs to be recognition that the officers are caught up in the very same system – whether they be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cops.  The community outrage in these cases needs to be relentlessly focused on changing the system (which is the point in focusing on ‘systematic racism’, no?), no matter how juicy revenge on individuals may feel.

    To be clear, I’m not talking about a George Floyd situation here, where there was clearly a sadistic officer involved who contributed, directly and intimately, to the death.

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