What Could We Have Done For Breonna Taylor?
Dear Friends & Neighbors,
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As the case and protest associated with Breonna Taylor splash across the TV screens of most American households, many of us wondered what and how did this happened and whether it could have been prevented.
Excerpt from wikipedia on “Shooting of Breonna Taylor“, in italics, below: Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old woman, was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove on March 13, 2020. The officers entered her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, executing a search warrant. The officers knocked before forcing entry, but how the officers announced their identity before forcing entry is in dispute. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a gun at the officers he believed to be intruders, who fired over 20 shots in turn. Taylor was shot five times, according to her death certificate, and Mattingly was injured by gunfire. Hankison was fired by the LMPD on June 23, 2020. On September 15, the city of Louisville agreed to pay Taylor’s family $12 million and reform police practices. On September 23, a state grand jury indicted Hankison not for Taylor’s death, but on three counts of wanton endangerment for endangering a neighbor with his shots. The two other officers involved in the raid were not indicted. Taylor’s death and the non-indictment of the police officers for it led to protests across the United States. More details of the Shooting, from wikipedia, in italics, below: Shortly after midnight on March 13, 2020, Louisville police entered the apartment of Breonna Taylor and Kenneth Walker using a battering ram to force open the door. The police were investigating two men they believed were selling drugs. The Taylor/Walker home was included in a “no-knock” search warrant, signed by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mary M. Shaw, reportedly based on representations by police that one of the men used the apartment to receive packages. The New York Times later reported that before the raid, the order had been changed to “knock and announce”, meaning that the police were required to identify themselves. The primary targets of the LMPD investigation were Jamarcus Glover and Adrian Walker, who were suspected of selling controlled substances from a drug house more than 10 miles away. According to a Taylor family attorney, Glover had dated Taylor two years before and continued to have a “passive friendship”. The search warrant included Taylor’s residence because it was suspected that Glover received packages containing drugs at Taylor’s apartment and because a car registered to Taylor had been seen parked on several occasions in front of Glover’s house. Specifically, the warrant alleges that in January 2020, Glover left Taylor’s apartment with an unknown package, presumed to be drugs, and subsequently went to a known drug apartment with this package soon afterward. This warrant states that this event was verified “through a US Postal Inspector.” In May 2020, the U.S. postal inspector in Louisville publicly announced that the collaboration with law enforcement had never actually occurred. The postal office stated they were actually asked to monitor packages going to Taylor’s apartment from a different agency, but after doing so, they concluded, “There’s [sic] no packages of interest going there.” The public revelation put the investigation and especially the warrant into question and resulted in an internal investigation. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment after the warrant was executed. Kenneth Walker, who was licensed to carry a firearm and under the assumption someone was breaking into his apartment, fired a single shot first, striking an officer, whereupon police returned fire into the apartment with more than 20 rounds. A wrongful death lawsuit filed against the police by the Taylor family’s attorney alleges that the officers, who entered Taylor’s home “without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers”, opened fire “with a total disregard for the value of human life”, but Kenneth Walker said there was knocking at their door and the police account claims the officers did knock and announce themselves before forcing entry. A New York Times investigation concluded that a neighbor, who was on the staircase immediately above Taylor’s apartment, heard the officers shout “Police!” once (contrary to what law enforcement told investigators) and knocked three times, while approximately eleven other neighbors, heard no announcement. Taylor’s family has stated there was no announcement and that Walker and Taylor believed someone was breaking in, causing Walker to act in self-defense. Walker said in his police interrogation that Taylor yelled multiple times, “Who is it?” after hearing a loud bang at the door, but received no answer and that he then armed himself. Walker shot first, striking a police officer in the leg. In response, the officers opened fire with more than 20 rounds, hitting objects in the living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, bathroom, and both bedrooms. Taylor was struck by five bullets and pronounced dead at the scene. No drugs were found in the apartment. According to anonymous sources who spoke to WAVE3 News, one of the three officers allegedly fired blindly from the exterior of the residence, through a window with closed blinds and curtains; the sources said they do not believe Taylor was struck by any of the bullets fired by the officer who was outside. More than a month after the shooting, Jamarcus Glover was offered a plea deal if he would state Taylor was part of his drug dealing operations. He refused.
