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The Louisville Metro government announced a $12 million financial settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old EMT who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police officers during a drug raid. The officers responsible for Taylor’s death have not yet been charged.
“I cannot begin to imagine Ms. Palmer's pain and I'm deeply, deeply sorry for Brianna's death,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said during the press conference. “While we await a decision from Attorney General Daniel Cameron on whether or not charges will be filed in this case, my administration is not waiting to move ahead with needed reforms, to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”
Attorney Sam Aguilar told The Washington Post that the settlement comes after weeks of private talks between Taylor’s family and the local government. The settlement, which stems from a wrongful death suit brought on by Taylor’s mom Tamika Palmer, includes a $12 million cash payout and sweeping police reforms, Aguilar said.
“This is probably the largest settlement for police misconduct in the history of Louisville and includes substantial police reform, as well,” Aguilar told The Washington Post.
According to The Louisville Courier Journal, the largest police misconduct settlement the city has paid was $8.5 million to Edwin Chandler in 2012. Chandler spent more than nine years in prison after Detective Mark Handy perjured himself, the newspaper reported.
The settlement was for far more money than Chandler received and more than double the amount paid to the family of Eric Garner, the New Yorker who was choked to death by police in 2014. It also included 12 sweeping police reforms that the city promised to adopt in a bid to settle protesters, The New York Times reported.
Among the changes are more oversight by top commanders on warrants, mandatory safeguards, housing credits to officers who agree to live within certain low-income neighborhoods in the city and encouragement for officers to volunteer at organizations serving the community. The settlement also includes a measure that seeks authority for drug and alcohol testing of officers involved in any shooting.
Justice for Breonna is “Multi-Layered”
While attorneys representing the Taylor family commended the Mayor and his office for settling the civil lawsuit, they emphasized that the settlement was merely only a portion of the justice she and her family deserves.
“Justice for Breonna is multi-layered. While we were able to accomplish today through the civil settlement against the officers is tremendous, but it's only a portion of a single layer,” attorney Lonita Baker said. “When officers cause the death of an individual, it is imperative that we seek justice, not only in the criminal system, but also in our civil system.”
Baker said that it was important for Taylor’s family to make sure that what happened to Taylor did not happen to others in the future. Baker and the other attorneys on the team vowed to work not only to seek justice for Taylor, but also for all the protesters who have fought to bring awareness to her case.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump also praised the city’s officials for the settlement, noting that it “sets a precedent for other Black women that their lives won't be marginalized, that they will be valued.” Crump, who also represents George Floyd and others killed by police around the country, added that the work is not done because Black people in America continue to face racism and injustice.
“While most of America is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, we in Black America are not only dealing with that pandemic, but we're also dealing with the 1619 pandemic. The pandemic that started 401 years ago when the first enslaved Africans came to America. And from that day to this one, we have been dealing with systematic racism and oppression that have killed us inside and outside the courtroom,” Crump said.
Crump called on Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron to bring charges against the three officers involved. He also called on the city to drop charges against the peaceful protesters “creating good trouble” in the name of Taylor.
Louisville’s Slow Response to Taylor’s Murder
The city has been slow to respond to Taylor’s March 13 killing. In June, nearly three months to the day that Taylor was murdered, the Louisville City Council voted unanimously to ban “no-knock” warrants. Mayor Fischer signed Breonna’s Law a day later.
The measure prohibits the use of no-knock warrants and requires officers serving warrants to wear body cameras. Under Breonna’s Law, body cameras must be activated at least five minutes before the warrant is served and cannot be shut off until at least five minutes afterward.
The police officers who were involved in Taylor’s death were reportedly not wearing body cameras during the raid, authorities said. LMPD and Mayor Fischer initially claimed that no body cam footage of the violent shooting existed.
However, more than 1,000 photos released to a number of publications earlier in September shows at least one officer involved wearing a body camera and another wearing a body camera holder.
Officer Tony James, who was not one of the three officers who fired their weapons during the raid, was photographed wearing a body camera over his right shoulder. Officer Myles Cosgrove, who was one of the officers who shot up Taylor’s home, was photographed wearing a body camera mount on his vest.
Officers Cosgrove, Brett Hankison and Sgt. Jon Mattingly were placed on administrative reassignment after the raid for discharging their weapons. Hankison was later fired for “blindly” firing 10 shots into the apartment.
The police department has not released any footage from the shooting. In a previous statement to The North Star, an LMPD spokesperson said the department would not comment on the case due to the ongoing investigation and pending litigation.
Protests demanding the officers be charged for Taylor’s death have been ongoing since late May. Taylor's mother noted during the press conference that more needs to be done.
"As significant as today is, it's only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna. We must not lose focus on what the real drive is," Palmer said. "And with that being said, it's time to move forward with the criminal charges because she deserves that and much more. Her beautiful spirit and personality is working through all of us on the ground. So please continue to say her name, Breonna Taylor."
Despite calls for justice, none of the officers have been charged for Taylor’s death in the six months since the fatal shooting.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.