October 27, 2020

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One former police officer indicted in Breonna Taylor case

He later added: “I know that not everyone will be satisfied. Our job is to present the facts to the grand jury, and the grand jury then applies the facts.

“If we simply act on outrage, there is no justice – mob justice is not justice. Justice sought by violence is not justice. It just becomes revenge.”

The decision on Wednesday US time (Thursday AEST) came after more than 100 days of protests and a months-long investigation into the death of Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician who was shot five times in the hallway of her apartment by officers executing a search warrant.

Former officer Brett Hankison was indicted.

Former officer Brett Hankison was indicted.Credit:Louisville Police Department

Because the officers did not shoot first – it was the young woman’s boyfriend who opened fire; he has said he mistook the police for intruders – many legal experts had thought it unlikely the officers would be indicted.

Taylor’s name and image have become part of a national movement over racial injustice, with celebrities writing open letters and erecting billboards demanding that the white officers be criminally charged for the death of a young black woman.

City and state officials feared a grand jury decision not to prosecute the officers would inflame a city that has been roiled by demonstrations that have sometimes turned violent.

Taylor’s mother sued the city of Louisville for wrongful death and received a $US12 million ($17 million) settlement last week. But she and her lawyers have insisted that nothing short of murder charges for all three officers would be enough, a demand taken up by thousands of protesters in Kentucky and across the country.

Many legal experts said that indictments would be unlikely, given the state’s statute allowing citizens to use lethal force in self-defence. John W Stewart, a former assistant attorney general in Kentucky, said he believed that at least two of the officers who opened fire were protected by that law.

“As an African American, as someone who has been victim of police misconduct myself, getting pulled over and profiled, I know how people feel,” Stewart said. “I have been there, but I have also been a prosecutor, and emotions cannot play a part here.”

Two officers, Sergeant Jon Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, returned fire in the direction of Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, according to internal documents. In the chaos that ensued, Mattingly was shot, injuring the femoral artery in his leg, and the others scrambled to drag him out of the apartment and apply a tourniquet to his leg.

In anticipation of the grand jury’s decision, the Louisville Police Department cancelled holidays, and Chief Robert Schroeder ordered a 10-day “state of emergency”.

A local judge signed an order shutting the federal courthouse downtown, where storefronts and office towers were boarded up because of the sometimes-violent protests.

Police officers erected barricades and chain-link fencing on Monday blocking the streets near a city park that had been the nucleus of protests and announced other restrictions.

In a tweet on Tuesday morning, Mayor Greg Fischer said: “Our goal with these steps is ensuring space and opportunity for potential protesters to gather and express their First Amendment rights” and “to keep everyone safe”.

The officers who broke down Taylor’s door shortly after midnight on March 13 had come with a search warrant, signed by a local magistrate. They had court approval for a “no-knock” warrant, which Louisville has since banned, but the orders were changed before the raid, requiring them to knock first and announce themselves as police.

Walker has said that he and Taylor did not know who was at her door. Only one neighbour, out of nearly a dozen, reported hearing the officers shout “police” before entering.

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Frustration has mounted in Louisville at the pace of the investigation into the fatal shooting. That frustration has been compounded by a city administration that refused to release basic records – including her autopsy and the body camera footage of officers who responded to the shooting – and that made inexplicable errors in some of the documents it did release, including a report incorrectly claiming that she had not been injured and that the door to her apartment was never breached.

Cameron, a Republican attorney-general who ran on a law-and-order platform, had to navigate both the demands of protesters and the constraints of the law, said Frank Mascagni III, a former assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Louisville.

“My city is going to blow up if these three men are not charged,” said Mascagni, who believes that the officers’ actions are protected under the law. “I’m very nervous for what I think is going to occur.”

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