Two out of three officers not indicted in Breonna Taylor case
Crusader Staff Report
The National Guard is on alert in Chicago as a grand jury in Louisville announced that two out of three officers will not face charges for an early morning raid last March that killed Breonna Taylor.
However, former detective Brett Hankison was indicted on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove were not indicted.
After the city waited days for the decision, Judge Annie O’Connell on Wednesday, September 23, said that Hankison “wantonly shot a gun” into three apartments. A wanton endangerment charge is a class D felony and carries a penalty of one to five years in prison. The judge set a $15,000 cash bond for Hankison. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
The decision is being viewed as a defeat for activists and the Taylor family, who wanted the officers charged with murder and manslaughter.
The decision came days after Louisville prepared for the worst in a case that has rocked the city in the last several months, calling for the officers’ termination and justice for Taylor.
On Tuesday, September 22, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker put the Illinois National Guard into a “state of readiness” in the event of any unrest in Chicago or in other parts of the state.
“The governor and [Chicago Mayor Lori] Lightfoot met this morning and are in regular communication, and the governor has spoken with leaders across the state,” according to a statement from the governor’s office. “As the governor has always said, all the state’s resources are available to municipalities if needed, and this includes additional Illinois State Police troopers and the National Guard.”
The statement also said that additional Illinois State Police troopers will also be available if needed in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision, and “The governor is putting the Guard in a state of readiness to ensure they are available if municipalities request their assistance.”
Like many big cities across the country, Chicago has been rocked with protests and looting after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other unarmed Blacks who died at the hands of police. The protests have damaged businesses that were already hurting from the coronavirus pandemic. Many have kept their windows boarded up throughout the summer. Many Walgreens stores in Black neighborhoods have not reopened since they were looted in May. That month, Lightfoot was criticized for allowing looters to raid businesses on the South and West sides while protecting others in Chicago’s downtown.
On Tuesday, many businesses that the Crusader visited on the South Side kept operating as normal. But 299 miles away in Kentucky, Louisville remained in a state of emergency. The city’s downtown was on lockdown and swarms of police officers stood watch in anticipation of the grand jury’s decision. On Tuesday night, despite road closings and barricades set up throughout the area, several protesters met downtown at their usual gathering spot in Jefferson Square Park, leading chants of “Whose street? Our street” and “You can’t stop the revolution.”
With growing fears of widespread property damage following the announcement, Mayor Lightfoot joined Pritzker and others who called on those who did take to the streets to do so peacefully. She also called on the entire city to join her in a moment of silence Wednesday night in hopes that would assist in keeping the potential crowds calm.
“Breonna Taylor’s family has consistently called for peace and urged people who are acting in her name to do so in a way that builds—not destroys—community. Come out on your front porch, stand in your yard or on your sidewalk or wherever you are, but please do it at 7 p.m. tonight and take a moment of silence and reflection in her name,” Lightfoot said. “Afterward, I encourage you to say her name.”
Lightfoot’s mayoral election competitor, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, also called on all those who took action to do so peacefully, pleading that anything other than that would only hurt the goal of justice.
“While many of us are deeply disappointed, discouraged and confused by the decision today, we must stay focused. Now is not the time for violence. Protest if you’re moved to do so. Peaceful protest is powerful,” Preckwinkle said. “However, we cannot meet the violence of police with violence of our own. It gives ammunition to those who do not share our vision of racial justice.”
One Chicago protest was led by Father Michael Pfleger of Saint Sabina Church. Pfleger called on continued action in pushing for justice and demanded that laws change on each level of government.
“Wanton endangerment – that’s no different than taking a gun and shooting it into the air, that’s wanton endangerment,” Pfleger said just before leading a protest Wednesday evening. “Somebody died! Breonna Taylor died! Nobody gave a damn in the government or in law enforcement that she died. But we are here because we care.”
Pfleger also called for a change in the police contract that allows for the protection of officers who are accused of wrongdoing.
“Police are too protected in this country,” Pfleger said. “When the police do wrong, they’ve got to go to jail. Right now in the city of Chicago there is a police contract being made with the police union and we want to make sure that the community has a say on what’s in that contract, because they are too protected in this city and in this country. We need that changed.”
Last March, three plainclothes Louisville police officers entered Taylor’s apartment on a “no-knock search warrant,” and they were fired at by Taylor’s boyfriend, who has argued that police did not identify themselves before breaking into the apartment.
Louisville police say the officers did identify themselves. Officers were at the apartment executing warrants for Taylor’s ex-boyfriend for alleged drug dealing, as he’d been seen at her apartment on numerous occasions prior to her death.
The officers fired more than 20 shots during an exchange of gunfire, and Taylor was struck eight times.
Her death, along with the death of Floyd, sparked anger and protests across the United States, including in Chicago. In late May, protests in the city over Floyd’s death took place, with looting occurring in the city’s downtown area after the demonstrations.
In June of this year, Officer Brett Hankison was fired for his actions during the raid, and the city of Louisville recently settled a lawsuit with Taylor’s family, paying out $12 million and vowing to enact police reforms.
In Chicago, the city says it is prepared to deal with any issues related to the Taylor decision. During previous times of unrest, city officials ordered bridges lifted and access to downtown restricted to residents and workers only to help prevent a repeat of the looting that took place in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.
The information in this story is up to date at the time of publication Wednesday, September 23, 2020. Any update to the story can be found at chicagocrusader.com.