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Dahleen Glanton: The shooting of Breonna Taylor wasn't just tragic. It was criminal

By Dahleen Glanton, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Op Eds

Police burst into Breonna Taylor's home in the middle of the night and killed her, though she had done nothing wrong.

Lots of people are emotional about that. They have a right to be.

Nearly everyone agrees that her death was tragic. However, some don't understand that it was also criminal. The officers responsible should have been indicted.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron would have us believe that he had no choice but allow her killers to walk free.

"According to Kentucky law, the use of force by (the officers) was justified to protect themselves. This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Ms. Breonna Taylor's death," he said at a news conference on Sept. 23.

That's a lie. Kentucky law did not bar the state from pursuing criminal charges.

Cameron inaccurately implied that state law required that the shooting be deemed justifiable, given the circumstances. But he made that decision, apparently before taking the case to the grand jury.

The question of whether the officers properly used force is subjective. Many would argue that firing 32 rounds into Taylor's apartment on March 13 was excessive force, which is common when Black suspects are involved.

At the very least, one or more of the officers could have been charged with second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide under Kentucky law.

The officers were negligent in killing Taylor. She didn't have a gun. She was never a threat. Yet she is the one who was shot.

In such matters, the law always is left to interpretation. A trial jury should be allowed to hear the evidence and decide. Cameron, in pushing his one-sided theory to the grand jury, denied Taylor the opportunity to make her case in court.

Cameron said that his job as special prosecutor was to "put emotions aside and investigate the facts."

But after a series of senseless police killings across the country, more people have become emotionally invested and are looking at these cases more clearly. Cameron's lack of emotional investment narrowed his view.

His statement suggests that those who abhor the decision not to bring charges are reacting emotionally and nonsensically. It implies that those mourning Taylor's death are instinctively wrong - that they cannot possibly understand what happened because they are blinded by distrust, even hatred, for the police.

More troubling is the suggestion that only those who agree that the cops were justified in killing Taylor are correct because their lack of emotional investment allows them to look at the "facts" objectively, devoid of inherent bias or jaded perspective.

That is not only ridiculous, but irrational and condescending.

Taylor's story, laid out in an exhaustive piece in The New York Times on Aug. 30 and the accompanying streamed documentary, belies the illogical premise some have that Taylor somehow played a role in her own death.

Cameron's well-spoken presentation on the national stage last week was meticulously carried out. Those who don't know the whole story or understand how authorities routinely twist the facts to justify an outcome could have easily been taken in.

Taylor was a trained EMT who wanted to be a nurse, but her life was also imperfect. Like many 26-year-olds, she was still trying to find her way to becoming the woman she was meant to be.

She hooked up with a no-good boyfriend, a drug dealer who stayed in trouble with the law. She knew that he was bad news, but her emotional ties to him were so strong that she couldn't think clearly. He realized that and took advantage of her.

She let him use her mailing address because he had no real place of his own. She allowed him to drive her car. When he went to jail, she bailed him out. It's the kind of thing too many young women think they're supposed to do for their man.

 

Taylor made mistakes, but her life cannot be used to justify her death.

Hours before she was killed, she and her current boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, a good guy whom she had thought about marrying and having children with, was at her place watching a movie in bed.

She had no idea that police were watching her apartment, waiting to conduct a drug raid. Why should she?

She wasn't a drug dealer. There were no drugs inside her home. She had broken up with her drug-dealing boyfriend and moved on with her life. She didn't have a criminal record. She had no reason to imagine that police officers would burst into her apartment in the middle of the night.

So when they heard someone banging on the door shortly after midnight, they jumped out of bed and got dressed.

The couple kept yelling, "Who is it?" They never heard an answer. The officers claimed they shouted, "Police. Please come to the door." You can believe that cops conducting a dangerous drug raid would be that polite if you wish.

Fearing it might be the ex-boyfriend, Walker grabbed his gun and the two of them walked down the hallway, where they encountered Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly. Walker, who had never fired his weapon outside a gun range, shot at the suspected intruder.

Cameron claims that Walker shot Mattingly in the knee. However, Walker's attorney said the ballistics report by the state police does not support that assertion, indicating that fellow cops firing from three directions could have shot Mattingly.

In the hail of gunfire, Taylor was shot six times. Detective Brett Hankison fired 10 shots blindly through a window and a sliding glass patio door. But Cameron says one of the 16 shots Detective Myles Cosgrove fired from the doorway killed her.

It is unlikely that malice was involved in Taylor's shooting, so first-degree murder would be difficult to prove. But this was a classic case of second-degree manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter as it is commonly known.

It is the same law that would apply to someone who fired into a crowd of people and killed an innocent bystander.

In this case, Taylor was an innocent bystander in her own home. She did nothing wrong. She didn't have a gun. She never fired at those officers. She died before knowing why they were there in the first place.

Others argue that it was at the very least, reckless homicide. That occurs, for example, when someone decides to drag race through a residential neighborhood and his or her car swerves out of control and strikes a pedestrian.

It is likely that the barrage of bullets, some of them fired aimlessly, were meant for Taylor's boyfriend, who had the gun. Perhaps the cops would have been more justified in shooting Walker, though he thought he was firing in self-defense.

But there was absolutely no justification for shooting Taylor.

She was killed because the cops messed up. It was a botched drug raid from start to finish.

___

ABOUT THE WRITER

Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

(c)2020 Chicago Tribune, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
 

 

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