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The death of Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker who was shot and killed by Louisville police officers in March during a botched raid on her apartment, led to wide-scale demonstrations in the spring and summer as the case drew more attention.
A grand jury indicted a former Louisville police officer in late September for wanton endangerment for his actions during the raid. No charges were announced against the other two officers who fired shots, and no one was charged for causing Ms. Taylor’s death.
Brett Hankison, a detective at the time, fired into the sliding glass patio door and window of Ms. Taylor’s apartment, both of which were covered with blinds, in violation of a department policy that requires officers to have a line of sight.
He is the only one of the three officers who was dismissed from the force, with a termination letter stating that he showed “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, a Democrat, declared a state of emergency on Sept. 22 in anticipation of possible “civil unrest” and ordered a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. for the next three nights. The city’s police chief, Robert J. Schroeder, also placed barricades and city vehicles downtown to restrict movement in the area and said he would not allow officers to request time off.
The Louisville Metro Police Department was also grappling with an email sent to officers on that week by a sergeant who fired his gun — and was shot — during the raid of Ms. Taylor’s apartment.
“I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night,” Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, who is on administrative leave, wrote in the email, which he sent to fellow officers at 2:06 a.m. and which was later posted online by a Vice News correspondent. Kent Wicker, a lawyer for Sergeant Mattingly, confirmed the email was genuine.
During the raid, Sergeant Mattingly was shot once in the leg by Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend as the sergeant entered the apartment. He later said in a statement to investigators that he had fired off at least six rounds in response. In the email to his colleagues, Sergeant Mattingly railed against the Police Department’s command staff, the mayor and the F.B.I. and said “good guys are demonized, and criminals are canonized.”
Since the recent national demonstrations over police brutality and systemic racism that began in late May, Louisville officials have banned the use of no-knock warrants, which allow the police to forcibly enter people’s homes to search them without warning, and, in late June, fired one of the officers involved in the shooting.
For months, Ms. Taylor’s family has pleaded for justice, pushing for criminal charges against the officers. Ms. Taylor’s case began to draw national attention in May, and she has since been the center of campaigns from several celebrities and athletes, some of whom have dedicated their seasons to keeping a spotlight on her case. In September, Louisville officials agreed to pay $12 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Ms. Taylor’s mother and to institute reforms aimed at preventing future deaths by officers.
Still, critics say progress in the case has been slow, especially when compared with the Floyd case, where officers were swiftly fired and charged.
“At this point it’s bigger than Breonna, it’s bigger than just Black Lives,” Ms. Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said over the summer as she beseeched the authorities to bring criminal charges. “We’ve got to figure out how to fix the city, how to heal from here.”
What happened in Louisville?
Shortly after midnight on March 13, Louisville police officers executing a search warrant used a battering ram to enter the apartment of Ms. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician.
The police had been investigating two men who they believed were selling drugs out of a house that was far from Ms. Taylor’s home. But a judge had also signed a warrant allowing the police to search Ms. Taylor’s residence because the police said they believed that one of the men had used her apartment to receive packages. Ms. Taylor had been dating that man on and off for several years but had recently severed ties with him, according to her family’s lawyer.
Ms. Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had been in bed, but got up when they heard a loud banging at the door. Mr. Walker said he and Ms. Taylor both called out, asking who was at the door. Mr. Walker later told the police he feared it was Ms. Taylor’s ex-boyfriend trying to break in.
After the police broke the door off its hinges, Mr. Walker fired his gun once, striking Sergeant Mattingly in a thigh. The police responded by firing several shots, striking Ms. Taylor five times. One of the three officers on the scene, Detective Brett Hankison, who has since been fired, shot 10 rounds blindly into the apartment.
Mr. Walker told investigators that Ms. Taylor coughed and struggled to breathe for at least five minutes after she was shot, according to The Louisville Courier Journal. An ambulance on standby outside the apartment had been told to leave about an hour before the raid, counter to standard practice. As officers called an ambulance back to the scene and struggled to render aid to their colleague, Ms. Taylor was not given any medical attention.
It was not until 12:47 a.m., about five minutes after the shooting, that emergency personnel realized she was seriously wounded, after her boyfriend called 911.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” Mr. Walker said on a recorded call to 911. “Someone kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.”
Ms. Taylor received no medical attention for more than 20 minutes after she was struck, The Courier Journal reported, citing dispatch logs.
The Jefferson County coroner told The Courier Journal that Ms. Taylor most likely died less than a minute after she was shot and could not have been saved.
While the department had received court approval for a “no-knock” entry, the orders were changed before the raid to “knock and announce,” meaning that the police had to identify themselves.
The officers have said they did announce themselves, but Mr. Walker said he did not hear anything.
No drugs were found in the apartment, a lawyer for Mr. Walker said.
Jamarcus Glover, Ms. Taylor’s ex-boyfriend whose alleged packages led the police to her door that night, was arrested on Aug. 27 in possession of drugs, according to a charging document. He told The Courier Journal that Ms. Taylor had no involvement in the drug trade. “The police are trying to make it out to be my fault and turning the whole community out here, making it look like I brought this to Breonna’s door,” he said.
Ms. Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said her daughter had big dreams and planned a lifelong career in health care after serving as an E.M.T.
