At least 127 protesters were arrested in Louisville, Kentucky, after the grand jury ruling that none of the officers involved in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor would be directly charged for her death.
The grand jury decided that none of the three white officers involved in the deadly police raid on Taylor’s apartment in March would be charged for causing her death. One officer was indicted on charges of endangering her neighbors for the bullets that struck the walls of surrounding apartments.
“It’s yet another example of no accountability for the genocide of persons of color by white police officers. With all we know about Breonna Taylor’s killing, how could a fair and just system result in today’s decision?” Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights lawyer representing the Taylor family, said in a statement.
The indictment against the officer came more than six months after Taylor, 26, a Black emergency medical technician and aspiring nurse, was killed in front of her boyfriend after the three officers forced their way into her home with a no-knock warrant.
Her death became a symbol and her image a familiar sight during months of daily protests against racial injustice and police brutality in cities across the United States.
“Her killing was criminal on so many levels: An illegal warrant obtained by perjury. Breaking into a home without announcing, despite instructions to execute a warrant that required it. More than 30 gunshots fired, many of which were aimed at Breonna while she was on the ground.” Crump said.
Following the grand jury announcement, protesters immediately took to the streets of Kentucky’s largest city and marched for hours, chanting “No lives matter until Black lives matter.”
“This indictment is another clear and egregious reminder that the criminal-legal system in Louisville—and in this country—does not value Black people or see us as deserving of protection from those who’ve taken an oath to ‘protect and serve,’ the Movement for Black Lives said in a statement.
Police cracked down on protestors and made violent arrests, but did not confront militia members, who showed up not long after the announcement walking around Louisville, armed.
A Reuters journalist on the scene heard gunfire moments after police fired chemical irritants and “flash-bang” rounds. Two officers were shot and wounded a few blocks away from the protests, interim Louisville Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Schroeder told reporters.
One suspect was arrested, and the two wounded officers were in stable condition—one undergoing surgery—with non-life-threatening injuries, Schroeder said. He gave no further details.
Earlier in the day, about a dozen people were arrested as hundreds demonstrated in the Highlands neighborhood just outside downtown Louisville. Some windows of nearby businesses were also broken. The crowds largely dissipated after Wednesday night’s shooting.
Hundreds of protesters took the streets in several other cities on Wednesday, including New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Chicago. Bicycle police in Seattle were filmed riding over a protestors head.
In announcing the grand jury’s conclusions, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the panel had declined to bring any charges whatsoever against two of the three white policemen who fired into Taylor’s apartment on March 13.
The two officers, Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, were found to have been justified under Kentucky law in returning fire after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at them, wounding Mattingly in the thigh, Cameron said.
Walker has contended he believed intruders were breaking into Taylor’s home and that the couple did not hear police announce their arrival, which was corroborated by multiple neighbors, contrary to the account of the officers and one neighbor whose account was shared with the grand jury.
The third officer, former Detective Brett Hankison, was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree, an offense that ranks at the lowest level of felony crimes in Kentucky and carries a prison sentence of up to five years for each count, which could be served concurrently.
The U.S. Justice Department is still investigating whether federal laws were broken in connection with Taylor’s death, including possible civil rights violations, while a broader police inquiry remains underway, Mayor Greg Fischer said.
The police chief fired Hankison in June, finding he had “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly fired” into Taylor’s home. Mattingly and Cosgrove were reassigned to administrative duties.
Louisville has agreed to pay $12 million to Taylor’s family to settle a wrongful death lawsuit, and agreed to a number of reforms to the use of search warrants and improving police-community relations. Under mounting pressure, Louisville agreed to ban no-knock warrants in June.
The Movement for Black Lives noted the decision came down weeks before the Nov. 3 election.
“This decision, which was handed down 41 days before the most critical election in U.S. modern history, is intended to enable state-sanctioned violence against all Black communities and to obstruct people from asserting their first amendment right to protest.”
Trump’s Democratic rival in the presidential race, Joe Biden, said the grand jury failed to deliver justice for Taylor but held out hope the federal probe of her death would do just that.
“We do not need to wait for the final judgment of that investigation to do more to deliver justice for Breonna,” he said, while repeating an earlier condemnation of violence at protesters. “’Do not sully her memory or her mother’s by engaging in any violence. It’s totally inappropriate for that to happen.”
Progressives made sharper condemnation of the decision to not charge Taylor’s killers.
Democratic nominee for Missouri’s First Congressional District Cori Bush said in a statement: “Breonna Taylor received no justice today. Breonna Taylor was shot six times. She received no medical attention for more than 20 minutes. We cannot stand while others reduce Breonna’s murder to a one-off ‘tragedy,’” Bush said. “Her death was no accident. Breonna Taylor could have been any one of us. This decision shows us all that, in the eyes of the American criminal justice system, Breonna Taylor’s life did not matter. That the lives of EMTs as first responders matter less than those of police officers.”
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “It’s just weighing really heavy on my heart, and because we know that her death is not just the result of one person but the system, structure, and department that failed their entire community.”
Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted: “Breonna Taylor’s life mattered. This result is a disgrace and an abdication of justice. Our criminal justice system is racist. The time for fundamental change is now.”
Protests in Louisville and across the country, including Baltimore, are expected to continue Thursday.
This story contains additional reporting by Reuters.