Tragic story of Breonna Taylor: how a black nurse was shot dead in her home by white policemen

There are massive protests in the United States against the decision to exclude three white policemen from prosecution for the death of a black woman. Breonna Taylor (26) was shot in her own house in March during a police raid.

Who was the young nurse? Exactly how did she end up? And why is the case causing so much commotion? An overview.

Breonna Taylor
Breonna Taylor

Who was Breonna Taylor?

Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old black emergency nurse from Louisville in the American state of Kentucky. She had a flashing light relationship with Jamarcus Glover for a few years, but according to her family, she had definitively severed ties with that man. She was now happy with her new friend Kenneth Walker (27).

What happened on the night of her death?

On Friday, 13th March 2020. It was shortly after midnight when some policemen smashed into the door of Taylor’s flat with a battering ram. They are carrying a search warrant. They investigate two drug dealers and suspect that one of them uses Breonna’s apartment to receive parcels. His name is Jamarcus Glover.

Breonna and her boyfriend are already in bed when they suddenly hear a loud banging at the front door. They get up and ask loudly who it is. Walker will explain afterward that the couple fears that it is Breonna’s ex, who is trying to break in. He takes his gun.

When the door flies out of its rods, Walker fires one shot. He hits one of the cops – Jonathan Mattingly – in the thigh. The officers then open fire and hit Breonna five times. According to Walker, Breonna crashes and gasps for at least five minutes.

Rescuers take care of Mattingly and only later realize that Breonna is in dire straits after her friend calls the emergency number. According to the dispatching logs, the woman does not receive medical attention until 20 minutes after being shot. It comes too late.

The coroner states in his report that she presumably died after less than a minute and that she could not have been rescued. No drugs are found in her apartment, says her friend’s lawyer.

Why is the case causing such a stir?

The agents present at the raid are under fire for their actions. One of the officers – Brett Hankison – is said to have shot blindly into the apartment ten times, which is not allowed. The agents themselves claim that they first knocked on the door and identified themselves, but Walker denies that. The officers also insist that they didn’t open fire until Walker fired a shot.

Brett Hankison on his mugshot
©AFP – Brett Hankison on his mugshot.

The police report of the facts also contained several errors. For example, it was stated that no force had been used when entering the flat and that Breonna had no injuries. There also appeared to be no images of the officers’ body cams.

Was anyone punished?

Brett Hankison – the cop who shot blindly into the apartment – was fired in June, but appealed. His resignation letter stated, according to The New York Times, that he showed “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.” His two colleagues Matt Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, were given desk service.

On Wednesday, Hankison was also officially charged for intentionally endangering people during the raid. His two colleagues were not prosecuted. Neither of the three is also indicted for killing Breonna Taylor. They are said to have acted in legitimate self-defense. According to a lawyer for the next of kin, that decision is “shameful and insulting”.

Kenneth Walker was initially charged with the attempted murder of a cop, but that charge was filed in May. He said he feared for his life and fired in self-defense. According to his family, he also had a license for his weapon.

Breonna Taylor’s ex was handcuffed on 27th August. Jamarcus Glover was in possession of drugs. He told the local newspaper The Courier-Journal that Breonna had nothing to do with his drug trade.

Has the matter set something in motion?

Louisville issued a ban on so-called ‘no-knock warrants’ on 11th June. These allow the police to gain access to a house by force without warning.

Earlier this month, the city council also decided to pay Breonna’s family damages of 12 million dollars. Reforms will also be implemented in the police force. Among other things, there will be a new police chief, and bodycams will be mandatory for house searches.

How should things proceed now?

As Breonna Taylor’s case became more prominent this spring and summer, dissatisfaction with the police crackdown on the issue increased. There was action across the country, and a battery of Hollywood stars and celebs showed they want justice for Breonna. Since June, this is done with the hashtag #SayHerName.

Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton wearing a Breonna Taylor T-shirt.
©Pool/REUTERS – Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton wearing a Breonna Taylor T-shirt.

The Democratic mayor of Louisville this week declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew over fears of unrest following the court ruling Wednesday, which turned out to be justified. Yesterday evening, two officers were shot at demonstrations in Kentucky, but not in danger.

There were also demonstrations in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington to protest the court’s decision. And it doesn’t appear that the protest will soon pass.

The New York Times, The Louisville Courier
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