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Crime Breonna Taylor's family dismayed by indictment: 'I'm mad as hell because nothing's changing'

19:35  04 october  2020
19:35  04 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – or nearly 200 agonizing days, Breonna Taylor's family has waited to know if three Louisville police officers would face charges in her death.

On Wednesday, they got their answer.

And it wasn't what they had hoped for.

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At the youth homeless shelter in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she works as a residential adviser, Taylor's cousin Tawanna Gordon watched with tears in her eyes as Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that only one of the officers was indicted by a grand jury – but not for killing Taylor.

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"I'm not surprised," Gordon, 45, told The Louisville Courier Journal on Wednesday, minutes after Cameron's news conference ended. "But I'm mad as hell because nothing's changing. … Today's decision was an additional injustice on our family and this country. Until Americans start getting mad enough and speaking out and forcing legislators to change the laws for all races, nothing is going to change.

a woman standing in front of a building: Breonna Taylor and her mother, Tamika Palmer. © Courtesy Tamika Palmer Breonna Taylor and her mother, Tamika Palmer.

"And it needs to happen now. Not tomorrow, but today."

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In his news conference, Cameron said he met with Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, and other family members before addressing the media. 

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"Every day this family wakes up to the realization someone they loved is no longer with them," he said. "There's nothing I can offer today to take away the grief and heartache this family is experiencing."

Palmer left without talking to media. And her attorneys said she would have no comment Wednesday.

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a man wearing a uniform: Louisville Metro Police Det. Brett Hankison © LMPD Louisville Metro Police Det. Brett Hankison

'They failed you, they failed me'

Palmer has consistently called for Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Myles Cosgrove and former Detective Brett Hankison to be fired, arrested and charged for her daughter's March 13 death.

"It's time to move forward with the criminal charges, because she deserves that and much more," Palmer said last week.

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But only Hankison was indicted by the grand jury. He faces three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment in connection with shots he allegedly fired into an adjoining apartment occupied by three people.

Mattingly and Cosgrove were not indicted by the grand jury, with Cameron saying the investigation showed they were justified in returning fire after shots first came from Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who has said he didn't know police were at the door.

 "They failed you, they failed me," Taylor's sister, Juniyah Palmer, wrote on Twitter after Cameron's announcement. "Breonna i am so sorry … i don't know what to do."

Taylor family attorneys Ben Crump, Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker issued a statement calling Wednesday's grand jury decision "outrageous and offensive to Breonna Taylor's memory."

"If Hankison’s behavior constituted wanton endangerment of the people in the apartments next to hers, then it should also be considered wanton endangerment of Breonna," they said. "In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder. How ironic and typical that the only charges brought in this case were for shots fired into the apartment of a white neighbor, while no charges were brought for the shots fired into the Black neighbor’s apartment or into Breonna’s residence.

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"This amounts to the most egregious disrespect of Black people, especially Black women, killed by police in America, and it’s indefensible, regardless of how Attorney General Daniel Cameron seeks to justify it."

'To feel like nobody cared, not even the people who did this to her'

The last six months have seen Taylor's family take on a role they never wanted: the public faces fighting for a slain loved one, for racial equality, for justice for Black women, for police reform.

Palmer said she felt alone in those first days and weeks after Taylor's killing, fighting for answers in a city seemingly preoccupied with a brewing pandemic.

"This horrible thing happened to her, and … to feel like nobody cared, not even the people who did this to her," Palmer previously told the Louisville Courier Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network. "As if it was just another day."

a close up of a man: Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman killed by LMPD who were executing a no-knock search warrant at her apartment in March, cries on the steps of Metro Hall during Taylor's remembrance June 5. © Matt Stone/Courier Journal Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman killed by LMPD who were executing a no-knock search warrant at her apartment in March, cries on the steps of Metro Hall during Taylor's remembrance June 5.

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Then, in May, a chain reaction of events thrust Taylor's name into the national conversation.

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First, it was renewed attention on the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black jogger in Georgia, shot by white men in February. Then, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day, his death captured on video.

People started taking to the streets Wednesday, both in Louisville and 376 miles north in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Taylor grew up. They demanded justice for Taylor, and in doing so, the nation learned more about the 26-year-old emergency technician whose aspirations were cut short.

"She had a whole plan on becoming a nurse and buying a house and then starting a family. Breonna had her head on straight, and she was a very decent person," Palmer said. "She didn't deserve this."

Palmer said Taylor attended the University of Kentucky for a time but later decided to return to Louisville so she could focus on other things: buying a car (she purchased her beloved Dodge Charger in January), working on her credit score and buying a house.

That's when, Palmer said, Taylor would be able to quit one of her two jobs and go back to college to study nursing this fall.

Working in health care is almost a family tradition, Palmer said. Palmer is a dialysis technician, and Taylor's aunts also work in health care. As a child, Taylor wanted to help take care of her grandmother and check her blood sugar.

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Taylor loved spicy food, like chicken with hot sauce or taco salads with some kick, Palmer said. She was always the one who organized family cookouts and game nights.

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Since her death, the city passed "Breonna's Law," which bans no-knock warrants in Louisville. Similar legislation for a statewide ban was filed by state Rep. Attica Scott, a Louisville Democrat.

And last week, city officials announced a $12 million settlement with Taylor's family in their civil lawsuit. The settlement also included a series of reforms to LMPD, from hiring social workers to assist with dispatched runs to requiring that EMS or paramedics be present when all search warrants are executed.

Taylor's cousin said the family will continue to fight for justice while hoping the pending FBI investigation will reach the same conclusion they've reached: that Taylor's civil rights were violated.

"In the meantime," Gordon said, "we're going to continue to protest and raise hell in the United States because change needs to happen."

Follow reporter Tessa Duvall on Twitter: @TessaDuvall. Follow reporter Jonathan Bullingtonon Twitter: @jrbullington

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Breonna Taylor's family dismayed by indictment: 'I'm mad as hell because nothing's changing'

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