How can that be? Do we have a justice system that values wallboard over human flesh? Or is this true only when the flesh in question belonged to a 26-year-old Black woman whose death can be written off as collateral damage?
I share the anger of protesters who mobilized across the country in response to the verdict. If the Taylor case can't give the country relief in the form of indictments, trials and convictions, it can at least show us where we can most productively direct that anger: at every step in a criminal justice system that rendered Taylor's life expendable.
Start with the tissue-thin search warrant authorizing the March 13 raid that led to Taylor's death. Police were after a man named Jamarcus Glover, who they believed was operating a small-scale illegal drug business — at a location nowhere near the tidy, middle-class apartment complex where Taylor lived.
Taylor was a hospital emergency room technician who had had an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with Glover. In January, police had seen Glover enter Taylor's apartment, emerge with a package and drive to "a known drug house." On that basis, a judge approved a "no-knock" warrant to bust into Taylor's place in search of illegal drugs or drug money — none of which was found there. Glover himself was already in custody at the time of the raid.
Then, consider the preparation for this raid, already taking place on flimsy pretenses and employing a risky tactic. Police knew Taylor's name from the license plate on her car but knew nothing else about her. They did not know that by March, she had broken it off with Glover and had a new boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. They did not know that Taylor's friends were reportedly happy she seemed to be settling down with a good man. They did not know Walker was living with Taylor at the apartment — and that he would be there, asleep beside Taylor, when they arrived.
The execution of the search warrant brought another misstep by the police. It turns out that the officers did knock — they banged on the door — but Walker said they never identified themselves as police. Journalists interviewed numerous neighbors who also said they did not hear the officers say they were police, though Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) said Wednesday that investigators found one upstairs neighbor who did hear the police identify themselves.
Walker said he and Taylor were frightened by unknown intruders trying to break in. Walker went into the hallway carrying his legal handgun. When the officers breached the door, Walker fired a shot, hitting one of them in the leg. The officers responded by firing more than 20 rounds, six of which struck Taylor. She was given no immediate medical attention.
And fatally, although an ambulance should have been standing by at the scene, according to department rules, none was there. The officer Walker shot received prompt medical treatment, but Taylor did not, and Walker and Taylor's family allege that she lived for at least five minutes after she was shot. The irony of an emergency room technician failing to receive the sort of care she provided is almost too painful to bear.
Charges against Walker for shooting the officer were dropped, on the theory that he had the right to defend his home. Under that same theory of self-defense, Cameron said, the officers had the right to shoot back. Case closed.
Why is Breonna Taylor dead? At every step of the way, the legal system treated her as if she didn't matter.
The city of Louisville has agreed to pay Taylor's family a reported $12 million in compensation for her death. The Civil War was supposed to have ended the time in America when Black bodies had only monetary value. At least the price has gone up.