Louisville, September 24
Police say two Louisville, Kentucky, police officers have been shot and wounded during protests over a lack of charges in Breonna Taylor’s death.
Interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said on Wednesday night that one person was in custody. He says one officer was alert and stable and the other is undergoing surgery but is also stable.
He says the officers had gone to investigate reports of gunfire when they were shot. He says they’re both expected to recover.
The violence comes after prosecutors said two officers, who fired their weapons at Taylor, a Black woman, were justified in using force to protect themselves after they faced gunfire from her boyfriend. The only charges were three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into a home next to Taylor’s with people inside.
Hours after a Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for the killing of Breonna Taylor and protesters took to the streets, authorities said an officer had been shot Wednesday night during the demonstrations expressing anger over the deaths of Black people at the hands of police.
Several shots rang out as protesters in downtown Louisville tried to avoid police blockades, moving down an alleyway as officers lobbed pepper balls. People covered their ears, ran away and frantically looked for places to hide. Police with long guns swarmed the area, then officers in riot gear and military-style vehicles blocked off roadways.
The condition of the officer is unclear and the police have not yet released more details.
The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in connection with the raid at Taylor’s home on March 13.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for Taylor’s family, denounced the decision as “outrageous and offensive”, and protesters shouting, “No justice, no peace!” immediately marched through the streets.
Scuffles broke out between police and protesters, and some were arrested. Officers fired flash bangs and a few small fires burned in a square that’s been at the centre of protests but it had largely cleared out ahead of a night-time curfew as demonstrators marched through other parts of downtown Louisville. Dozens of patrol cars blocked the city’s major thoroughfare and more police arrived after the officer was shot.
Demonstrators also marched in cities like New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by white officers who entered her home on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. State Attorney General Daniel Cameron, however, said the investigation showed the officers announced themselves before entering. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there and no drugs were found inside.
Along with the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, Taylor’s case became a major touchstone for nationwide protests that have drawn attention to entrenched racism and demanded police reform. Taylor’s image has been painted on streets, emblazoned on protest signs and silk-screened on T-shirts worn by celebrities. Several prominent African American celebrities joined those urging that the officers be charged.
The announcement drew sadness, frustration and anger that the grand jury did not go further. The wanton endangerment charges each carry a sentence of up to five years.
Morgan Julianna Lee, a high school student in Charlotte, North Carolina, watched the announcement at home.
“It’s almost like a slap in the face,” the 15-year-old said by phone. “If I, as a Black woman, ever need justice, I will never get it.”
Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, said he authorised a limited deployment of the National Guard. Beshear also urged Cameron, the state attorney general, to post online all the evidence that could be released without affecting the charges filed.
“Those that are currently feeling frustration, feeling hurt, they deserve to know more,” he said.
The case 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 favour police and do not often result in steep criminal accusations.
At a news conference, Cameron spoke to that disconnect: “Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief. But my heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor. My mother, if something was to happen to me, would find it very hard,” he added, choking up.
Angry, confused and shedding tears, demonstrators who spent months calling for justice in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor resumed their protests Wednesday after prosecutors announced a single officer had been indicted — but not on charges involving the Black woman’s death.
The protests, which rekindled as soon as news of the grand jury’s decision broke on Wednesday afternoon, appeared to be largely peaceful. Still, streets in downtown Louisville were cleared of cars and many businesses were boarded up well ahead of the announcement.
As the afternoon wore on, police in protective gear clashed with the growing number of protesters in some areas and used batons to push some of them down. Officers detained at least four people, who sat on the ground with their wrists bound behind them. As television cameras broadcast the scene live, a protester pointed at an officer and shouted: “Say her name!”
An Associated Press reporter saw National Guard members and armoured military vehicles in downtown Louisville.
“Yes, it is a bit extreme right now,” said Dekevion Gause, who sat beside a park memorial to Taylor made of flowers, paintings and tiny grave markers representing Black people killed by police. “But it is a volcano built up and now it is exploded.”
Gause said all of the officers involved in the March 13 raid on Taylor’s home should have been charged with manslaughter.
Gause gathered with dozens in Jefferson Square Park, dubbed “Injustice Square” by protesters who made it their impromptu hub during months of demonstrations. People huddled around a single speaker on Wednesday to listen as prosecutors announced that fired police officer Brett Hankinson had been charged with wanton endangerment for firing into the homes of Taylor’s neighbours.
A grand jury brought no charges for killing Taylor, who was shot multiple times by police who burst into her home on March 13 during a drug raid gone wrong. While there were no drugs in Taylor’s apartment, her boyfriend shot and wounded a police officer. State Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the officers’ shots that killed Taylor were fired in self-defence.
Upon hearing the news, many gathered in the square began to cry, expressing confusion and sorrow. Others exclaimed they had seen this coming.
“We know that this means that this is the next level of our protest,” said Shameka Parrish Wright, who joined the protests on Wednesday, adding: “We got work to do, we got to get Breonna’s law passed.”
She was referring to a push for a state law to ban so-called “no-knock” search warrants like the one police had when they went to Taylor’s home.
Within minutes of the announcement, about 100 demonstrators marched from Jefferson Square along the downtown thoroughfare of Sixth Street chanting: “No justice, no peace!” Many simply sat or stood in stunned silence after hearing the grand jury’s decision.
Jefferson Square became the epicentre of Louisville residents’ outrage over the killing of Taylor, who became a national symbol of racial injustice much like George Floyd, the Black man who died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. AP