“She was a better version of me,” said Ms. Palmer, a dialysis technician. “Full of life. Easy to love.”
“Breonna was a woman who was figuring everything out in her life, who had turned a corner,” said Sam Aguiar, a lawyer representing Ms. Taylor’s family. “Breonna was starting to live her best life.”
Why did the police fire their weapons?
The Louisville police say that they fired inside Ms. Taylor’s home only after they were first fired upon by Mr. Walker, Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend. They said that Mr. Walker wounded one of the officers, who was hit in the leg but was expected to make a full recovery. Mr. Walker was subsequently charged with attempted murder of a police officer, though the charge was dismissed in May.
The police also assert that they knocked several times and identified themselves as police officers with a warrant before entering the apartment. Mr. Walker has said he and Ms. Taylor heard aggressive banging at the door and asked who it was, but they did not hear an announcement that it was the police.
The police said that the officers “forced entry into the exterior door and were immediately met with gunfire.” The officers returned fire, the police said.
One of the officers, Mr. Hankison, was fired. The other officers involved in the case — Mr. Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — have been placed on administrative reassignment.
Mr. Hankison appealed his firing, but a hearing for the case has been delayed pending the completion of a criminal investigation.
Is the police account disputed?
Yes, hotly. Ms. Taylor’s relatives and their lawyers say that the police never identified themselves before entering — despite their claims. They also say that Mr. Walker was licensed to carry a gun.
And Mr. Walker, 27, has said that he feared for his life and fired in self-defense, believing that someone was trying to break into the home.
“He didn’t know these were police officers, and they found no drugs in the apartment — none,” said Rob Eggert, Mr. Walker’s lawyer. “He was scared for his life, and her life.”
In a 911 call just after the shots were fired, Mr. Walker told a dispatcher that “somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.”
The police’s incident report contained multiple errors. It listed Ms. Taylor’s injuries as “none,” even though she had been shot several times, and indicated that officers had not forced their way into the apartment — though they used a battering ram to break the door open.
Ms. Taylor’s family also said it was outrageous that the police felt it necessary to conduct the raid in the middle of the night. Their lawyers say the police had already located the main suspect in the investigation by the time they burst into the apartment. But they “then proceeded to spray gunfire into the residence with a total disregard for the value of human life,” according to a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Ms. Taylor’s mother.
There was no body camera footage from the raid. And, for now, prosecutors have said they had dismissed the charges against Mr. Walker, adding that they would let investigations into the killing run their course before making any final decisions. Some legal experts said the fact that prosecutors dropped charges after a grand jury indictment suggested that they may have doubts about the version of events told by the police.
Has there been other fallout?
Some — even aside from the continuing protests.
On June 23, the Louisville Metro Police Department released a letter of termination that it sent to Mr. Hankison, the officer who “blindly fired” 10 rounds into a covered patio door and a window, according to the termination letter.
Chief Robert Schroeder accused Mr. Hankison of violating the Police Department’s policy on the use of deadly force, saying his actions were “a shock to the conscience” that discredited the Police Department.
Also, city officials banned the use of no-knock warrants on June 11.
Mayor Greg Fischer has announced other changes to ensure “more scrutiny, transparency and accountability,” including the naming of a new police chief; a new requirement that body cameras always be worn during the execution of search warrants; and the establishment of a civilian review board for police disciplinary matters.
How has social media reacted?
On June 5, which would have been Ms. Taylor’s 27th birthday, many people used the hashtag #SayHerName to remember her and raise awareness about her case.
“Her life was tragically taken by police and we will not stop marching for justice until it’s served for her and her family. #SayHerName,” Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, tweeted on June 5.
Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, said on Twitter that Ms. Taylor’s life was “horrifically” taken by officers. “Keep up the calls for justice. #SayHerName,” Ms. Harris wrote.
The “Say Her Name” movement also brings awareness to other Black women whose similar stories may not have garnered as much national attention, including Tanisha Anderson and Atatiana Jefferson.
“‘Say Her Name’ attempts to make the death of Black women an active part of this conversation by saying their names,” Kimberlé Crenshaw, an activist and creator of the hashtag, told ABC. “If Black lives really do matter, all Black lives have to matter. That means Black lives across gender have to be lifted up.”
On July 30, for the first time in 20 years, Oprah Winfrey did not appear on the cover of O: The Oprah Magazine, which instead featured Ms. Taylor with a digital portrait drawn by the young artist Alexis Franklin.
In an essay about her decision to shine a spotlight on Ms. Taylor’s case, Ms. Winfrey said she thought about her often.
“What I know for sure: We can’t be silent,” she said. “We have to use whatever megaphone we have to cry for justice.”
W.N.B.A. players have also used their platform to bring attention to Ms. Taylor’s case. This season is dedicated to her, and players have been wearing jerseys bearing her name.
“Having Breonna Taylor on the back of my jersey means so much more,” said Kristine Anigwe, a Los Angeles Sparks player, in an interview with The New York Times. “I can’t take anything for granted. I have to go there and play like it’s my last game because she did not know that would be the last day she would live. She thought she was safe in her own home.”
Will Wright, Sarah Mervosh, Lucy Tompkins, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio and Rukmini Callimachi contributed reporting.