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Police officer shot during Breonna Taylor protests


Police outside Louisville City Hall, 23 September 2020Image copyright
Reuters

Two officers have been shot amid huge protests in the US city of Louisville after a grand jury decided no officers would face charges for killing unarmed black woman Breonna Taylor.

Ms Taylor, 26, a hospital worker, was shot multiple times as three officers stormed her home on 13 March.

One, Brett Hankison, has been charged, not with Ms Taylor’s death, but with “wanton endangerment” for firing into a neighbour’s apartment in Louisville.

Two other officers face no charges.

Cases of killings of unarmed black people by police have fuelled anger across the US and beyond, triggered especially bythe death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis in May.

Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said the police officers shot on Wednesday did not have life-threatening injuries.

He added that a suspect was in custody.

A state of emergency has been declared in Louisville and the National Guard have also been deployed.

Mayor Greg Fischer has set a 21:00-06:30 (01:00-10:30 GMT) curfew in the city for three days. He earlier said he had declared a state of emergency “due to the potential for civil unrest”.

Despite the curfew, crowds were still gathered after 21:00. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshearurged the protesters to go home.

“We know that the answer to violence is never violence and we are thinking about those two officers and their families tonight. So I’m asking everybody: please, go home. Go home tonight,” he said.

Protests over the grand jury’s decision were also held in New York, Washington, Atlanta, and Chicago.

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Facebook

Image caption

Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was 26 when she died

What did the prosecutor say?

Under Kentucky law, someone is guilty of wanton endangerment if they commit an act that shows “an extreme indifference to the value of human life”.

This lowest-level felony offence can come with a five-year sentence for each count. Brett Hankison was charged on three counts.

Ms Taylor’s relatives and activists for whom her death has become a rallying cry had been calling for the three officers, who are all white, to be charged with murder or manslaughter.

But this was rejected by a grand jury that reviewed the evidence.

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Media captionKentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron presented the grand jury decision

On Wednesday, Judge Annie O’Connell announced the charges that had been brought against Mr Hankison.

Kentucky Attorney General Mr Cameron then held a news conference in which he expanded on the decision. “This is a gut-wrenching emotional case,” he said.

“There is nothing I can offer them today to take away the grief and heartache as a result of losing a child, a niece, a sister and a friend,” he added in a message to Ms Taylor’s family.

Mr Cameron said a ballistics report had found that six bullets struck Ms Taylor, but only one was fatal.

That analysis concluded that Detective Myles Cosgrove had fired the shot that killed Ms Taylor.

The attorney general said it was not clear if Mr Hankison’s shots had hit Ms Taylor, but they had hit a neighbouring apartment.

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Media captionProtesters march in Louisville following the grand jury decision

The top prosecutor said the other two officers – Jonathan Mattingly and Mr Cosgrove – had been “justified to protect themselves and the justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges”.

Mr Cameron, a Republican who is the state’s first black attorney general, added: “If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice.

“Mob justice is not justice. Justice sought by violence is not justice. It just becomes revenge.”

He added that the FBI was still investigating potential violations of federal law in the case.

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Reuters

Image caption

The National Guard were deployed in Louisville ahead of the announcement

What’s the reaction?

Ben Crump, a high-profile lawyer for the Taylor family, said the outcome was “outrageous and offensive”.

Officials this month agreed to pay her family $12m (£9.3m) in a settlement.

Asked for his reaction to the decision, Mr Trump told a White House news conference: “I thought it was really brilliant.”

He praised Kentucky’s attorney general, who addressed the Republican party convention last month, for “doing a fantastic job”.

“I think he’s a star,” he said, adding that he approved of the Kentucky governor’s decision to send in the National Guard.

Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, urged Kentucky prosecutors to release the evidence that was presented to the grand jury.

“I think having more of the facts out there so people can see, people can truly process it, is where we need to be,” Mr Beshear told reporters.

What happened to Ms Taylor?

Shortly after midnight on Friday 13 March, she was in bed with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, when they heard a banging on the door.

Plainclothes Louisville police officers were carrying out a narcotics raid, and they used a battering ram to enter the property.

A judge had granted a warrant to search Ms Taylor’s home because investigators suspected a convicted drug dealer – her ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover – was using the address to receive packages. She had no criminal record.

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Reuters

Mr Walker fired a shot from his licensed gun, later telling police he thought that Glover had broken in, according to the New York Times.

Officials say Mr Walker’s bullet struck a police officer, Jonathan Mattingly, in the leg – an injury for which he later required surgery.

The three officers returned fire, discharging 32 rounds, according to a ballistics report from the FBI.

Ms Taylor, who had also got out of bed amid the commotion, was shot and died on the hallway floor.

According to an arrest report, the officers had been granted a “no-knock” warrant, allowing them to enter the property without warning.

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Reuters

But Mr Cameron said on Wednesday the officers had not actually served such a warrant. The attorney general said the officers’ statements that they identified themselves “are corroborated by an independent witness”.

Some neighbours told local media they did not hear the officers announce themselves.

No drugs were found at the property, though Jefferson County prosecutor Thomas Wine has previously said the search was cancelled after the shooting.

The subsequent police report contained errors, including listing Ms Taylor’s injuries as “none” and saying no force was used to enter, when a battering ram had been used.

Mr Walker was initially charged with attempted murder and assault of a police officer, but the case against him was dropped in May amid national scrutiny of the case.

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LMPD

Image caption

From left: Brett Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove

What about the officers?

Mr Hankison was fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department in June after investigators found he had “wantonly and blindly fired 10 rounds” during the raid, according to his termination letter.

Mr Mattingly and Mr Cosgrove were reassigned to administrative duties.

The Louisville Courier-Journal has reported that six officers are under internal police review for their role in the shooting.

Mr Mattingly wrote an email on Saturday to more than 1,000 colleagues in which he criticised city leaders and protesters.

“Regardless of the outcome today or Wednesday, I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night,” he wrote in the message, which was published by media outlets on Tuesday.

“It’s sad how the good guys are demonised, and the criminals are canonised.”

“Your civil rights mean nothing,” he added, “but the criminal has total autonomy.”

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