Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old African-American woman who worked as an emergency medical technician. Before her untimely death, she aspired to advance her career in healthcare.
On the night of March 13, Louisville officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove forcibly entered Taylor’s home with a battering ram on a no-knock drug warrant. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenny Walker, believed intruders were breaking in as the three officers did not explain they were cops. In defense, he took his licensed gun and began shooting at the ground to scare them away.
The officers responded with gunfire, leading Taylor to be fatally shot eight times by officers in her sleep. For more than 20 minutes, she was alive after being shot, but Taylor was refused medical attention.
The reason officers barged into Taylor’s home was because they had five warrants approved to search the homes of suspected drug dealers, one of which was Taylor’s. Police suspected her ex-boyfriend, an individual she had not dated in months, to possess illegal drugs and money.
However, this was not the case. When the cops were finished violating Taylor’s home and fatally shooting her, they found no trace of drugs or money whatsoever.
As months passed, Taylor’s story raised to the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement. Celebrities and protesters began sharing her story over social media. Famous athletes have worn her name on masks and dedicated games in her honor. Her face has appeared in famous magazines, the most prominent one being “Oprah.”
Almost 200 days later, the largest settlement for police misconduct paid by the city of Louisville has been finally agreed upon. The family of Taylor will receive $12 million for a wrongful death lawsuit by the city, who promises to reform the policies within their police department.
Justice was long overdue.
The police officers who murdered Taylor will not be paying a single penny in the lawsuit. The money is coming from taxpayers: five million from the city’s risk management fund and the rest from the city’s self-insurance fund. On one hand, I understand this decision as police officers cannot afford million dollar settlements and thus the family would not be receiving the full amount they deserve quickly. On the other hand, this is unfair to taxpayers who have or may experience police brutality themselves.
I believe the police officers should pay a different kind of price for the murder of Taylor: to be imprisoned for their wrongful actions and for widespread police reform to occur as a result of such police shootings. As much as I would like the officers responsible to contribute to the settlement with their own money, it will not resolve the larger issue we find ourselves in today.
Here is a startling fact from the Washington Post: the attorneys of the police officers who shot Taylor told her ex-boyfriend to say Breonna helped with his drug dealing. If he admitted this lie, they would release him from jail. Luckily, he refused and said she had nothing to do with it.
This form of bribery is common throughout many police brutality shootings, and must not be tolerated. Police officers must not get away with committing heinous crimes, but instead be held accountable. However, this is difficult to achieve as the system benefits law enforcement.
While pushing for reform and advocating for justice on social media is informational and helps spread awareness, it is simply not enough. Reform must start at the very root of the police system. Corruption has run through the police departments of the nation long enough and must be eliminated. Cops must undergo proper training.
It is no coincidence that police shooting incidents involve officers who are not properly trained in conflict de-escalation. There was no need for an officer to violently shoot into the patio of Taylor’s home, leaving bullet holes everywhere. Yes, Walker shot at the ground a few times in an attempt to scare off what he thought were intruders. However, the cops unreasonably responded with a hail of gunfire.
Taylor should have woken up on March 13 in her bed safe and sound. Unfortunately, she has now become another statistic. Nationwide police reform must occur in order to prevent the further loss of innocent lives.
Black lives matter.