By Stephen G. Hall, Phd
There has been a continuous assault on the lives of Black people, which has led to protest and outrage all over the nation. While much of the focus is on Black men, we seem to forget that Black women have borne the brunt of these assaults. We must understand that Black Women’s Lives Matter. Essential worker Breonna Taylor, 26, was an ER technician working at two hospitals in the Louisville area. She previously worked as a certified EMT. Family members describe her as “hardworking” and “honest.” Her plans were to become a nurse until her murder at the hands of the police.
From Sandra Bland to Korryn Gaines to Breonna Taylor, the lives of Black women are viewed as dispensable and disposable. Similar to Ahmaud Arbery the Breonna Taylor case was almost buried and forgotten due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The combination of desensitization to the senseless loss of Black life and a no-knock warrant led to the death of a Black woman in her home.
According to police, two warrants were issued for two separate residences ten miles apart on March 13th. The no knock search warrants were granted for an ongoing drug investigation that consisted of several properties, including Taylor’s home and car. The police arrived at Taylor’s residence to execute the warrant. They claimed to have knocked multiple times receiving no response. The police then used a battering ram to enter the residence. This claim was disputed by neighbors and witnesses, who reported the police never identified themselves or responded to shouting by Taylor and Kenneth Walker, her boyfriend.
As the police entered, Walker approached the front door and fired unknowingly on the officers. He discharged one bullet at the intruders injuring an officer. Officers returned a volley of gunshots. Walker’s attorney described the exchange as a “hail of police bullets.” More than 25 bullets penetrated every part of the house going into upstairs and adjacent apartments. Eight rounds struck Taylor, she died in under five minutes after the police entered her home. No drugs were recovered from the home. Walker was subsequently arrested for attempted murder of an officer. He was placed on home incarceration for a period of two months. A furor arose in the community to release him from house arrest and drop the criminal charges against him.
These events led to a public outcry. Demands for police accountability were swift. Louisville’s mayor announced on May 20th that the Public Integrity Unit had submitted an investigative file to the office of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron. The Attorney general’s office will now determine what charges the officers will face. The FBI announced it will open an independent investigation into the case.
Nine days after the death of Breonna Taylor, on May 22nd, Louisville Prosecutor Tom Wine, who initially recused himself from the case, announced that criminal charges against Walker would be dropped. In light of Taylor’s murder, policies within the Louisville Police Department have begun to change relating to no knock warrant and body cameras. The courts will provide judicial scrutiny of no knock warrants. Officers will also be required to utilize body cameras when serving warrants. The mayor has also called for the creation of a working group of community and criminal justice leaders to create stronger civilian review of the police department.
Activists and protestors have pointed out the injustice of this situation. On Thursday night May 27th, seven protestors were shot while protesting the murder. The protests continued unabated stoked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday, May 25th. With escalating daily protests, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear mobilized the National Guard to maintain the peace.
Black Women’s Lives Matter. Breonna Taylor’s Life Matters. We must do all we can to keep her memory alive.
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Previously published on Historianspeaks.org.
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