Fresh protests were expected in Louisville and elsewhere in America on Thursday as public anger and sadness continued to ripple out from the Kentucky city in the wake of the announcement that no police officers would be charged directly with the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in March.
The civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, speaking on behalf of Taylor’s relatives, said the family was “outraged, they were insulted and they were, mostly, offended” by the conclusion of a grand jury in Kentucky on Wednesday.
The grand jury decided to indict on relatively minor charges just one out of three white police officers who barged into the 26-year-old African American medical worker’s apartment in March, during an investigation not directly involving her, and killing her in a hail of bullets.
The one police officer to be indicted, Brett Hankison, was charged with wanton endangerment, not for the killing of Taylor but for firing recklessly when he was still outside the apartment and causing bullets to penetrate into neighbors’ apartments, putting them at risk.
Crump expressed further outrage that the charges related, also, to endangered white neighbors while ignoring a Black neighbor who was also put at risk from bullets fired by the officers.
“What did the Kentucky attorney general present to the grand jury? Did he present any evidence for Breonna Taylor and, if so, what was it to get an outcome like this?” he told NBC’s Today program on Thursday.
Protests occurred in several major cities across the US on Wednesday night, including New York, Washington, Chicago, Milwaukee and Cincinnati, and marchers demonstrated in Louisville, as they have done for 120 days.
In bursts of confrontation with police in Louisville later in the evening, 127 people were arrested and two police officers were shot and injured.
Larynzo Johnson, a 26-year-old Louisville man, was arrested near the scene minutes later and on Thursday was facing charges of first-degree assault of a police officer and wanton endangerment.
Witnesses at the demonstration have reported many members of the public, including protesters and counter-protesters, carrying firearms, which is legal in the state but has heightened tensions.
A curfew put into effect in Louisville on Wednesday was set to continue on Thursday, as nationwide, outpourings of anger continued at what many see as a lack of justice for Taylor.
The Democratic vice-presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, tweeted: “Tonight, I’m thinking of Breonna Taylor’s family who is still grieving the loss of a daughter and sister. We must never stop speaking Breonna’s name as we work to reform our justice system, including overhauling no-knock warrants.”
Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, has been taking a lot of heat and demands for transparency on what evidence was presented to the grand jury, which in the US is a group of citizens authorized by law to hold legal proceedings and investigate potential crimes. They hear evidence, presented to them by prosecutors, and take testimony from witnesses behind closed doors and determine whether criminal charges should be brought in a case.
He said there was a public witness and police statements that they did announce themselves before breaking into Taylor’s apartment, where Taylor was asleep in bed.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was there, said he had no warning and thought intruders were breaking in. He had a gun and fired one shot, which hit one of the officers, though not Hankison.
All three officers then opened fire. Walker was not hit but Taylor was hit by at least five bullets and died.
Hankison was arrested on Wednesday. The other two officers, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, were not charged.
Crump said on Thursday that there was a lack of fairness in the charges. “They had wanton endangerment for the white neighbor’s apartment, the bullets going there. But not for the bullets going into Breonna Taylor’s body. Nor … for the bullets that went into the Black neighbor’s apartment above Breonna,” he said.
He added: “Breonna’s family would love to see the grand jury transcript to see if there was any evidence presented for Breonna Taylor’s perspective. Nothing seems to say that Breonna mattered.”
Basketball superstar LeBron James tweeted that he was devastated and angry.
“I’ve been lost for words today! I’m devastated, hurt, sad, mad! We want justice for Breonna yet justice was met for her neighbors’ apartment walls and not her beautiful life. Was I surprised at the verdict. Absolutely not but damnit I was and still am hurt and heavy hearted,” he wrote.
He further tweeted that the “most disrespected person on earth is the Black woman”, adding: “I promise you I’ll do my best to change this as much as I can and even more!! LOVE to you QUEENS all over this country and beyond!”
The Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, tweeted: “Even amidst the profound grief & anger today’s decision generated, violence is never & can never be the answer. Those who engage in it must be held accountable. Jill & I are keeping the officers shot tonight in Louisville in our prayers. We wish them both a swift & full recovery.”
Biden and Harris also called for police reforms, saying the country should start by addressing excessive force, banning chokeholds and overhauling “no-knock” warrants. There is a federal civil rights investigation underway.
The Texas representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a longstanding member of the congressional committee on the judiciary, described the outcome of Taylor’s case as “shameful”.
While calling for protests to remain peaceful, she told CNN on Thursday: “It is very obvious to us that there was a grave injustice. This cries out for a civil rights investigation. The FBI needs to do its job because people are in pain, and they have a right to be in pain.”
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said justice was denied that Taylor was “murdered by the police”.