In a development seen as a step in the right direction but still far short of justice, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced Friday that the city's interim police chief is moving to fire one of the three officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor on March 13.
Fischer said during a news conference that Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) Interim Chief Rob Schroeder was "initiating termination procedures" against Officer Brett Hankison. The mayor did not offer any further details about additional accountability or possible criminal charges for Hankison. He also said nothing about Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, the other two officers who fired their weapons during the killing and have been placed on administrative reassignment.
"It's about damn time," Sam Aguiar, an attorney for Taylor's family, told the Courier Journal about Hankison's firing.
Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, died after the three LMPD officers executed a "no-knock" search warrant in plainclothes at her home while she was asleep. Taylor, an EMT who was not the target of the warrant, was shot by police at least eight times. Her family filed a lawsuit in May accusing the officers of wrongful death, excessive force, and gross negligence.
While lawyers for Taylor's family have said they believe that her death initially received limited media coverage in part due to the coronavirus pandemic, her killing has garnered greater attention recently amid global protests against police violence and systemic racism that erupted after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in May. Fischer's announcement in the case Friday came as those protests continued on Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the liberation of U.S. slaves.
The advocacy group Color of Change responded by tweeting "this is not what justice looks like" and said for all three officers must be fired:
BREAKING: One of the officers who murdered #BreonnaTaylor will be fired. We all fought for this, but this is not what justice looks like. ALL 3 officers must be fired.
— ColorOfChange (@ColorOfChange) June 19, 2020
"This is NOT enough," the group added in a message to Fischer. "Three of your officers sprayed Breonna's home with a hail of 20 bullets while she slept. Stand on the right side of justice and fire Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove."
Others called for all three officers to be arrested and charged. Shaunna Thomas, executive director of the national women's group UltraViolet, said in a statement that "the LMPD's firing of Brett Hankison is an important step, but still falls short of everything that needs to be done to win justice for Breonna Taylor."
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"The LMPD must also fire the remaining officers, arrest them, and hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law," she declared. "The work here is far from over. We will not stop fighting for justice until the remaining officers who murdered Breonna Taylor are also fired and arrested."
Thomas added that her organization stands with Taylor's family and Black Lives Matter (BLM) Louisville in demanding that "the LMPD revoke the pensions of these officers, that the mayor of Louisville and LMPD address the use of force in this department, and provide necessary information to a local, independent civilian community police accountability council."
A start, but not good enough. We cannot rest until all the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s murder are charged. https://t.co/qKSwAx4dGt
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) June 19, 2020
Arrest the cops who murdered Breonna Taylor. It has been 98 days. She deserves justice. Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove must answer for the crime they committed. When will you do your jobs, Mayor Greg Fischer and Attorney General Daniel Cameron?
— roxane gay (@rgay) June 19, 2020
Chanelle Helm, core lead organizer at BLM Louisville, also welcomed the news of Hankison's forthcoming termination Friday, saying, "This is an unbelievable feeling."
"We have been fighting in the streets. This is not only justice for Breonna's family, this is justice for the protestors who are also victims of police terrorism," she said. "While we are still perplexed why the other officers haven't been fired we know that is still coming. We want to thank the community for coming together in support of the Louisville protestors in spite of the violence we have experienced from the police while fighting for justice."
Earlier this month, Louisville's 26-member city council unanimously voted to pass Breonna's Law, which bans no-knock warrants in the Kentucky city and requires police to wear body cameras when executing all warrants. The Courier Journal reported Wednesday that "despite some community calls to defund the police, city leaders finalizing the next budget are not planning to significantly reduce the money spent on law enforcement."
On Friday, the Louisville newspaper published a memorandum in which Schroeder detailed the reasons for initiating Hankison's termination. The LMPD interim chief wrote that the officer "displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life" by "wantonly and blindly" firing 10 rounds into Taylor's apartment.
"I find your conduct a shock to the conscience. I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion," Schroeder wrote to Hankison. "The result of your actions seriously impedes the department's goal of providing the citizens of our city with the most professional law enforcement agency possible."
Although the memo does not mention that Hankison has recently been accused of sexual assault by multiple women on social media, an LMPD spokesperson previously confirmed that the department's Public Integrity Unit has opened an investigation into the allegations.