The Subtext of Daniel Cameron’s Press Conference on Breonna Taylor’s Killers

Donney Rose
Sep 26, 2020 - 11:00

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On September 23, Daniel Cameron, the attorney general for the state of Kentucky, gave a press conference on the grand jury’s decision in the police murder of Breonna Taylor. Cameron spoke for just over twenty minutes in an attempt to rationalize why Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove would not receive any charges, and why Detective Brett Hankinson would merely be charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into neighboring apartments.

Over six months have elapsed since the fateful night in March when Breonna’s life ended as she rested in her apartment with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. The story of the officers involved in Breonna’s death not being indicted or charged for a crime unrelated to her death is not a new narrative in the continuum of state-sanctioned violence against Black bodies. 

I am sure I speak for writers, columnists, editors and journalists who write about injustice and social advocacy when I say that we have likely run out of ways to articulate the imbalance in the legal system, the de-prioritizing of justice in these cases, and the repetitive exoneration of paid public servants who slaughter Black bodies with impunity. 

So for this writing, I am choosing to weaponize Cameron’s words against him and offer a subtext version of excerpts from the transcript of the press conference he gave, after his office decided not to file criminal charges for the murder of Breonna Taylor. 

Original transcript provided by the Courier Journal; redactions provided by a fed up Black writer/advocate who is exhausted with seeing Black families denied appropriate closure when their loved ones are executed unjustly.

Daniel Cameron: (00:00)

Good afternoon. And thank you for joining us today. I know that many in Louisville and across the Commonwealth and country have been anxiously awaiting the completion of our investigation into the death of Ms. Breonna Taylor. Prior to this announcement, I spoke with Ms. Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother, to share with her the results from the grand jury. Many of you in this room know that I had the opportunity last month to meet in person with her and other members of Ms. Taylor’s family, including Ms. Bianca Austin and Ms. Jenaya Palmer. I want to once again publicly express my condolences. Every day, this family wakes up to the realization that someone they loved is no longer with them. There’s nothing I can offer today to take away the grief and heartache this family is experiencing as a result of losing a child, a niece, a sister, and a friend.

Daniel Cameron subtext (00:00):

Good afternoon. And thank you for joining us today. I know that many in Louisville and across the Commonwealth and country have been rightfully skeptical about our anxiously awaiting the completion of our investigation into the death of Ms. Breonna Taylor. Prior to this announcement, I spoke with Ms. Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother, in an attempt to temper the heartache of our unjust findings to share with her the results from the grand jury. Many of you in this room know that I had the opportunity last month to try to cover our tracks ahead of a conviction I never lobbied for. meet in person with her and other members of Ms. Taylor’s family, including Ms. Bianca Austin and Ms. Jenaya Palmer. I want to once again publicly feign condolences express my condolences. Every day, this family wakes up to the nightmare Black Americans have endured for generations at the hands of law enforcement.realization that someone they loved is no longer with them. There’s nothing I have chosen to do to offer the proper resolution for the slaughter of their loved oneone can offer today to take away the grief and heartache this family is experiencing as a result of losing a child, a niece, a sister, and a friend.

Daniel Cameron: (02:16)

My job as the special prosecutor in this case was to put emotions aside and investigate the facts to determine if criminal violations of state law resulted in the loss of Ms. Taylor’s life. This included examining the actions of Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Brett Hankison, and Detective Myles Cosgrove, the three officers who fired their weapons in the early morning hours of March 13th. In working with our federal partners on this case, it was determined that while we would share information to advance our respective investigations, we must also maintain some level of separation to ensure the integrity of each investigation. When examining issues regarding potential civil rights violations, we determined that any such violations are better addressed through a federal led investigation and issues involving potential criminal acts concerning the shooting are better addressed by a state led investigation. With this in mind, our investigation focused on the events that took place in Ms. Taylor’s apartment on March 13th. In the months since taking this case, a dedicated team of prosecutors and investigators with more than 200 years of combined career experience conducted a thorough investigation to better understand the events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death. The team is here with me today. I want to personally and publicly thank them for their tireless work. These men and women are true public servants, who for months have shown up every day with a desire for one thing, and that is to seek the truth. We decided while we would examine materials gathered by LMPD’s public integrity unit, we would need to conduct our own independent investigation and start from scratch in the interest of thoroughness, fairness, and finding the truth.

