'Property More Valuable Than Human Life': No Charges Against Officers for Killing Breonna Taylor

A view of a memorial to Breonna Taylor in Jefferson Square Park in downtown Louisville, Kentucky prior to the September 23, 2020 announcement of the results of a grand jury inquiry into the police officers involved in the killing of Taylor (Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP)

'Property More Valuable Than Human Life': No Charges Against Officers for Killing Breonna Taylor

"Did I hear that correctly? Only one officer is being held remotely accountable, and it's not for killing Breonna Taylor but instead for shooting apartments?"

Declarations of "true justice denied" went up Wednesday afternoon after a Kentucky grand jury indicted former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison on three counts of first-degree "wanton endangerment" related to the no-knock raid in which Breonna Taylor was killed--with no charges for the murder itself--when three officers burst into her residence and shot the 26-year-old emergency medical technician multiple times earlier this year.

"There will be no justice until all of the officers who killed Breonna are held accountable for her murder."

Critics of the grand jury's decision were outraged that Hankison's indictment was not based on the killing of Taylor, who was asleep in her bed when police entered her apartment, but on the firing of bullets into the homes of the victim's neighbors during the raid.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) described the decision as another manifestation of a legal system in which property is considered "more valuable than human life."

Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly--who on Tuesday described protesters as "thugs" and lamented that "the good guys are demonized" in an email sent to approximately 1,000 law enforcement personnel in Louisville--and detective Myles Cosgrove, the two other officers present at the time of the shooting, were not charged.

A reporter at the Louisville Courier Journal shared a video in which a protester asks: "Is that it?"

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's office shared the findings of its investigation with the grand jury earlier this week. Ahead of Wednesday's announcement, officials in Louisville prepared for additional protests and possible unrest.

In response to the decision in the Breonna Taylor case, Kristina Roth, the senior program officer for Criminal Justice Programs at Amnesty International USA said: "We call on police to facilitate the right to peaceful protest in the wake of this news."

"Everyone has the right to take to the streets and make their voices heard," Roth said. "And police must meet their obligation under international law to enable that right."

Watch AG Cameron's news conference:

In response to the grand jury's decision, Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, put the "horrific killing" of Taylor--which occurred during a "baseless no-knock warrant in a drug investigation"--into the context of the drug war and "its parasitic relationship with police and racism."

"Breonna Taylor should be alive today," said Frederique. "But instead, the systems we have in place... failed her" and "robbed her of the bright future she was just beginning." Frederique placed blame on the drug war, "which provides the military-grade equipment to local police departments through military weapons transfer and earmarked federal funds" and "incentivizes drug arrests."

"Had it not been for the drug war... the police likely would have never gone to her home to begin with," Frederique added.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, the city of Louisville agreed to pay Taylor's family $12 million dollars--believed to be the largest settlement ever reached for a black woman killed by a police officer in the U.S.--and to implement several police reforms as part of the wrongful death lawsuit.

At the time, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said: "No amount of money can bring justice. It's time to move forward with the criminal charges that Breonna Taylor's family has called for."

Following Wednesday's announcement, Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, said in a statement:

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and a local grand jury have failed to bring murder charges in the brutal killing of Breonna Taylor. In fact, they have declined to charge officers for her death at all; just one of Bre's killers faces a minor charge completely unrelated to her murder. Officials have flatly denied justice to Bre and her loved ones, as well as the brave allies and activists calling for justice.

Debra Gore-Mann, president and CEO of the Greenlining Institute, said that the limited nature of the charges--"wanton endangerment" for only one of three officers--means that "true justice" has been "denied" to Taylor and her family.

CodePink highlighted that "not a single officer has been charged for the murder of Breonna Taylor."

UltraViolet characterized the grand jury's decision as an "insult to the idea of justice," saying it reflected "the pervasiveness of white supremacy and the need to continue to demand justice."

"There will be no justice," the women's rights group added, "until all of the officers who killed Breonna are held accountable for her murder."

"Breonna Taylor's life mattered," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on social media. "This result is a disgrace and an abdication of justice."

"Our criminal justice system is racist," Sanders added. "The time for fundamental change is now."

Amnesty's Roth stated that Taylor's "case must serve as a wake-up call to our elected officials" about the need for "a bold agenda for police reform, one that brings about meaningful accountability, reimagines public safety, and provides justice for all."

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