Officials plead for calm as anger grows over Breonna Taylor case

4 weeks ago 4

Authorities pleaded for calm while activists vowed to fight on Thursday in Kentucky's largest city, where a gunman wounded two police officers during anguished protests following the decision not to charge officers for killing Breonna Taylor.

Outrage over a grand jury's failure to bring homicide charges against the officers who burst into the Black woman's apartment six months ago set off a new round of demonstrations Wednesday in several American cities. The state attorney general said the investigation showed officers were acting in self-defense when they responded to gunfire from Taylor's boyfriend.

Reginique Jones returned Thursday morning to the park in downtown Louisville that has been the hub for protests, saying she was distraught over the grand jury's decision to only charge a single officer for firing into apartments neighboring Taylor's. Still, Jones vowed to continue pressing for increased police accountability and for a statewide ban on "no-knock" warrants - the kind issued in the Taylor case, though state Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the investigation showed police did announce themselves before entering.

"I believe that we are going to get past this," Jones said as demonstrators began to arrive at the park dubbed Injustice Square. "As long as we continue to remain strong, and stay on the same page, we can still get some justice."

Though protests in Louisville began peacefully the day before, officers declared an unlawful assembly after they said fires were set in garbage cans, several vehicles were damaged and stores were broken into. A 26-year-old man was arrested and charged with firing at police and wounding two officers.

"Violence will only be a source of pain, not a cure for pain," said Mayor Greg Fischer. "Many see Breonna Taylor's case as both the tragic death of a young woman and the continuation of a long pattern of devaluation and violence that Black women and men face in our country, as they have historically."

"The question obviously is: What do we do with this pain?" the mayor asked. "There is no one answer, no easy answer to that question."

Activists, celebrities and everyday Americans have called for charges against police since Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by white officers after one of them was fired upon and wounded while conducting a raid in a narcotics investigation in March. Police entered on a warrant connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.

Along with George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minneapolis, Taylor's name became a rallying cry during nationwide protests this summer that drew attention to entrenched racism and demanded police reform.

Since Taylor's killing, Louisville has taken some steps to address protesters' concerns. The officer who was eventually charged has been fired, and three others were put on desk duty. Louisville officials have banned no-knock warrants and hired a Black woman as the city's new permanent police chief - a first for the city.

Last week, the city agreed to more police reforms as part of a settlement that included a $12 million payment to Taylor's family.

The FBI is still investigating whether Taylor's civil rights were violated. The burden of proof for such cases is very high, with prosecutors having to prove officers knew they were acting illegally and made a willful decision to cause someone's death.

But many have expressed frustration that more has not been done. Hundreds chanted Taylor's name and marched in cities after the grand jury decision, including New York, Chicago, Washington and Atlanta.

"In our distress, we reaffirm our dedication to the eradication of systemic racism in our city," the group Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice said in a statement Thursday. "We will keep showing up, speaking up, and joining the movement for systemic change led by Black people."

Two reporters for the online news site The Daily Caller were arrested Wednesday night during the Louisville protests. Publisher Neil Patel said in a statement the reporters "were peacefully doing their jobs."

The two Louisville officers shot during protests were "doing well and will survive their injuries," said interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder.

Maj. Aubrey Gregory, a Louisville officer for more than 20 years, was shot in the hip and was treated and released from the hospital. Officer Robinson Desroches, who joined the force 18 months ago, was shot in the abdomen and underwent surgery.

Larynzo D. Johnson, 26, was charged in the shootings with assaulting police officers and wanton endangerment of police officers. An arrest citation said police had video of Johnson shooting at officers. Court records did not list a lawyer for Johnson, who was scheduled for arraignment Friday.

In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the officers' shootings in his home state acts of "despicable cowardice that must be met with the full force of the law."

Taylor's case has exposed the wide gulf between public opinion on justice for those who kill Black Americans and the laws under which those officers are charged, which regularly favor police.

On Wednesday, a grand jury returned three charges of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison. No charges were brought against the other officers involved.

Ben Crump, a lawyer for Taylor's family, denounced the grand jury decision as "outrageous and offensive."

Each of the charges against Hankison faces carries a sentence of up to five years. His attorney, David Leightty, did not return calls requesting comment. But Leightty has previously said that Hankison's firing in June was a "cowardly political act."

President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that the case was a "sad thing."

"I give my regards to the family of Breonna. I also think it's so sad what's happening with everything about that case, including law enforcement," he said. "So many people suffering - so many people needlessly suffering."

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, called for policing reform. Biden said the country should start by addressing excessive force, banning chokeholds and overhauling no-knock warrants. Amy McGrath, McConnell's Democratic challenger, also called for reforms as she met with protesters Thursday.

Read Entire Article