No charges will be filed against Louisville police officers over the killing of Breonna Taylor because a grand jury investigation found the use of force was justified, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said on Wednesday.
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical worker, was unarmed when she was shot multiple times by Louisville officers who entered her home executing a no-knock warrant in the early hours of March 13.
Last week, the city of Louisville settled a lawsuit from Taylor’s family for $12 million. But the family, activists and celebrities have for months pushed Cameron, a Republican and the first African American to hold his post, to criminally charge the officers involved in the raid.
On Wednesday, a grand jury presented its findings to a judge in Frankfort. Brett Hankison, the officer who was terminated in June, was indicted on three charges of wanton endangerment. However, those charges were related to bullets that went into other apartments.
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The other two officers who fired their weapons, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, will not face charges.
In a press conference, Cameron announced the decision in the case, saying no homicide charges would be brought against the officers involved as they were found to be justified in returning fire because they had been fired upon by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker.
Cameron said the investigation found the officers had announced their presence, and that information was corroborated by an independent witness.
“Our investigation found that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their use of force, after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker,” Cameron said.
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“Secondary to this justification, the KSP and FBI ballistics analysis reached different conclusions, creating a reasonable doubt in the evidence about who fired the fatal shot.”
He added: “During the last six months, we’ve all heard mention of possible charges that could be brought in this case. It’s important to understand that all the charges that have been mentioned have specific meanings and ramifications.
“Criminal homicide encompasses the taking of a life by another. While there are six possible homicide charges under Kentucky law, these charges are not applicable to the facts before us, because our investigation showed, and the grand jury agreed that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in the return of deadly fire… having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker.”
“This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor’s death.”
Ben Crump, an attorney representing Taylor’s family, expressed his outrage on Twitter.
“Jefferson County Grand Jury indicts former ofc. Brett Hankison with 3 counts of Wanton Endangerment in 1st Degree for bullets that went into other apartments but NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor. This is outrageous and offensive!” he wrote.
“If Brett Hankison’s behavior was wanton endangerment to people in neighboring apartments, then it should have been wanton endangerment in Breonna Taylor’s apartment too. In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder!”
The decision is likely to inflame tensions in Louisville and beyond—police and officials in the city started preparing for more protests and possible unrest when it appeared Cameron’s announcement was imminent.
Ahead of Cameron’s press conference on Wednesday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a 72-hour curfew, in effect from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., and urged people to protest peacefully. Louisville’s interim police chief Robert Schroeder confirmed that the Kentucky National Guard had been activated.
Cameron’s decision comes after the revelation that one of the officers investigated in Taylor’s case had branded protesters “thugs” and claimed the involved officers did “the legal, moral and ethical thing that night.”
In the email to his fellow officers, which was posted online by Vice News correspondent Roberto Ferdman, Mattingly blasted Fischer, saying he and top police officials had “failed all of us in epic proportions.”
Speaking about protesters, Mattingly added that police officers should not be in a position that “allows thugs to get in your face and yell, curse and degrade you.”
He added: “It’s sad how the good guys are demonized, and criminals are canonized.”
Mattingly was shot in the leg by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, after he entered the apartment. He said in a statement to investigators that he fired at least six rounds in response, according to The New York Times.
All three officers at the scene, along with Joshua Jaynes, the detective who sought the warrant, were put on administrative reassignment in the wake of the shooting.
Hankison was terminated in June. A termination letter sent by Schroeder said Hankison violated the department’s policies and had shown an “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 rounds of gunfire into Taylor’s apartment.
Fury over the killing has fueled protests calling for justice for Taylor and other Black people killed by police in Louisville for months.
Her name became a national rallying cry when protests against police brutality and racial injustice spread across the U.S. following the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis in late May.
The protests that have taken place in Louisville in the months since have been mostly peaceful, according to the Louisville Courier Journal, but have on occasion been marred by violence.
As demonstrations continued and demands for the officers involved in Taylor’s killing to be terminated, arrested and charged grew over the summer, Cameron said in an interview that he intended to “apply the law fairly and equally.”
He confirmed that his office received the FBI’s ballistics report, which he said was “critical” to pushing the investigation forward, at the end of August.
In a statement earlier this month, Cameron said he would take as long as was necessary before announcing his decision in the case. “My office has endeavored since day one to find out the truth and pursue justice, wherever that may take us and however long that may take,” he said.