Now, more than ever in America, there is an urgency to illuminate the systematic racism that is the shattered foundation for which this country stands. History continues to repeat itself with Black and Brown communities being the scapegoats for freedom. However, America’s continuing civil rights movement is once again rising against a justice system split between rich and poor, Black and White.
“There seem to be two justice systems in America, one for Black America and one for White America, and this has been emphasized by this grand jury proceeding into the killing of Breonna Taylor.”- Ben Crump
Although the death of George Floyd ignited the current protests and rallies across the nation, the slow rolling thunder of #SAYHERNAME has brought Breonna Taylor’s murder to the front row of thousands of injustices, which Black women and the Black and Brown communities commonly face. Breonna Taylor’s beautiful life and tragic death are setting the stage for change. Attorney Ben Crump will continue fighting against the spurious grand jury proceedings. He will continue to push for justice for Breonna Taylor, Geroge Floyd, Trayvon Martin, and every other American facing inequity. Voices will not silence until justice for all Americans has been planted into society and rooted as the civil right to freedom for all, no matter the color of a person’s skin.
The Murder of Breonna Taylor
On the night of March 13, 2020, the life of 26-year-old Louisville, Kentucky emergency medical technician, Breonna Taylor, was shamefully taken. As Ms. Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, lay sleeping, police approached the home. The couple woke up to a sudden, violent banging on the door, followed by them yelling to try and find out who was there, not hearing a response. Thinking that it was Ms. Taylor’s ex-boyfriend and convicted drug dealer, Jamarcus Glover, Mr. Walker grabbed his legally registered gun and approached the hallway. Suddenly, the door was thrown off the hinges in what he describes as “an explosion.” He then discharges his weapon once as a warning toward the intruders.
Entering the home in plain clothes were former Detective Brett Hankison, Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, and Detective Myles Cosgrove of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD), following a no-knock warrant signed the day before by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mary M. Shaw. Forcing themselves into the apartment using a battering ram, they returned fire, letting off more than 20 shots into the apartment.
An estimated 10 of those shots came from former Det. Hankison, firing blindly through a covered glass door, violating the department’s line of sight policy. The warning shot Walker fired struck Sgt. Mattingly in the thigh. Eight bullets struck Ms.Taylor.
According to a statement to investigators by Mr. Walker, Ms. Taylor laid on the apartment floor coughing and gasping to breathe for at least five minutes before she took her last breath. The paramedics entering the home to treat Sgt. Mattingly left Ms. Taylor without any medical assistance. It was not until Mr. Walker called 911 did anyone realize she was hurt. Taylor did not receive any treatment until approximately 20 minutes after she was murdered, according to the Courier Journal.
Backing slowly out of the apartment, with police yelling to follow their voice, Walker cried, “What did I do?” and “My girlfriend’s dead.” He was then arrested on charges of attempted murder and assault. According to a Vice News report, the case documents state Mattingly as the victim, Kenneth Walker as the suspect, and Taylor as an “involved other.” The incident report says there was no forced entry and that Ms.Taylor suffered no injuries.
Attorney Ben Crump Joins the Fight
Two months after the murder of Breonna Taylor, her mother, Tamika Palmer, enlisted Ben Crump to fire back at the injustice that took her daughter’s life. Attorney Benjamin Crump of Ben Crump Law, PLLC is known across America for his strong stance on civil rights. He has become a trailblazer in the upheaval of the modern civil rights movement. He not only fights for the African American community but also for all Americans dealing with discrimination and oppression, even expanding into environmental injustice when he stepped up to represent the Flint Water Crisis families.
Six months following, Taylor’s family was awarded $12 million, which was estimated to be one of the largest settlements ever to be awarded to a family for a Black woman’s wrongful death in the United States. It also comes with significant reform by Louisville Metropolitan Council and Mayor Greg Fischer, including the signing of “Breonna’s Law,” banning the no-knock search warrants responsible for the incident.
However, the fight is not over. The officers involved were not charged with Ms. Taylor’s death, which Crump calls “outrageous and offensive.” The only officer charged in the case was Brett Hankison for “wanton endangerment” for endangering the lives of the White family in the apartment upstairs from Breonna Taylor’s where stray bullets entered.
Fighting for Breonna Taylor: A Timeline
March 21, 2020, Mrs. Palmer said her last goodbyes to her daughter. The funeral was at the Louisville Greater Friendship Baptist Church. Six days later, Walker was released and given a home confinement order by Judge Olu Stevens as a preventive measure due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
April 27, 2020, Mrs. Tamika Palmer hires attorneys Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker to file a wrongful death suit in the Jefferson District Court against the three officers involved in the shooting. The pandemic overshadowed the Breaonnta Taylor headlines, and the LMPD seems to sit on the case.
May 11, 2020, Mrs. Palmer hires Attorney Ben Crump, and her case gains momentum. Mr. Crump calls out the delayed response of the LMPD, demanding answers, questioning why they were not providing information to how the tragedy occurred, and why no one was being held responsible, calling the murder “inexcusable.”
May 15, 2020, Mr. Crump responds publicly to contradictions in the affidavit for the no-knock warrant after Louisville Postal Inspector Tony Gooden states that “no packages of interest” were going to Breonna’s address. Ben Crump highlights that the inspector’s statement “directly contradicts what the police stated in the affidavit to secure a no-knock warrant for the home.”
May 21, 2020, the FBI launches its investigation into the murder. The next day, Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine drops charges against Mr. Walker with the right to re-examine his case after a more thorough investigation.
