No officers were charged in the police killing of Breonna Taylor during a Kentucky grand jury proceeding on Wednesday.
Taylor was killed nearly six months ago on March 13 when three officers from the Lousiville Metro Police Department were conducting a no-knock warrant as part of a drug investigation. After bursting into her apartment, former officer Brett Hankison shot her six times in her sleep.
Not only were there no drugs in the apartment, the officers had shown up at the wrong place in the wrong neighborhood. In fact, the suspect they were looking for had already been apprehended.
While the grand jury did indict Hankison, he was only charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for firing shots into the neighboring apartment.
Wanton endangerment is a class D felony, the lowest class of felonies under Kentucky state law. Hankison was arrested on Wednesday afternoon and released within the hour.
Meanwhile, the other two officers involved in Taylor’s death, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, were not indicted at all.
The fact that Hankison was charged for endangering the lives of the people in the apartment next door, but not for murdering an innocent woman is indicative of a much larger problem with the justice system and the state of policing in Kentucky and in the US as a whole.
How can real justice ever be served in any courtroom or in any grand jury proceeding when he was only charged for the shots that he missed?
Wednesday’s grand jury decision says a lot about how backwards the criminal justice system is in America. If you’re a white cop you can literally get away with murder. If you’re a Black woman murdered by the police, your life doesn’t matter to the courts.
It is not enough to merely echo the Founding Father’s words that Americans were all created equally. Everyone must also be treated equally in the eyes of the law.
In an interview with NBC News’ Today, Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Taylor’s family, layed out his stance on Hankison’s charges and the state of the criminal justice system in the US.
“You know, the wanton endangerment charge, it just doesn’t make sense,” Crump said. “When you think about, they had wanton endangerment for the white neighbor’s apartment, the bullets going there, but not for the bullets going into Breonna Taylor’s body.”
“It underscores what I’ve said many times. We seem to have two justice systems in America, one for Black America and one for white America,” Crump continued. “Breonna’s name wasn’t even listed on the indictment. I mean, nothing seems to say that Breonna mattered.”
And yet, Breonna Taylor did matter and she deserved so much more. She deserved to live. She deserved protection and safety. She deserved basic human decency. And she sure as hell deserved justice.
While many are not surprised by Wednesday’s outcome, it goes without saying that the lack of justice is still very much despairing, infuriating, and traumatic, especially for Black women.
The system failed Breonna Taylor and it’s okay be angry about that. It’s okay to mourn injustice. But let’s not forget that this all started with the police.