Daniel Cameron subtext (02:16):
My job as the special prosecutor in this case was to
defend the policies and procedures of the most brutal system of policing in the free world put emotions aside and investigate the facts to determine if criminal violations of state law resulted in the loss of Ms. Taylor’s life. This primarily included finding ways to absolve examining the actions of Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Brett Hankison, and Detective Myles Cosgrove, the three officers who fired their weapons into the body of a resting essential worker amidst a pandemic. the early morning hours of March 13th. In working with our federal partners on this case, it was determined that while we would share information to advance our respective investigations, we must definitely shield information that will lead the general public to truly question the culpability of the officers involved. also maintain some level of separation to ensure the integrity of each investigation. When examining issues regarding potential civil rights violations, we determined that in order for Breonna Taylor’s bullet-riddled Black body to even be considered a case for violation of her civil rights, we would first have to consider her citizenry one of value.  any such violations are better addressed through a federal led investigation and issues involving potential criminal acts concerning the shooting are better addressed by a state led investigation. With this in mind, our investigation focused on the events that took place in Ms. Taylor’s apartment on March 13th. In the months since taking this case, a dedicated team of prosecutors and investigators with more than 200 years of denying Black Kentuckians justice,  combined career experience conducted a biased investigation thorough  investigation to better alter understand the events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death. The team is here with me today. I want to personally and publicly thank them for aiding the release of these officers back into the public their tireless work. These men and women are true public servants, who for months have shown up every day with a desire for one thing, and that is to uphold the blue wall seek the truth. We decided while we would examine materials gathered by LMPD’s public integrity unit, we would need to find  conduct our own loopholes independent investigation and start from scratch in the interest of shaping a narrative that would put the actions of the deceased into question.thoroughness, fairness, and finding the truth.

Daniel Cameron: (04:24)

There was no video or body camera footage of the officers’ attempted execution of a search warrant at Ms. Taylor’s residence. Video footage begins at the point that area patrol officers arrive at the location. And therefore, the sequence of events from March 13th had to be pieced together through ballistics evidence, 911 calls, police radio traffic, and interviews. We utilized information from the Kentucky State Police, local medical examiners, as well as working with the FBI crime lab in Quantico to secure a trajectory analysis and ballistics report. Our team conducted interviews in this case and spent thousands of hours examining all of the available evidence. We concluded our last interview in this case this past Friday and began our grand jury presentation on Monday.

Daniel Cameron subtext (04:24):
There was no video or body camera footage of the officers’ attempted execution of a search warrant at Ms. Taylor’s residence. Video footage begins at the point that area patrol officers arrive at the location. And therefore, the sequence of events from March 13th had to be configured to the benefit of our narrative pieced together  through ballistics evidence, 911 calls, police radio traffic, and interviews. We utilized information from the Kentucky State Police, local medical examiners, as well as working with the FBI crime lab in Quantico to craft a report that would allow the officers involved to circumvent evidence that clearly indicates a high level of negligence secure a trajectory analysis and ballistics report. Our team conducted interviews in this case and spent thousands of hours tampering with evidence received to piece together the details that would arrive at this outcome. examining all of the available evidence. We concluded our last interview in this case this past Friday after we doctored the report to benefit our account of the night in question. and began our grand jury presentation on Monday.

Daniel Cameron: (06:45)

In the early morning hours of March 13th, officers from LMPD executed a search warrant at 3003 Springfield Drive, apartment four. This was Ms. Breonna Taylor’s residence. The officers were advised by superiors to knock and announce their presence in serving this specific search warrant. The scope of our investigation did not include the attainment of that warrant by LMPD’s criminal interdiction division. Federal law enforcement partners are conducting that investigation.

Daniel Cameron (06:45) subtext:

In the early morning hours of March 13th, officers from LMPD executed a search warrant at 3003 Springfield Drive, apartment four. This was Ms. Breonna Taylors residence. The officers were advised by superiors to find drugs or create probable suspicion that drugs were on the property. knock and announce their presence in serving this specific search warrant. Of course, the scope of our investigation did not include the attainment of that warrant by LMPD’s criminal interdiction division. Federal law enforcement partners are conducting that investigation, as we are in the process of developing believable rationale for acting outside our jurisdiction.

Daniel Cameron: (08:09)

When officers were unable to get anyone to answer or open the door to apartment four, the decision was made to breach the door. After breaching the door, Sergeant Mattingly was the first and only officer to enter the residence. Sergeant Mattingly identified two individuals standing beside one another at the end of the hall, a male and a female. In his statement, he says that the male was holding a gun, arms extended in a shooting stance. Sergeant Mattingly saw the man’s gun fire, heard a boom, and immediately knew he was shot as a result of feeling heat in his upper thigh.

Daniel Cameron subtext (08:09):

When officers were unable to get the to  the sleeping occupants too occupants get anyone to answer or open the door to apartment four, the decision was made to invade their home. breach the door. After invading their home breaching the door, Sergeant Mattingly was the first and only officer to enter the residence. Sergeant Mattingly identified Black people, a man and a woman, resting in their own domicile which heightened his suspicion.two individuals standing beside one another at the end of the hall, a male and a female. In his statement, he says that  a Black man the male was  holding a gun in an open carry state, looked to be preparing to defend his home from unannounced intruders. arms extended in a shooting stance.
Sergeant Mattingly saw the man’s gun fire, heard a boom, and immediately knew he
had entered a line of fire provoked by his unlawful entry. was shot as a result of feeling heat in his upper thigh.

