A police officer who shot Breonna Taylor has been charged - but not with murder

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 11:34 am
Updated Thursday, 24th September 2020, 11:34 am
Breonna Taylor has been a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement (Getty Images)
Breonna Taylor has been a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement (Getty Images)

Charges have been brought against a US police officer who participated in a raid which resulted in the death of hospital worker, Breonna Taylor. 

Taylor was shot multiple times in her own bedroom after police stormed her home as part of a narcotics raid. 

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The charges against Officer Brett Hankinson are not in relation to Taylor’s death, however. 

Hankinson has instead been charged with "wanton endangerment" for firing into a neighbouring apartment. 

The charges have been met with outcry from supporters of racial equality, including multiple high profile celebrities, who have been demanding the police officers involved face murder or manslaughter charges. 

What does wanton endangerment mean?

Kentucky law states that someone who “wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person” is guilty of a crime.

Guilty parties will carry this out “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.”

The crime carries a maximum five year sentence, plus a fine for each count. Officer Hankinson has been charged with three counts, as he is deemed to have endangered a pregnant woman, her husband and their five year old child, who were asleep in a neighbouring apartment. 

Why have the officers not been charged with murder? 

An investigation found that Breonna Taylor was shot six times by officers involved in the raid, with Detective Myles Cosgrove firing the fatal shot. Officers claim that they were returning fire after Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, shot at them.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron explained that investigators believe the officers were “justified” in returning fire.

He said, “Our investigation showed, and the grand jury agreed, that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in the return of deadly fire.”

Walker claims he fired because he believed the officers were intruders. 

What happened to Breonna Taylor? 

Breonna Taylor was shot dead by police officers in the Kentucky city of Louisville, on 13 March 2020.

Police were carrying out a ‘no knock’ search warrant on the apartment of Taylor and her partner, Kenneth Walker. The officers involved claim that they announced their arrival, knocking several times on the apartment, while announcing their presence, though neighbours argue no such warning was issued.

During a police interrogation, Walker claimed that Taylor shouted, “Who is it?” on several occasions, but received no response. Fearing that their house was being broken into, Walker armed himself, shooting a police officer in the leg. Police returned fire, shooting Taylor eight times.

Ms Taylor didn’t receive medical attention for 20 minutes, according to the Courier Journal.

The police were understood to be investigating whether Taylor’s ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover was using the apartment to receive packages of drugs.

Police claimed that a US postal inspector had confirmed that such packages were arriving, but postal inspector Tony Gooden has denied such claims. No drugs were found at the apartment.

Reaction to charges

The charges, or lack of, have been met with fury by protestors in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer acting on behalf of the Taylor family, described the charges as "outrageous and offensive.”

Protests, which have been taking place in the city for over 100 days, were largely peaceful following the news, though pockets did erupt into violence. 

Two police officers were shot and sustained non-life threatening injuries. A total of 46 protestors were arrested. 

A curfew is in place in the city from 9pm to 6:30am "due to the potential for civil unrest.”

Thousands of protestors have gathered in cities across the United States in opposition to the state’s decision to not charge officers over the death of Taylor.