Did you know that, excerpt from wikipedia, in italics, below: In the United States, a no-knock warrant is a warrant issued by a judge that allows law enforcement to enter a property without immediate prior notification of the residents, such as by knocking or ringing a doorbell. In most cases, law enforcement will identify themselves just before they forcefully enter the property. It is issued under the belief that any evidence they hope to find can be destroyed during the time that police identify themselves and the time they secure the area, or in the event where there is a large perceived threat to officer safety during the execution of the warrant. Use of no-knock warrants has increased substantially over time. By one estimate, there were 1,500 annually in the early 1980s whereas there were 45,000 in 2010. Amid nationwide protests in response to the police killings of Breonna Taylor (shot during a no-knock raid) and George Floyd, there were extensive calls to end no-knock warrants. Critics argue that no-knock warrants were prone to lead to deadly use of force by police and the deaths of innocent people. No-knock warrants also conflict with the right to self-defense, “stand-your-ground” laws, and Castle Doctrine which explicitly permit the use of deadly force against intruders. No-knock warrants are controversial for various reasons. There have been cases where burglars have robbed homes by pretending to be officers with a no-knock warrant. There have been many cases where armed homeowners, believing that they are being invaded, have shot at officers, resulting in deaths on both sides. While it is legal to shoot a homeowner’s dog when an officer fears for their life, there have been numerous high-profile cases in which family pets lacking the size, strength, or demeanor to attack officers have been shot, greatly increasing the risk of additional casualties in neighboring houses via overpenetrating bullets. The number of no-knock raids has increased from 3,000 in 1981 to more than 50,000 in 2005, according to Peter Kraska, a criminologist at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. Raids that lead to deaths of innocent people are increasingly common; since the early 1980s, forty bystanders have been killed, according to the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. In Utah, no-knock warrants make up about 40% of all warrants served. In Maryland, 90% of SWAT deployments were to serve search warrants, with two-thirds through forced entry. From 2010 through 2016, at least 81 civilians and 13 officers died during SWAT raids, including 31 civilians and eight officers during execution of no-knock warrants. Half of the civilians killed were members of a minority. Of those subject to SWAT search warrants, 42% are black and 12% are Hispanic. Since 2011, at least seven federal lawsuits against officers executing no-knock warrants have been settled for over $1 million.
What could have prevented this tragedy of death of an innocent by-stander, Breonna Taylor:
- Doing away with No-Knock Warrant – Required knocking and identification of the police would prevent police being misinterpreted as intruders.
- Universal Basic Income – Fewer people would resort to dealing with drugs as a form of survival.
- Reformation of drug laws – To reduce the appeal of illegal drug commerce.
- Retraining of police – Police matter may be conducted without the use of guns. Let’s take a look at how United Kingdom conduct their police affairs, excerpt from wikipedia, in italics, below:
- The United Kingdom is made up of fourconstituent countries:England, Scotland,Wales (which make up Great Britain), and Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland, all police officers carryfirearms. In the rest of the United Kingdom, only some police officers carry firearms; that duty is instead carried out by specially-trained firearms officers. This originates from the formation of the Metropolitan Police Service in the 19th century, when police were not armed, partly to counter public fears and objections over armed enforcers as this had been previously seen due to the British Army maintaining order when needed. The arming of police in Great Britain is a perennial topic of debate. (Perhaps several regions of the USA should test out the theory of: fewer guns carried by the police would lead to fewer deaths of the police officers as well as civilians.)
- Retraining of police as well as civilians – to be less fearful of one another. After all, police force was developed to help civilians. Greater empathy from both sides would be much more productive for a better future.
Note: Florida is one of only two states, along with Oregon, that prohibit no-knock warrants. Since 1994, a Florida Supreme Court decision prohibited no-knock warrants. But the same 1994 opinion by the Florida Supreme Court also carved out circumstances under which police can enter a property without warning or a judge’s approval, such as if there’s reason to believe announcing themselves would risk a suspect escaping or destroying evidence. After Breonna Taylor was killed in March of 2020, by Louisville police officers executing a no-knock warrant, activists demand the elimination of unannounced raids. Florida law states (in the “knock-and-announce” rule) that police can force their way inside a home to execute a warrant only if “after due notice of the officer’s authority and purpose he or she is refused admittance”. In July of 2020, Orlando Police Department revised its policies to prohibit unannounced raids, but other major agencies in Central Florida still allow officers to force their way into private properties without identifying themselves under certain circumstances. A former law enforcement officer and expert witness on police tactics, Roy Bedard, said that provisions that allow officers to enter without knocking have been widely applied in recent decades, and no-knock raids can create perilous and chaotic situations. He concludes that strong policies are needed to help officers to prioritize safety over evidence, and violent crimes over lower-level offenses.