Thought for the Day:
“The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is the duty of the living to do so for them.”
Lois McMaster Bujold
Question for the Day:
Will you fight for justice for Breonna Taylor?
Breonna Taylor must have been exhausted in the wee hours of the morning on March 13, 2020. “Bre,” as her family affectionately called her, was an essential employee working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) at two hospitals at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was literally risking her own life to ensure the lives of others were spared. I imagine that just before she fell asleep, she brushed aside concerns that her line of work might put her at risk for contracting the potentially deadly virus. She probably never imagined as she settled in for her well-deserved rest that she would die in a far more gruesome manner before the dawning of the new day. It would surely be even more of a shock to know that police officers who are paid to protect and serve would be the ones responsible for her death.
Though Breonna dedicated herself to sustaining the lives of others, where was the respect for her life? Where was the American promise that asserts that if you work hard, commit yourself to positive aspirations, and stay on the right side of the law, you will be rewarded? One of Taylor’s closest friends said, “she always said she would be a legend. I just never imagined it would be like this.”
Breonna was a 26 year old go-getter. She was already working two jobs in the medical field and grew up wanting to be a helping professional just like her mother and aunts. She had plans to begin nursing school in the fall, start a family with her boyfriend Kenneth, and was working to improve her credit score so she could buy a home in the near future. She had also just purchased her dream car and was optimistic and excited about the life she was creating. Her boyfriend Kenneth, who was also in the home that night, had just secured a job with the U.S. Postal Service just prior to the night his girlfriend was killed. He was legally licensed to carry a firearm which he kept for protection in the event he had to defend his home. Ironically, it was three over zealous cops who would pose the greatest threat to their safety.
As the couple slept in bed, three plainclothes Louisville Metro police officers Johnathan Mattingly, Brett Hankinson, and Myles Cosgrove pulled up to the couple’s apartment in an unmarked car. They had a “no-knock” search warrant that stated “these ‘drug traffickers’ had a history of attempting to destroy evidence, have cameras on the location and a history of fleeing from the police.” The three officers who worked in the narcotics division, thought they were on to a big break in their case when they got word that a local drug dealer had been seen delivering packages to Breonna’s apartment. They also stated Breonna’s car was spotted at an actual drug dealer’s house ten miles away. For me, it seems like a leap to assume that even being in close proximity to a drug dealer (IF that was the case) makes one a drug dealer also. However, for these officers, the evidence was sufficient and they were eager to shut down Breonna and Kenneth’s operation.
They opted not to wear body cams as they executed this potentially dangerous mission and did not knock before using their battering ram to gain forcible entry into Breonna and Kenneth’s apartment. Awaken suddenly but the crashing in of their front door, both yelled for the men to identify themselves, but the officers did not. Kenneth, being the protector that a man should be, assumed that the refusal to identify themselves and the unexpected intrusion had to mean their home was being robbed. He grabbed his weapon and shot one of the officers in the leg. From there, the three officers released a merciless flood of bullets and Breonna was struck eight times and succumbed shortly after to her injuries. Once the smoke cleared, no drugs were found on the scene and neither Breonna nor Kenneth were found to have criminal records. So much for shutting down the neighborhood trap house.
Breonna’s mother, Tamika Palmer, asserts that the Louisville police department attempted to cover up the incident by fabricating the facts from the minute she received the call that her baby had been shot. She pulled up to the house only to be questioned about whether the couple had “enemies” even though they knew their own department was responsible. They told Ms. Palmer that Breonna was at the hospital but after discovering she was not there and returning to the apartment, they then admitted to her that she was inside the apartment and deceased. The initial incident report filed was blank and reported that there was “no forced entry” despite the battering ram and “no injuries” despite the loss of Breonna’s life. The officers later blamed the falsified report on “technical issues.”
In preliminary statements, the officers asserted that they knocked and announced themselves, but the reports of several neighbors invalidated those claims as none reported hearing the officers identify themselves as police. Kenneth’s 911 call also confirmed his story as he told the operator that “someone kicked in his door and shot his girlfriend.” Even after watching his girlfriend die, he was still unsure about who the men were who had committed the act. The warrant used to invade the home didn’t clarify who the suspects were and didn’t even mention Breonna. And as far as the “suspicious packages” that were being delivered, a check with the local post office and other delivery services revealed no record of any packages being delivered to the home. There was literally NO CREDIBLE REASON why Breonna Taylor should have died that night.
Despite the responding officers not being able to find any legitimate reason for Breonna’s death, Kenneth was charged with first degree murder and both him and Breonna were labeled “suspects” and publicized in the local media as villains. Breonna’s mother says that the attempts to assassinate her daughter and Kenneth’s character almost kept her from being able to arrange funeral services in a timely manner as no one wanted to assist her. It wasn’t until the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office and the FBI stepped in that the truth began to come to light. Kenneth was released from police custody and his attorney asserts that he was clearly acting in self defense. All evidence suggests that the officers, in fact, had not announced themselves as they had claimed making Kenneth’s actions unequivocally justified.
Since the shooting, the police chief has been fired, the three officers involved were placed on administrative leave and one was later terminated after the investigation revealed “14 extreme violations” to law enforcement protocol. The department has suspended the use of the “no knock” warrant and all Louisville officers are now required to wear body cams without exception. Communities all over the nation have organized protests and marched in an effort to raise awareness about Breonna’s murder especially since the three officers involved have not been arrested or charged. Her hashtag is trending, those who believe in justice are saying her name, and she was even memorialized in chalk in her hometown of Louisville’s Jefferson Park Square.
Yet none of this means anything, if her life doesn’t matter enough to America to ensure that the impulsive and reckless disregard for her humanity does not go unpunished. Kenneth Walker should be fully and completely exonerated and the real killers, Johnathan Mattingly, Brett Hankinson, and Myles Cosgrove should be the ones charged with first degree murder and convicted. Anything less would mean that ALL lives DON’T in fact matter because Black lives still don’t. The loss of a law-abiding, gainfully employed, tax-paying essential employee should matter to every moral human being. Breonna Taylor’s death cannot be swept aside with another “my bad” that we as Black people are supposed to just accept and get over. I’m fresh out of clever punch lines for ending today’s post because I’m just plain tired of America hitting the repeat button on this issue. Simply put, we’re not letting another one slide so the ONLY thing to do for this woman who could easily be me, my sister, my mother, my aunt, my cousin, my niece, or my daughter, is CHARGE, ARREST, PROSECUTE and CONVICT. Period. End of story. That is all. The end. #JusticeforBreonna #SayHerName #BlackLivesMatter
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”