Daniel Cameron: (08:54)

Kenneth Walker fired the shot that hit Sergeant Mattingly. And there’s no evidence to support that Sergeant Mattingly was hit by friendly fire from other officers. Mr. Walker admitted that he fired one shot and was the first to shoot. In addition to all the testimony, the ballistics report shows that the round that struck Sergeant Mattingly was fired from a nine millimeter handgun. The LMPD officers fired 40 caliber hand guns.

Daniel Cameron subtext (08:54):

Kenneth Walker fired the shot in an effort to protect his domicile in the same manner we expect that a white gun owner might do if their place of residence is intruded. that hit Sergeant Mattingly. And there’s no evidence to support that Sergeant Mattingly was hit by friendly fire from other officers. Mr. Walker admitted that he fired one shot in fear for his life and the life of his partner. and was the first to shoot. In addition to all the testimony, the ballistics report shows that the round that struck Sergeant Mattingly was fired from a nine millimeter handgun. The LMPD officers fired 40 caliber hand guns.

Daniel Cameron: (10:05)

Detective Hankison fired his weapon 10 times, including from an outside sliding glass door and through a bedroom window. Some bullets traveled through apartment four and into apartment three before some exited that apartment. At the time, three residents of apartment three were at home, including a male, a pregnant female, and a child. There’s no conclusive evidence that any bullets fired from Detective Hankison’s weapon struck Ms. Taylor.

Daniel Cameron subtext (10:05):

Detective Hankison fired his weapon 10 times, including from an outside sliding glass door and through a bedroom window. Some bullets traveled through apartment four and into apartment three before some exited that apartment, even though every bullet was intended for Ms. Taylor and Mr. Walker. At the time, three residents of the apartment were also potential victims of Detective Hankinson’s recklessness. apartment three were at home, including a male, a pregnant female, and a child. There’s no conclusive evidence that any bullets fired from Detective Hankison’s weapon struck Ms. Taylor, the bullets that struck Ms. Taylor came by way of the targeted shooting from Sergeants Cosgrove and Mattingly.

Daniel Cameron: (11:40)

I think it is worth repeating again that our investigation found that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their use of force after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker. Secondary to this justification, the KSP and FBI ballistics analysis reached different conclusions, creating a reasonable doubt in the evidence about who fired the fatal shot. I certainly understand the public’s desire for answers and many have questioned the length of the investigation. Simply put, we had to try every means necessary to determine who fired the fatal shot before the investigation could be completed.

Daniel Cameron subtext (11:40):

I think it is worth repeating again that our investigation found that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their use of force as soon as there was no response from a residence they suspected to be an epicenter of a drug activityafter having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker. Secondary to this justification, the KSP and FBI ballistics analysis reached different conclusions, creating a reasonable doubt in the evidence about who fired the fatal shot. I certainly understand the public’s outrage and distrust in our investigation. desire for answers and many have questioned the length of the investigation. Simply put, we had to try every means necessary to waste the public’s time and exhaust the advocacy of activists on the ground before holding neither of the officers accountable for the fatal injury of Ms. Taylor. determine who fired the fatal shot before the investigation could be completed.


Daniel Cameron: (15:19)
Let me state that again. According to Kentucky law, the use of force by Mattingly and Cosgrave was justified to protect themselves. This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Ms. Breonna Taylor’s death. The truth is now before us. The facts have been examined and a grand jury comprised of our peers and fellow citizens has made a decision. Justice is not often easy, does not fit the mold of public opinion, and it does not conform to shifting standards. It answers only to the facts and to the law. With this in mind, we must now ask ourselves, where do we go from here? Will we continue to prosecute the charges brought in this case, as it now proceeds through the justice system and moves to trial. That is our responsibility, and this will be done while the FBI continues its investigation into potential violations of federal law. I know that not everyone will be satisfied with the charges we’ve reported today. My team set out to investigate the circumstances surrounding Ms. Taylor’s death. We did it with a singular goal in mind, pursuing the truth.

