A Kentucky grand jury on Wednesday indicted a single police officer for shooting into neighboring apartments but did not move forward with charges against any officers for their role in Breonna Taylor’s death.
Prosecutors said that two officers who fired their weapons at Taylor, a Black woman, were justified in using force to protect themselves after they faced gunfire from her boyfriend.
The charges included three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into a home next to Taylor's with people inside.
The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in connection with the raid at Taylor's home on March 13.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for Taylor's family, denounced the decision as "outrageous and offensive," and protesters shouting, "No justice, no peace!" immediately marched through the streets.
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by white officers who entered her home during a narcotics investigation. State Attorney General Daniel Cameron said that while the officers had a no-knock warrant, the investigation showed they announced themselves before entering. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.
Along with the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, Taylor's case became a major touchstone for nationwide protests that have drawn attention to racism and demanded police reform.
Shortly after news of the indictment broke, Christen Lott Hunte, a member of Gainesville’s civil rights group, the Newtown Florist Club, and part of its public policy committee, said the indictment hadn't gone far enough.
"To me, it's really heartbreaking, obviously, but not unexpected," she said. "It’s just a means to placate protesters and supporters of Breonna Taylor."
Lott Hunte said the announcement of indictment is a way for Cameron to calm those who have been calling for justice for Taylor since her death in March. But, she said, "people aren't going to forget Breonna."
"We're not going to stop talking about Breonna. We're not going to stop asking for justice for her," Lott Hunte said. "So, to think that you can just placate people is very short-sighted and irresponsible."
She said a charge of criminally negligent homicide “would be a start.”
The Rev. Rose Johnson, executive director of the Newtown Florist Club, said she would withhold a formal comment until she had time to review the grand jury decision and its implications.
Following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, George Floyd in Minneapolis and Taylor in Louisville, Newtown provided a list of concerns to local law enforcement agencies, including greater transparency, banning “no-knock” warrants and more body cameras for officers.
Cameron, who is the Kentucky's first Black attorney general, said the officers in the Taylor case acted in self-defense after Taylor's boyfriend fired at them. He added that Hankison and the two other officers who entered Taylor's apartment announced themselves before entering — and so did not execute the warrant as "no knock," according to the investigation. The city has since banned such warrants.
"According to Kentucky law, the use of force by (Officers Jonathan) Mattingly and (Myles) Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves," he said. "This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor's death."
Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, opened fire when police burst in, hitting Mattingly. Walker told police he heard knocking but didn't know who was coming in and fired in self-defense.
Cameron said an FBI crime lab determined that Cosgrove fired the bullet that killed Taylor.
Addressing “no-knock” warrants at an event hosted by Newtown in July, Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin said they are a “rare occurrence in this community," The Times reported. Gosselin said then the court has authorized five no-knock warrants in the past 18 years.
Representatives from the Gainesville Police Department did not immediately respond to request for comment on Wednesday regarding use of no-knock warrants. In an emailed response, Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Derrick Booth pointed The Times to earlier statements from Sheriff Gerald Couch on the matter:
“No knock warrants are seldom used, and a judge must decide it is specifically necessary. In my 38 years of law enforcement I cannot think of a time I ever received a ‘No-Knock’ warrant. With that in mind I have no problem increasing the restrictions on the use of ‘No-Knock’ warrants, but would hesitate to eliminate them all together as under some rare circumstances they may actually be necessary. I would recommend looking at some appropriate legislature measures to put in place to ensure they are properly used.”
In the wake of the nationwide protests, Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish told the City Council he hoped to triple annual de-escalation training for the city’s officers. The chief said last month that he aimed to have the training plan in place by this month.
Officers were getting anywhere from five to 10 hours per year, the chief told the council last month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.