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‘Breonna’s Law’ a first step but cops still must be charged in her shooting death argue family, attorneys

By Brian E. Muhammad Staff Writer | Last updated: Jun 17, 2020 - 12:34:08 PM

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The Louisville Kentucky City Council recently passed legislation banning no-knock warrants in Jefferson County, where police killed Breonna Taylor, a Black 26-year-old Emergency Medical Technician while executing a warrant on her home.

Breonna Taylor, 26 Photos: MGN Online

The Louisville Metro Council unanimously voted 26-0 to pass “Breonna’s Law,” in an ordinance June 11 primarily sponsored by councilwomen Jessica Green and Barbara Sexton-Smith. Passing the law was one of the demands of Ms. Taylor’s family and justice advocates.

“She just cared about saving lives; she will get to continue to do that through the Breonna law, Ms. Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said after the decision. “It’s a start,” she said.

The vote came at a time of national unrest over recent killings of Black men and women by police and White vigilantes in recent months. Ms. Taylor was killed in the botched raid in mid-March.

“We are making history,” civil rights Attorney Ben Crump tweeted, “Now we need to continue to ban no-knock warrants by enacting #BreonnasLaw NATIONWIDE!!”

The law also includes the mandatory use of bodycams while executing all warrants. Banning no-knock warrants altogether was a modified position from earlier proposed language in the law that only limited how law enforcement can use the warrants.

There was pressure on lawmakers from social justice advocates, legal rights groups and activists pushing for total elimination of no-knock warrants, where cops can legally barge into a premise unannounced.

“We applaud Metro Council for their unanimous vote, but they must expand this ban to include all law enforcement agencies in Jefferson County,” said Keturah Herron, policy strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky in a statement.

“This ordinance is an important step,” said Ms. Herron, “But it’s only the first step in a series of desperately needed changes to address police abuse of power and excessive force against Black people,” she added.

Calls for changing the controversial no-knock policy intensified with Ms. Taylor’s gruesome death in the after-midnight raid, that her family’s lawyers argue was not merited in the first place. The lawmakers named the law after Ms. Taylor whose death sparked outcry and resistance in the city.

The decision comes amid mass protests and nationwide resistance calling for reform, national standards of policing, defunding, and some advocating abolishing the police. On another note, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul introduced federal legislation June 11 that would ban the use of no-knock warrants nationwide.

Hundreds of demonstrators filled the streets hours before the vote in a rally dubbed “#NoMore-NoKnocks.”

Protesters say they will also continue engulfing the streets in Louisville until the three cops involved in killing Ms. Taylor are fired and charged. The three officers, Jon Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, have been placed on administrative reassignment.

We must be specific and specify what we want, explained Jerald Muhammad, the Louisville representative for the Nation of Islam. “We would like to see the officers be removed.”

Student Minister Muhammad also said initiatives like establishing a police review board with subpoena powers and periodic forums and townhalls between the community and the police may also be helpful.

In another development, Louisville Metro Police released an incident report from the night Ms. Taylor was killed which is being criticized as incomplete, vague and inaccurate.

In the report, under a category labeled “charges,” a small box which says “forced entry” is checked “no.” Another category labeled “victims,” names Ms. Taylor, with a small box labeled “injuries,” checked off “none.” The cops, who were in plainclothes, used a battering ram to bust into the apartment in the middle of the night. Ms. Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, 27, thought they were being burglarized. Mr. Walker, a licensed gun owner, responded to the chaotic scene by firing on what he believed to be intruders and hit one of the officers involved. The police returned fire with about 20-30 shots; eight bullets fatally struck Breonna.

The police report was chided by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer who previously announced June 3, the retaining of an outside firm to review the police department and a public survey for input from residents.

“This is unacceptable,” said Mayor Fischer on his Facebook page. “It’s issues like this that erode public confidence in LMPD’s ability to do its job, and that’s why I’ve ordered an external top-to-bottom review of the department,” he said.

For attorneys of Breonna Taylor’s family, the report is the latest insult from LMPD since her killing, “It’s a tremendous slap in the face to release something like this after three months that is so blatantly inaccurate. It’s insulting,” said Attorney Sam Aguiar to local WHAS11-TV.

“When you read a document like this incident report and you see blatant misrepresentations that even suggest that Breonna Taylor wasn’t hurt, that’s injustice. That’s an insult, and that’s just LMPD’s way of doing things the wrong way. And it needs to stop,” said Atty. Aguiar.

Commenting on the police report, Councilwoman Jessica Green, who co-wrote the new no-knock law said Ms. Taylor will, “never be forgotten … never be erased, no matter what an incident report said.”

Ms. Taylor’s family, attorneys, and supporters are still seeking answers to how and why an authorization for the no-knock warrant was approved. Robert Schroeder, Louisville’s acting police chief announced to the press June 11 that Joshua Jaynes, the detective who requested the warrant was placed on administrative reassignment while they pursued more answers.

“This is all part of the process of getting to the truth of what happened that night and leading up to that night,” said Mr. Schroeder.

“I recognize the process takes longer than we would all want, but it’s what must be done to ensure a thorough and fair investigation for everyone involved,” said Mr. Schroeder.

Meanwhile an investigation by the FBI of the police handling of the case is underway, resulting from calls for a federal probe.

Other changes in the aftermath of Breonna Taylor’s slaying is the mandatory use of bodycams by police at all times. There were no bodycams used when the cops rammed opened Ms. Taylor’s door and shot several rounds of ammunition inside.

Attorney Crump told activists and supporters the officers must be charged soon or protests that “mirror” the protests in Minneapolis for George Floyd will happen in Louisville.

“They say notice is two-thirds of the law. Well, we’re giving Louisville notice … and it’s not going to be just here in Louisville … we‘re gonna have a march on the [state] capitol for Breonna Taylor,” said Atty. Crump. Live help