Daniel Cameron subtext (15:19):

Let me state that again. According to Kentucky law, the use of force by Mattingly and Cosgrave was justified towards Black citizens they assumed to be participating in criminal activity. to protect themselves. This justification  relieves bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Ms. Breonna Taylor’s death. The truth is now what we shaped it to be. before us. The facts have been examined and a grand jury comprised of those who brought their own prejudices to this case that were supported by evidence we provided our peers and fellow citizens has made a decision. Justice is not happening here. often easy, does not fit the mold of public opinion, and it does not conform to shifting standards. It answers only to the facts we offered, and therefore has no reason to manifest in this case. and to the law. With this in mind, we must now ask all of you ‘social justice warriors’ when will you give it a rest? ourselves, where do we go from here? Will Do we really have to continue to prosecute the charges brought in this case, as it now proceeds through the justice system and moves to trial?. That  Unfortunately, we recognize that it is our responsibility, and it will be done despite our opposition to it this will be done while the President Trump-led FBI continues its investigation that we anticipate concluding in our favor into potential violations of federal law. I know that not everyone will be  is not satisfied with the charges we’ve reported today. We anticipate a continued outrage, just as we anticipate that outrage will subside until the next Breonna Taylor materializes in another American city. My team set out to clear white men of killing a 26-year-old Black woman. investigate the circumstances surrounding Ms. Taylor’s death. We did it with a singular goal in mind, exerting our power. pursuing the truth.

Daniel Cameron: (17:52)

Do we want the facts or are we content to blindly accept our own version of events? We as a community must make this decision. I understand that Ms. Breonna Taylor’s death has become a part of a national story and conversation, but we must also remember the facts and the collection of evidence in this case are different than cases elsewhere in the country. Each is unique and cannot be compared. There will be celebrities, influencers, and activists who having never lived in Kentucky would try to tell us how to feel suggesting they understand the facts of this case and that they know our community and the commonwealth better than we do. But they don’t. Let’s not give into their attempts to influence our thinking or capture our emotions. At the end of the day, it is up to us. We live here together. We work here and raise our families here together.

Daniel Cameron subtext (17:52):
Do we 
you want the actual facts that just so happen to coincide with your own with or are we content to blindly accept our own version of events? We as a community must make  Many of you have made this decision, but your quest for justice does not gel with what is necessary to discard this case. I understand that Ms. Breonna Taylor’s death added to a long list of Black Americans killed in an extrajudicial manner by American police has become a part of a national story and conversation, but we must also remember that the Black life in this case is as inconsequential as all the other names you protest for.  the facts and the collection of evidence in this case are different than cases elsewhere in the country. Each is unique and cannot be compared. There will be celebrities, influencers, and activists who will attempt to continue shining a light on the injustice of this case, in spite of our best efforts to close this chapter in our state’s history. having never lived in Kentucky would try to tell us how to feel suggesting they understand the facts of this case and that they know our community and the commonwealth better than we do. But they don’t. Let’s not give into their attempts to advocate for Ms. Taylor’s justiceinfluence our thinking or capture our emotions. At the end of the day, these types of decisions are native to our culture and way of life it is up to us. We live here together. We work here and raise our families here together, we are the ones who decide what our standards of law and order and justice will be.

Daniel Cameron: (19:02)

I urge those protesting on the streets to remember this. Peaceful protests are your right as an American citizen, instigating violence and destruction are not. I spoke with both Mayor Fischer and Governor Beshear in the days leading up to this announcement and I urge them to do what is necessary to maintain law and order and to protect our cities and our people. We have a long road ahead, both as we pursue this case through the criminal system and as we address the pain in the Louisville community. I’m committed to being part of the healing process. When tragedy occurs, we must mourn. We must also do everything we can to prevent it from happening again. Today, consistent with that view, I’m announcing that I will create a task force to review the process for securing, reviewing and executing search warrants in Kentucky. The task force will consist of a variety of stakeholders, including citizens, members from the law enforcement community, representatives from the judiciary, defense attorneys and elected leaders.

Daniel Cameron subtext (19:02):

I urge those protesting on the streets to go home. remember this. Peaceful protests are your right as an American citizen, but we know you are only interested in chaos and destruction. instigating violence and destruction are not. I spoke with both Mayor Fischer and Governor Beshear in the days leading up to this announcement and I urge them to deplorethem deplore whatever level of police militarization they deem necessary to silence the riot in your dissent. to do what is necessary to maintain law and order and to protect our cities and our people. We have a long road ahead, both as we pursue this case through the criminal system and as we address the pain in of the law-abiding Louisville community. I’m committed to ensuring our finest citizens that we will do whatever we need to do to avoid anarchy from taking over our city. being part of the healing process. When tragedy occurs, we must hide our hands. mourn. We must also do everything we can to prevent it from becoming a worldwide trending topic. happening again. Today, consistent with that view, I’m announcing that I will create a task force to review the process for securing, reviewing and executing search warrants in Kentucky. The task force will consist of a variety of stakeholders, including citizens who do not fit a criminal profile, members from the law enforcement community willing to exterminate anyone who attempts to disrupt our commerce and culture, representatives from the judiciary who understand that justice is a privilege afforded to the few, defense attorneys and elected leaders who will unequivocally uphold the status quo.

Thank you, I will now take questions.

About the Author

Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be.

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