May 25, 2020, George Floyd is murdered by officers in Minnesota, causing justified civil unrest and protest across the nation. Two days later, the Louisville Mayor releases the 911 calls by Kenneth Walker the night Taylor was killed. This release, married with the outcry of protesters over the death of George Floyd, brings more public attention to Breonna Taylor’s murder.
June 1, 2020, Mayor Fischer fires Police Chief Steve Conrad a month before he was slated to retire for not enforcing procedures after learning officers did not use body cams who were on duty during the shooting of David McAtee, a restaurant owner shot by a National Guard member during a violent protest. Fischer shared a statement that “This type of institutional failure will not be tolerated.”
June 5, 2020, would have been Breonna’s 27th birthday. Protestors and advocates for Breonna Taylor’s justice engage the #BirthdayforBreonna and #SAYHERNAME campaigns to shine a light on the atrocities plaguing Black women across America. Birthday cards were also sent to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, demanding he file charges against the officers involved.
June 12, 2020, Breonna’s law is put into action. The new law includes all officers’ requirements to have working cameras when serving a warrant and bans any future use of no-knock warrants. Nearly two weeks later, Assistant Chief of Police Robert Schroeder terminates Det. Hankison, condemning his actions of firing his weapon “blindly” and endangering the lives of those in the other apartments
June 16, 2020, Walker’s attorney files a motion asking Judge Stevens to grant Kenneth Walker immunity and dismiss his murder charges permanently, justifying his actions with the Kentucky stand-your-ground Law.
September 15, 2020, $12 million is awarded to the family of Breonna Taylor and there is to be reform among LMPD.
“Justice for Breonna means that we will continue to save lives in her honor,” said Tamika Palmer, according to CNN. “No amount of money accomplishes that, but the police reform measures that we were able to get passed as a part of this settlement mean so much more to my family, our community, and to Breonna’s legacy.”
Louisville Mayor has agreed to multiple reform measures, including enhancing the safety of those involved in search warrants, ensuring they are better protected, and establishing incentives for officers who decide to live in the neighborhoods they serve.
On September 23, 2020, the Attorney General announced that only one officer involved, Brett Hankison, would face charges. These “wanton endangerment” charges have nothing to do with the murder of Breonna but with the endangerment to her upstairs White neighbors.
“If Brett Hankison’s behavior was wanton endangerment to people in neighboring apartments, then it should have been wanton endangerment in Breonna Taylor’s apartment too. In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder!” Crump wrote in a tweet.
On September 29, 2020, Cameron admitted to not even giving the murder option in the grand jury proceeding. This proves even further that there are, in fact, two justice systems in America.
In an open letter to Attorney General Cameron, Ben Crump demands that “Because your office is unwilling to fulfill your duties, we demand you that you recuse yourself from this matter and have the Kentucky Prosecutors Advisory Council appoint a special prosecutor who is willing to allow a grand jury to actually do its job, deliberate over all possible charges and render a decision on a True Bill for each.”
Ben Crump: Advocate for Justice
The fight is not over. Benjamin Crump will stop at nothing to advocate and protect the lives of Black Americans and those communities that are being targeted by a systematically racist justice system. Furthermore, he will continue to fight for reform across the nation, and the murder of Breonna as grand jury proceedings are released.
Ben Crump is the voice for civil rights today. He continues to speak out publicly against racial injustice, appearing on CNN, The View, and NPR among others. His ruthless need to protect the American people will not be silenced. Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC if you have been victimized by the systematic racism that is running rapid in our society and need justice.
“All lives have value. Bre’s life had special value because of the sacrifices she made for her community…Together, we will get justice for Breonna Taylor.”
About Breonna Taylor
BREONNA TAYLOR was at home in bed, next to her boyfriend, when she was gunned down by the Louisville Metro Police Department.
Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan to Tamika Palmer and Trory Herrod, Breonna moved to Kentucky as a teenager. She excelled in her studies at Louisville’s Western High School and made the honor roll. After attending the University of Kentucky, Breonna became an Emergency Medical Technician, with the hope it would lead to her becoming a nurse. Her most recent job was as an ER tech at the UofL Health Jewish Hospital. She enjoyed card games, scary movies, and big bowls of Fruity Pebbles after her 15-hour shifts, though none of these came close to the love she had for her work, and caring for her friends, family, and patients.
Late on the night of March 23rd, 2020, three Louisville Metro police officers – Brett Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly, and Myles Cosgrove – armed with guns, a no-knock warrant, and the flimsy suspicion that Breonna’s apartment, where she lived with Kenneth Walker, was being used by a drug dealer to receive packages, arrived at her front door. The officers did nothing to identify themselves other than use a battering ram to break down Breonna and Walker’s door. After Breonna called out several times, “Who is it!?”, to no response from the officers, the couple feared it was a break-in. Walker, a licensed gun-owner, grabbed his firearm and, acting in defense of his girlfriend and himself, fired a shot when the officers barged in, hitting Mattingly in the leg. The police fired over twenty rounds back, eight of which struck Breonna, killing her instantly.
No drugs were found in the apartment.
Breonna Taylor was 26 years old. It wasn’t until months later that her death received any wide attention. While the use of “no-knock” warrants were eventually banned in Louisville thanks to public outcry, Breonna’s killers still walk free, with only Hankison being fired. Benjamin Crump is working to ensure these three men are put behind bars, for the beloved daughter, the big sister, the bad joke-teller, the essential worker, whose life they didn’t think seemed to matter.