Today, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that the grand jury declined to indict officers Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, and indicted Detective Brett Hankison on charges of first-degree wanton endangerment. No charges related directly to the murder of Breonna Taylor will be brought against the officers who killed her. Our hearts go out to her family who, like so many other families, will not see justice done. This failure to indict casts light on how the entire system of policing and criminal justice is designed to reduce the likelihood that cops will ever have to account for their actions.
And yet, while we are deeply disappointed in this decision, we are not surprised by it. At every stage of this process, the value of Breonna’s life was an afterthought to law enforcement: From the morning of March 13th when the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department (LMPD) officers needlessly put her life in danger by firing over 20 rounds into her apartment while executing a no-knock warrant, to the failure of the officers to provide emergency assistance as Breonna lay dying, to the city’s baseless attempts to assassinate her character.
While predictable and shameful, perhaps the most insulting dimension of today’s decision is that after 194 days of demands to Say Her Name, the two-page indictment against Brett Hankison for wanton endangerment does not mention Breonna’s name at all. With the world watching, Attorney General Cameron announced that what was long delayed will be denied outright—there will be neither justice for Breonna’s family, nor accountability among the officers who took an innocent woman’s life. Instead, her death has been labeled “a tragedy” for which no one is to be held accountable. This decision extends the business-as-usual disregard of Black life to yet another gut-wrenching case of a Black woman cut down by police practices that would not be tolerable if they disproportionately endangered the lives of their white women.
While it is noteworthy that the city has settled with Taylor’s family and has agreed to some reforms, a settlement is not and cannot be a substitute for accountability and justice. So long as cities and police departments can pay their way out of misconduct, Black women's vulnerability will simply be seen as the cost of doing business. But the price of racist, violent policing is measured not in dollars and cents, but in stolen lives and shattered families. Justice requires dismantling the systems that allow police to terrorize, brutalize, and kill Black people.
Though we are dismayed by the decision not to bring charges, we recognize that simply prosecuting the cops who murdered Breonna Taylor is not enough. We must continue to address and challenge the broader systemic conditions that enable the kind of policing that predictably imperils Black bodies to continue. There can be neither justice nor peace until police violence, and white supremacist violence in all its forms, is stamped out.
We will continue to lift up Breonna Taylor's name, share the story of her life, and demand justice for her and every other Black woman whose life has been cut short by state violence. We will continue to fight for a world in which Black women are free from the twin terrors of racism and sexism -- for a world in which Black women can sleep in their own homes and live their own lives without fear of being killed.
Enough is enough. Justice is long overdue.