Fresh protests erupted in Kentucky on Wednesday after a grand jury indicted one of three police officers involved in the Breonna Taylor killing, though refrained from charging anyone directly for her killing.
Six months after the 26-year-old African-American woman was shot six times by police officers in her apartment, detective Brett Hankison was charged with wanton endangerment. However, the charges were in connection with shots he fired into neighbouring apartments, not with Ms Taylor’s killing directly.
The two other officers, who engaged in a shoot-out with Ms Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker after entering her apartment, were cleared.
“Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly were justified in their use of force having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker,” attorney general Daniel Cameron said as he announced the indictment of Mr Hankison at a news conference in the state capital of Frankfort.
On the night of March 13th, the three plainclothes police officers knocked down the door of Ms Taylor’s apartment using a “no-knock” warrant, though Mr Cameron said they had knocked but received no answer.
Mr Walker opened fire on two of the three policemen who entered the front door and they fired back. It is not clear who fired the shots which killed Ms Taylor, the attorney general said.
Police were searching the apartment for drugs or money they believed may have been stashed there.
Louisville city council has since banned no-knock warrants, and introduced a law requiring officers serving warrants to wear body cameras.
On Wednesday Mr Cameron announced that a new task force would be set up in Kentucky state to review the process of securing and executing search warrants.
The attorney for Ms Taylor’s family, Ben Crump, criticised the grand jury’s decision on twitter. “Jefferson County Grand Jury indicts former ofc. Brett Hankison with 3 counts of Wanton Endangerment in 1st Degree for bullets that went into other apartments but NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor. This is outrageous and offensive!”
The charged officer, Mr Hankison, could face up to five years in prison for the charge of wanton endangerment in the first degree, and Mr Cameron said he would prosecute the criminal charges against him vigorously.
The announcement has refocused attention on the issue of police conduct and racial inequality in the US four months after African-American man George Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.
Protests have taken place across the country over the killing of Mr Floyd and the subsequent police shooting of African-American man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last month. Mr Blake, who was shot in the back seven times, survived the shooting, but is paralysed from the waist down.
Discussing the indictment, that had earlier been announced by Judge Annie O’Connell, Mr Cameron said that the case was a “tragedy” and heartbreaking for family members of Ms Taylor who have to wake up to the reality each day “that someone they loved is no longer with them”.
The decision not to prosecute any of the three officers for the death of Ms Taylor prompted an angry response from the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People).
“The justice system failed Breonna Taylor and, as such, failed us,” the historic association said in a statement. “The charges of wanton endangerment in connection with the murder of Breonna Taylor does not go far enough, and is a miscarriage of justice for her family and the people of Louisville.”
Meanwhile in Washington, members of the public began to pay their respects to the late supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who lay in repose in the portico of the court in Washington DC.
On Wednesday morning close family and friends and Ms Ginsberg’s colleagues on the bench gathered for a memorial service in the grand hall of the supreme court.