Breonna Taylor killing: Police officer is indicted by grand jury

Brett Hankison faces charges over incident that led to death of woman in her own home

A memorial to Breonna Taylor, placed in Jefferson Square Park, is photographed in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Photograph: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

A memorial to Breonna Taylor, placed in Jefferson Square Park, is photographed in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Photograph: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

 

A grand jury in the US has indicted one officer on criminal charges six months after Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police in Kentucky. The jury presented its decision against fired officer Brett Hankison on Wednesday to a judge in Louisville, where the shooting took place.

Ms Taylor was shot multiple times by officers who burst into her home on March 13th during a narcotics investigation. No drugs were found in her home. Protesters across the country have demanded justice for Ms Taylor and other black people killed by police in recent months.

Ahead of the announcement, Louisville mayor Greg Fischer announced a 72-hour curfew for the city, with exceptions for those going to work or to seek medical treatment.

Ms Taylor’s death, alongside that of George Floyd, a black man who died in May after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, helped spark a nationwide wave of protests demanding racial justice and an end to the use of excessive force by law enforcement.

Louisville Metro Police Department had closed off much of the downtown of the city to vehicles amid the grand jury announcement.

Police shot Ms Taylor (26) in front of her boyfriend after the officers forced their way into her Louisville apartment with a so-called no knock warrant shortly after midnight on March 13th.

In June, the Louisville Metro Police Department fired one of the three officers involved in the Taylor case, Det Brett Hankison. Interim police chief Robert Schroeder, who is retiring on October 1st, wrote in the termination notice that Hankison “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly fired” 10 rounds into Ms Taylor’s home.

The department reassigned two other officers who fired weapons in Ms Taylor’s apartment to administrative duties.

Louisville police had obtained the warrant from a judge as part of an investigation into a drug ring at another house elsewhere in Louisville. They told the judge that they believed that one of the men suspected of selling drugs had used Ms Taylor’s apartment to receive packages.

Ms Taylor had previously dated a suspected drug seller but had severed ties with him, according to her family.

She and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were in bed when police broke down her door with a battering ram shortly after midnight.

Fearing intruders, Mr Walker fired a gun, injuring Sgt Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh, according to the police account. Mattingly, Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, a detective, then began firing their guns. Five bullets pierced Ms Taylor.

Mr Walker has been charged with attempted murder. His lawyer has said there is evidence the bullet in Mattingly’s thigh was shot by one of his colleagues, not by Mr Walker.

Images of Ms Taylor have become a familiar sight at the daily protests against police violence in cities across the US. Last month, the influential television mogul Oprah Winfrey featured an image of Ms Taylor on the cover of O, the Oprah Magazine, calling for prosecution of the police who killed her.

Louisville has agreed to pay $12 million to Ms Taylor’s family to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit, the city’s mayor announced earlier this month. – AP/Reuters