Photo Essay: Protesters Urge Everyone to 'Say Her Name' As They Demand Justice for Breonna Taylor

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Nearly three months have passed since a group of plains-clothed police with the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) charged into the apartment of Breonna Taylor, opened fire and killed her. The officers involved have yet to be arrested or charged, despite calls from across the country for justice in Taylor’s case.

The 26-year-old EMT was sleeping next to her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, on March 13 when three police officers stormed into her home with a no-knock search warrant. Walker, thinking the couple were being burglarized, fired a shot and struck an officer in the leg. In response, police fired multiple shots and struck Taylor a total of eight times.

Following the shots, Walker called 911 and told a dispatcher that, “somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.” During the heartbreaking two minute call, Walker pleaded for help and said Taylor was unresponsive. She died in the hallway of her apartment, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.

A protester holds a sign during a demonstration Monday, June 1, 2020, in Louisville, Ky., over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Taylor, a black woman, was fatally shot by police in her home in March. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Demonstrators protest over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Monday, June 1, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. Breonna Taylor, a black woman, was fatally shot by police in her home in March. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Walker was initially charged with attempted murder of a police officer. Following outcry over Taylor’s death and Walker’s charges, they were dropped.

Footage from the shooting does not exist because officers in the Criminal Interdiction Division, who executed the warrant, do not wear cameras. “No knock” search warrants will now require the police chief’s approval and officers carrying out search warrants will be required to wear body cameras.

Demonstrators protest over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Monday, June 1, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. Breonna Taylor, a black woman, was fatally shot by police in her home in March. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Protesters gathered for memorial for Breonna Taylor killed by police on her 27th birthday at African Square on Adam Clayton Powell Jr boulevard in New York on June 5, 2020. (Photo by Lev Radin/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

No Charges Against Officers & FBI Investigation

The three officers involved in the case were identified as Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove. They were placed on administrative reassignment pending the outcome of the LMPD’s ongoing internal investigation.

On May 20, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced that the internal investigation into the case was handed over to the office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron. The attorney general’s office or a special prosecutor will decide whether criminal charges are filed against the three officers.

According to the Louisville Courier Journal Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine recused himself from the investigation, citing a conflict of interest. Wine was initially pursuing charges against Walker but has since dismissed those charges.

Fisher added that LMPD’s internal investigation was also sent to the U.S. Attorney and the FBI Louisville field office.

A female protester wears a "I am Breonna Taylor" sign while protesting in Miami, Florida, on May 31, 2020. (Shutterstock)
Msafiri, 5, of Baltimore, stands among signs along the fence constructed at Lafayette Park including drawings of Breonna Taylor, Emmett Till, and Trayvon Martin, as demonstrators protest Sunday, June 7, 2020, near the White House in Washington, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. "Of course he's a young boy and this has been going on for a long time," said his father, "hopefully it will change in his generation." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The FBI Louisville field office announced on May 21 that it had launched an investigation into the shooting death of Taylor.

“The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough and impartial manner,” Special Agent in Charge Robert Brown said in a statement. “As this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time.”

LMPD Chief Steve Conrad announced his retirement shortly after the FBI announced its investigation, WLKY reported.

Protesters hold their fist in the air for eight minutes in honor of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd while they hold a standoff with police on eastbound I-70 during a march through St. Charles, Mo., Saturday, June 6, 2020. Taylor, a black woman, was fatally shot by police in her Louisville, Ky., home in March and Floyd, a black man, died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (Colter Peterson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
Freddie Peralta stands with the America flag as he holds a sign in memory of Breonna Taylor during a protest over the death of George Floyd and others, Saturday, June 6, 2020, in downtown Miami. Protests continue throughout the country over the death of Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in April against the Louisville Metro Police Department. The lawsuit, which was filed in Jefferson Circuit Court, alleges wrongful death, excessive force and gross negligence.

LMPD claimed that the officers involved in Taylor’s murder knocked several times and “announced their presence as police who were there with a search warrant.” The wrongful death suit, however, disputed that claim and said that the officers entered the home “without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers.”

During a March 13 press conference, LMPD Lt. Ted Eidem also alleged that the officers were “immediately met by gunfire” once inside. Walker, who had a license to carry and kept firearms for protection, called 911 to report who he believed to be intruders.

“The defendants then proceeded to spray gunfire into the residence with a total disregard for the value of human life,” the suit stated. “Shots were blindly fired by the officers throughout Breonna’s home.”

When asked about the case for a previous story, LMPD Sgt. Lamont Washington directed TNS to the department’s March 13 press conference for comment.

Demonstrators are seen on Pennsylvania Avenue while marching to Freedom Plaza from Capitol Hill to honor George Floyd and victims of racial injustice on Saturday, June 6, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

How to Demand Justice

Calls for justice have been ongoing, with a renewed focus on Taylor’s case seen on what would have been her 27th birthday. Writer Cate Young pushed for a number of action steps on Taylor’s birthday using the hashtag #BirthdayForBreonna. Here are just a few things Young proposed you can do to demand justice for Breonna.

  • Sign this petition that calls for justice. The petition, which has more than 5 million signatures, is a call to action for Governor Andy Beshear, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Senator Rand Paul, District Attorney Tom Wine and President Donald Trump.

  • Donate to the GoFundMe to help Breonna Taylor’s family. You can donate to the GoFundMe here.

  • Email the Kentucky Attorney General, the Mayor of Louisville and the Governor of Kentucky directly. The link here gives you a pre-written email that is already addressed to officials who can get justice.

  • Donate to local bail out funds or mutual aid funds.

At the end of each story about the Black Lives Matter protests occurring around the country, we will share the following information on how best to protect yourself:

Protecting Yourself From Tear Gas

  • Before being exposed: Do not wear contact lenses or makeup. This could trap the tear gas on your skin and eyes. Try to wear protective goggles if possible. Remember to wear a mask, which you should already be wearing to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Wear long sleeves and long pants to protect as much of your skin as possible.

  • If exposed: Get yourself out of the area immediately. The CDC recommends seeking higher ground as most Riot Control Agents (RCAs) are heavier than air.

  • Clothing: The RCAs will have contaminated your clothing, be sure to remove the clothes as soon as possible and discard. Clothing that needs to be removed over the head should be cut instead. The CDC recommends wearing rubber gloves and putting the contaminated clothes in a bag and then seal that bag in another bag.

  • Exposed Skin: The International News Safety Institute recommends washing with soap and water. First, shower in cold water and then in warm water. Do not bathe. Wash your face as soon as you can, but do not rub the skin as you don’t want to activate the powder in tear gas. Do not rinse your eyes and face with milk, instead use water.

Protecting Yourself: Technology Edition

  • Smartphone: Smartphones can easily give out information that police can later use against protesters. Turn off your location data and remove facial and fingerprint recognition. If you need to communicate with friends or family, be sure to download and use the Signal app, which encrypts messages. WIRED recommends Android users head to Settings, then Security and make sure the Encrypt Disk option is selected.

  • Social Media: Do not post photos or videos with geotags and consider blurring the faces of protesters when sharing information on social media.

  • Police Conduct App: The ACLU has created the Mobile Justice app to record police conduct. You can learn more about the app here.

Other Tips

  • Identifying Clothing or Tattoos: It is highly recommended you wear clothing that is not easily identifiable. Be sure to cover any tattoos that can be used by law enforcement to identify you.

  • In Case You’re Arrested: Write the number down of a lawyer, organization or friend/family member that you can call if you’re arrested on your skin. Be sure to have a form of ID in your pocket.

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.