The city of Louisville, Ky., will pay US$12-million to the family of Breonna Taylor and reform police practices as part of a lawsuit settlement months after Ms. Taylor’s slaying by police thrust the Black woman’s name to the forefront of a national reckoning on race, Mayor Greg Fischer announced Tuesday.
Ms. Taylor’s death sparked months of protests in Louisville and calls nationwide for the officers to be criminally charged. The state’s Attorney-General, Daniel Cameron, is investigating police actions in the March 13 fatal shooting.
“I cannot begin to imagine Ms. Palmer’s pain, and I am deeply, deeply sorry for Breonna’s death,” Mr. Fischer said, referring to Ms. Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer.
At Tuesday’s news conference, an emotional Ms. Palmer pushed for charges against the officers involved in the shooting.
“As significant as today is, it’s only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna,” Ms. Palmer said. “We must not lose focus on what the real drive is and with that being said, it’s time to move forward with the criminal charges because she deserves that and much more.”
The lawsuit, filed in April by Ms. Palmer, alleged the police used flawed information when they obtained a “no-knock” warrant to enter the 26-year-old woman’s apartment in March. Ms. Taylor and her boyfriend were roused from bed by police, and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, has said he fired once at the officers thinking it was an intruder. Investigators say police were returning fire when they shot Ms. Taylor several times. No drugs were found at her home.
“We won’t let Breonna Taylor’s life be swept under the rug,” said Ben Crump, a lawyer for Ms. Taylor’s family.
Mr. Crump said the US$12-million settlement is the largest such settlement given out for a Black woman killed by police. He also called for charges against the officers and urged people to “say her name,” a phrase that has become a refrain for those outraged by the shooting.
Mr. Fischer said the civil settlement has nothing do with the criminal investigation.
Asked about the criminal investigation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky, told reporters Tuesday “the investigation seems to have been more complicated than a lot of people felt.” He said he has confidence in Mr. Cameron and stands by him.
The Louisville news conference was broadcast over a loudspeaker downtown and protesters listened as they sat around a memorial to Ms. Taylor.
Protesters gathered Tuesday at what they have renamed “Injustice Square” to listen to the news conference on loudspeakers. Some had been there every day for 113 days, demanding justice for Ms. Taylor. The announcement did not bring them much comfort.
“It’s just not enough,” said Holly McGlawn, who stood calculating how much Ms. Taylor might have made had she lived. Taylor could have worked to another 40 or 50 years, she said. “You can’t put a price on a Black woman being able to sleep at night and know she’s not going to get murdered.”
In the time since Ms. Taylor’s shooting, her death – along with George Floyd and others – has become a rallying cry for protesters seeking a reckoning on racial justice and police reform. High-profile celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and LeBron James have called for the officers to be charged in Ms. Taylor’s death.
Ms. Palmer’s lawsuit accused three Louisville police officers of blindly firing into Ms. Taylor’s apartment the night of the March raid, striking Ms. Taylor several times. One of the officers, Jonathan Mattingly, went into the home after the door was broken down and was struck in the leg by the gunshot from Walker.
The warrant was one of five issued in a wide-ranging investigation of a drug trafficking suspect who was a former boyfriend of Ms. Taylor’s. That man, Jamarcus Glover, was arrested at a different location about 16 kilometres away from Ms. Taylor’s apartment on the same evening.
The settlement includes reforms on how warrants are handled by police, Mr. Fischer said. Other reforms seek to build stronger community connections by establishing a housing credit program to encourage officers to live in certain low-income areas in the city. Officers will also be encouraged to perform two paid hours of volunteer work every two weeks in the communities where they serve. The city will also track police use of force incidents and citizen complaints.
The city has already taken some other reform measures, including passing a law named for Ms. Taylor that bans the use of the no-knock warrants. Police typically use them in drug cases over concern that evidence could be destroyed if they announce their arrival.
Mr. Fischer fired former police chief Steve Conrad in June and last week named Yvette Gentry, a former deputy chief, as the new interim police chief. Ms. Gentry would be the first Black woman to lead the force of about 1,200 sworn officers. The department has also fired Brett Hankison, one of the three officers who fired shots at Ms. Taylor’s apartment that night. Mr. Hankison is appealing the dismissal.
The largest settlement previously paid in a Louisville police misconduct case was US$8.5-million in 2012, to a man who spent nine years in prison for a crime he did not commit, according to news reports.
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