'Please continue to say her name': Louisville to pay $12m to Breonna Taylor family and implement police reforms

City reaches historic settlement with ‘comprehensive reform’ six months after police killing of 26-year-old black woman as demand grows for criminal charges

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 15 September 2020 21:32 BST
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Breonna Taylor's mother announces $12m lawsuit from Louisville
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The city of Louisville, Kentucky will pay $12m to the family of Breonna Taylor and commit to police reform and transparency measures to settle a civil lawsuit filed in the wake of the police killing of the 26-year-old black woman in her apartment.

“Her death has ignited a movement in Louisville and in the nation for racial justice, sending thousands into our streets and cities across the country and world all crying out for justice for Breonna," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced on Tuesday.

In a lawsuit filed in April, Ms Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer alleged that police relied on flawed information using a "no-knock" warrant to enter her apartment. Ms Taylor's boyfriend fired at what he thought were intruders, and police killed Ms Taylor while returning fire.

None of the three officers involved at the scene wore body-mounted cameras. No criminal charges have been filed.

Officer Brett Hankinson was fired three months after her death for "wantonly and blindly" firing 10 rounds into her apartment, according to then-interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder.

The warrant was one of several involved with a drug-trafficking case, but a suspect was arrested more than 10 miles from Ms Taylor’s apartment the same night she was killed.

Kentucky’s attorney general Daniel Cameron is investigating Ms Taylor’s killing, and the FBI has also opened an investigation, as demand grows with a familiar refrain to “arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor”.

“We must not lose focus on what the real job is," Ms Palmer said a press conference on Tuesday. "It’s time to move forward with the criminal charges, because she deserves that and much more.”

She asked supporters to “please continue to say her name”, echoing a phrase from protests heard around the world demanding justice after her death.

Lonita Baker, an attorney for Ms Taylor’s estate, said “justice for Breonna Taylor is multi-layered”.

“We’re not going to stop our cause to hold the officers responsible for Breonna’s death accountable,” she said.

Signs used during protests and rallies are displayed at a memorial for Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
Signs used during protests and rallies are displayed at a memorial for Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. (REUTERS)

Following her death, the city’s police chief was fired over the department’s mishandling of a fatal shooting at a protest, and Louisville’s city council passed “Breonna’s law” banning no-knock warrants.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Ms Taylor’s life “will not be swept under the rug, like so many other black women in America who have been killed by police, marginalised”.

“It is not just the historic $12m settlement,” one of the largest paid out for a black woman killed by police in the US, he said. “But the comprehensive reform the Louisville Metro Council and Mayor Fischer put forth is equally important, because this is about setting a precedent."

The mayor said the settlement isn’t an admission of wrongdoing; several measures were put in place following outcry after her death, including requiring officers to wear body cameras.

As part of the settlement, the city will impose an early-warning system for officers whose conduct should raise departmental red flags. Several women alleged Mr Hankinson had sexually assaulted them,  and he has been under investigation for excessive force.

The city’s police department will also end a "closed by exception" rule that effectively ends investigations into officers if they retire or quit the force.

Another measure would rely on social workers to assist officers to prevent unnecessary police intervention.

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