A Louisville police officer was charged Wednesday with three counts of “wanton endangerment” in connection with the shooting of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman whose name has become a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Judge Annie O’Connell announced the charges brought by a grand jury against Detective Brett Hankison, one of three police officers involved in the fatal shooting in March.
No charges were filed against the other two officers and the grand jury findings immediately sparked street protests in Louisville, the scene of weeks of anti-racism demonstrations.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Taylor family, condemned the grand jury decision.
“3 counts of Wanton Endangerment in 1st Degree for bullets that went into other apartments but NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor,” Crump said on Twitter. “This is outrageous and offensive!”
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the grand jury charges as “not accountability and not close to justice.”
“This is the manifestation of what the millions of people who have taken to the streets to protest police violence already know: Modern policing and our criminal legal system are rotten to the core,” the ACLU said.
Hankison, who has been fired from the police department, was not charged for shooting Taylor but for shots that he fired into adjoining apartments, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said.
“I know that not everyone will be satisfied with the charges reported today,” Cameron said. “Every person has an idea of what they think justice is.”
Taylor, an emergency room technician, was shot dead in her apartment when three plainclothes police officers turned up at her door to execute a search warrant.
Cameron said reports that the officers had executed a “no knock” search warrant were incorrect and they had announced their presence.
“They did knock and announce,” he said. “That information was corroborated by another witness.”
Taylor’s boyfriend, who was in bed with her, grabbed a gun and exchanged fire with the officers. He later said he thought they were criminals.
The officers, who had not activated their body cameras as required, shot Taylor multiple times, killing her. A police sergeant was wounded.
Cameron said Hankison had not fired the fatal shoots and the two other officers who opened fire had done so in self-defense.
He said Hankison could face five years in prison for each count of “wanton endangerment” if convicted.
The city of Louisville settled a wrongful death suit with Taylor’s family for $12 million last week.
A state of emergency has been declared by the mayor of the city, which has a population of 600,000, with much of downtown closed to traffic.
Some downtown business owners boarded up their shops in anticipation of unrest sparked by the grand jury decision.
Louisville police chief Robert Schroeder said the authorities would not tolerate any “violence or destruction of property.”
“We are prepared to meet any challenge we may face,” Schroeder said, calling for demonstrators to protest “peacefully and lawfully.”
The civil settlement with Taylor’s family reflected the public pressure and emotion surrounding her death, which came about two months before that of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Floyd’s death triggered protests across the US against racial injustice and police brutality.