Officers responsible for Breonna Taylor's death receive immunity

By EMMA DESIDERIO
On September 27, 2020

Photo courtesy of Ken Fager, Flickr

194 days after Breonna Taylor was shot dead by police officers in her home, a grand jury came to the decision that the lives of her neighbors mattered more than her own.

In the early morning of March 13, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker heard knocking on their door, and when he called out asking who it was, he said he heard no reply. The officers then broke down the door, and Walker, thinking they were intruders, grabbed his gun and fired one shot at the officers. The officers then fired ten rounds into their home, killing Taylor in the crossfire. In a 911 call, Walker said, “Someone kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.”

Former police officer Brett Hankinson, one of the three officers involved with the shooting, was charged on Wednesday with three counts of wanton endangerment. The other two officers do not face charges.

 According to Kentucky state law, “A person is guilty of wanton endangerment in the first degree when, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, he wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious injury to another person.” The court’s reasoning for this was that Hankinson allegedly fired blindly into Taylor’s apartment and endangered the lives of her neighbors.

Yes, you read that correctly: none of the officers were charged for causing Taylor’s death, but one was charged for potentially endangering her neighbors. A woman was shot dead and, as many signs read in protests that followed this decision, the officer was “only charged for the shots that missed.” If Hankinson is convicted, he will face up to five years in prison. That is nowhere close to enough time, and he is the only officer who was indicted at all. The other two walk free.

The police had a search warrant for Taylor’s house because it was a location linked to her ex-boyfriend, a drug dealer. However, Taylor no longer had any relationship with her ex-boyfriend, and the police found nothing in her house. Only one of the twelve witnesses involved said that they heard police announce themselves before breaking in, which is also the officers’ story. But Walker said that he never heard them say anything, so he assumed that they were intruders breaking into their home in the middle of the night. Walker fired at the officers out of self-defense.

Following the decision of the grand jury, protests erupted in Louisville once again. Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, spoke out and called for the release of all the evidence in the case. She said that the justice system failed her. This is completely true.

How is it possible that a woman can be shot and killed, yet no one is to blame? The most ridiculous part of it all is that Palmer filed a wrongful death lawsuit and won, receiving $12 million from the city of Louisville. So it is being acknowledged that there was a wrongful death, and yet no one can be charged for this wrongful death. How can a woman die and there are no consequences for the men who killed her?

Breonna Taylor did not receive the justice she deserved. This charge of “wanton endangerment” shows that there was most definitely a disregard for the value of a Black woman’s life not just by the officers, but by the entire justice system.

Like many protestors have pointed out in the past few months: the system isn’t broken, it was built this way. Our justice system was built to serve the people in charge. It was built to protect those in power and criminalize marginalized people, specifically Black people. The system needs to be changed completely. Until it is, there will be no justice for Breonna Taylor.


edesider@ramapo.edu

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