Today, June 5, would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday. She was shot and killed by police in her own home on March 13, but the officers involved in her death have yet to be arrested or fired. Now, people are spending the day demanding justice for her death.
Taylor, who worked as an emergency medical technician, was in her Kentucky apartment with her boyfriend when police attempted what has now been referred to as a “botched” search warrant execution. Her family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit and hired Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney who is also representing the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. More than two months after Arbery’s death, the two white men who have been accused of shooting him were finally arrested, and the four officers involved with Floyd’s death have been arrested and charged.
“They’re killing our sisters just like they’re killing our brothers, but for whatever reason, we have not given our sisters the same attention that we have given to Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Stephon Clark, Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald,” Crump told The Washington Post. “Breonna’s name should be known by everybody in America who said those other names, because she was in her own home, doing absolutely nothing wrong.” He continued, “If you ran for Ahmaud, you need to stand for Bre.”
Below, what you need to know about Taylor’s case and how you can help right now.
What happened on March 13th?
In the early morning, police officers came to Taylor’s apartment where she was asleep with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker. According to the Associated Press, police had a warrant to search Taylor’s apartment as part of a drug investigation, though the family’s lawsuit states the suspect in the investigation had already been detained at the time of the search. Police believed one of the suspects was using Taylor’s apartment to “receive mail, keep drugs, or stash money earned from the sale of drugs,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
The suit states Taylor and Walker believed the plainclothes police were breaking into the apartment since they entered “without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers.” A judge had signed a “no-knock” provision for the police, meaning they were able to go into Taylor’s apartment without identifying themselves, though police claim they did identify themselves. Walker called 911 and shot at a police officer in what he says was self-defense. Police then fired into the apartment, hitting Taylor eight times. The suit says Taylor was unarmed and Walker had a license to carry.
Walker’s attorney wrote in a motion, “While police may claim to have identified themselves, they did not. Mr. Walker and Ms. Taylor again heard a large bang on the door. Again, when they inquired there was no response that there was police outside. At this point, the door suddenly explodes. Counsel believes that police hit the door with a battering ram.” The lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family also states that neighbors have confirmed the police did not knock or identify themselves before entering.
The Associated Press reports that no drugs were found in the apartment, and Taylor and Walker had no prior criminal history or drug convictions.
What do we know about the case?
Taylor’s family has filed a lawsuit accusing the officers of wrongful death, excessive force, and gross negligence, according to The Washington Post. The officers have yet to be charged, though police opened an internal investigation and placed the officers involved on administrative leave.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has since announced that “no-knock” warrants have been temporarily suspended. Previously, he had announced officers would now be required to get a sign-off from the chief of police “or a designee,” plus a judge for this kind of warrant. Fischer has also said a new police chief will be named, body cameras will now be required when executing a search warrant, and there will be a new civilian review board for “police disciplinary matters,” according to the New York Times.
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Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear also said the local prosecutor, state attorney general, and federal prosecutor assigned to the region should review the results of the police investigation. He called reports about Taylor’s death “troubling,” according to the Times. The FBI is also now investigating the shooting.
What has Taylor’s family said?
In an interview with the Washington Post, Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer said she first found out something was wrong when she got a call from Walker, who said he thought someone was trying to break into the apartment. He then said, “I think they shot Breonna.”
“I want justice for her,” Palmer said. “I want them to say her name. There’s no reason Breonna should be dead at all.”
Palmer also told the Courier-Journal that Taylor was working on plans for her future: “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.”
Taylor’s sister Ju’Niyah Palmer has posted photos on social media using the hashtag #JusticeForBre. “I’m just getting awareness for my sister, for people to know who she is, what her name is,” she said. “It is literally just as equal. There’s no difference.”
How to help
Writer Cate Young started the #BirthdayForBreonna campaign, compiling a list of action items people can do to commemorate Taylor’s life. Young told Refinery29, “Very often when we have these moments where these stories [of police violence] bubble up, it’s usually because several cases happen in a short proximity of time, and when women are involved their names get erased. I was watching it happen in real-time and it was frustrating for me as a Black woman and an immigrant, because I’m intimately familiar with the fact that we are walked by and ignored. It was frustrating because her life mattered, too, and I wanted to make sure that we were acknowledging that she deserves justice just as much.”
Here, just some of the ways you can help:
- Sign this petition asking for the officers involved to be arrested and charged and for Congress to pass legislation that federally bans “no-knock” warrants.
- Donate to the GoFundMe for Taylor’s family.
- Send an email to the Kentucky Attorney General and Governor using the link provided here.
- Send a birthday card or letter to the Kentucky Attorney General and Louisville Mayor. You can find their mailing addresses here.
- Flood social media with the hashtags #SayHerName and #BirthdayForBreonna.
- Donate to the Louisville Community Bail Fund here to support protestors on the ground.
If you’re looking for additional ways to help, the Louisville Metro Council’s Public Safety Committee has approved a new ordinance called “Breonna’s Law” that would make it so “no-knock” warrants could only be sought if there’s “imminent threat of harm or death” and would also be limited to “offenses including murder, hostage-taking, kidnapping, terrorism, human trafficking and sexual trafficking,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. The full Metro Council will vote on the ordinance on June 11th; call 502-735-1784 to ask council members to pass the law.
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