On Wednesday, former Vice President Joe Biden said that “we must continue to speak Breonna Taylor’s name” after nobody of the Louisville, Kentucky, police officers involved in the 26-year-old Black woman’s lethal shooting were charged in her death.
A statement mourning Taylor was released by the Democratic presidential nominee. Taylor was an emergency medical technician whom Louisville police killed in a “no-knock” warrant raid on her apartment in March.
“In the wake of her tragic death, we mourn with her mother, family and community, and ask ourselves whether justice could be equally applied in America,” Biden said. “I know for so many people today’s decision does not answer that call.”
Louisville police began the botched raid in the early hours of March 13 at Taylor’s apartment while she and her boyfriend, Kenny Walker, were asleep. The officers entered under a no-knock warrant as part of a narcotics investigation that did not involve Taylor or Walker. Three officers ― Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Brett Hankison and Officer Myles Cosgrove ― fired over 20 gunshots, several of which hit Taylor and killed her. Walker, a legal gun owner who said he didn’t hear police announce their presence before the plainclothes officers smashed into the apartment with a battering ram, shot Mattingly once in the leg.
Taylor’s family reached a $12 million settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit against the city. The family also hoped for manslaughter charges against the officers, but a grand jury decided against that.
On Wednesday, Hankison was indicted on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment ― a felony that comes with a potential prison sentence of up to five years under Kentucky law. The charges were related to shots fired into neighboring apartments, not those shot inside Taylor’s. The grand jury did not indict any of the three officers on murder counts. Mattingly and Cosgrove were not charged at all.
“I know people are frustrated, and they have a right to peacefully protest, but violence is never acceptable,” Biden said. “And we can express pain, grief, anger and disappointment at the way things are but remain focused on rebuilding trust in our communities and delivering change that can be.”
Ben Crump, an attorney for Taylor’s family, tweeted Wednesday that the decision to not charge any of the officers with murder was “outrageous and offensive.” Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said he would not be releasing the grand jury report due to an ongoing FBI investigation but that the officers were “justified in their use of force.”
“A federal investigation remains ongoing, but we do not need to wait for the final judgment of that investigation to do more to deliver justice for Breonna. We know what is necessary,” Biden said, highlighting the need to address police use of force, ban chokeholds and overhaul no-knock warrants.
After protests grew nationwide in response to the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many activists called for renewed attention to Taylor’s case. People in Louisville have been protesting for months, calling for justice in Taylor’s shooting and for the officers’ arrest.
Upon hearing the grand jury’s decision, residents in Louisville cried out in grief and anger before beginning to march downtown in the hundreds. Within hours of demonstrations starting, police in riot gear began arresting protesters. Video from reporters on the scene showed police hitting protesters with batons and firing munitions at groups of civilians before detaining them.
At least two Louisville police officers were shot downtown later Wednesday, according to multiple news outlets. Details of the shooting were unclear, as well as the officers’ conditions.
Protesters also took to the streets Wednesday in other cities, including Washington, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta. A wave of celebrities and public figures also joined in outrage over the grand jury’s decision.