$12 Million Settlement Against Louisville, Kentucky
by Ed Lyon
A settlement with family was reached in the death of Breonna Taylor of Kentucky, an unarmed Black woman who was killed when undercover Louisville Metro police “blindly” fired 10 rounds into her apartment on March 13, 2020, the result of a botched raid that began as Taylor and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker were sleeping. [See August 2020 CLN, p.48.]
The family’s lawsuit, resolved in mid-September 2020, cites battery, wrongful death, excessive force, and gross negligence. Taylor received no medical attention for more than 20 minutes after she was wounded, dispatch logs reveal, The Courier Journal reports.
Taylor was an emergency medical technician who battled for victims of the novel coronavirus before she became the victim of a no-knock warrant by overzealous cops.
The Taylor case got more exposure after the May 2020 killing of George Floyd. The video of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Officer Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes brought awareness to the everyday perils Black citizens face from police. Her death set off protests across the world along with Floyd’s.
Representing Taylor’s family were Lonita Baker and Benjamin Crump, who brought a civil rights deprivation and wrongful death suit against Louisville and the Metro police (“LMPD”). A settlement between the parties was reached six months and two days after Taylor’s death.
The $12 million settlement was negotiated by Baker, Crump, Mike O’Connell, and Sam Aguiar. The closest settlement amount to that was $8.5 million awarded to a Louisville man in a 2012 wrongful conviction suit, compensating him for spending nine years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
The really meaningful parts of the Taylor settlement were the dozen-plus police reforms the parties agreed on. The city banned no-knock warrants and must ensure that they will not return. Body cameras must be worn by police during all future raids. The LMPD must develop a system to cull problem cops from the department. Police leadership must approve all future search warrants. Emergency medical personnel must be present at all future raids. Monetary credit toward housing will be paid to officers who agree to live in areas of the city they normally patrol. All officers will perform two hours of community service weekly with pay.
Investigations against the officers involved in Taylor’s death continue, but as of October 26, only one of the officers involved has been charged.
Former Detective Brett Hankison, who was fired for “wantonly and blindly” firing his weapon outside Taylor’s apartment and through a patio door, pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for endangering the lives of people in a neighboring apartment, the only charges that were filed by a grand jury reviewing the 26-year-old woman’s death. “Neither Hankison nor the two other officers involved in the fatal police shooting were charged directly with Taylor’s death,” reports cbsnews.com, but the other two officers were placed on administrative leave.
On October 2, recordings of the grand jury investigation were released. The investigation uncovered “more than 250 videos and more than 4,000 pages of documents,” cbsnews.com reports.
Sources: ABC Nightly News, cbsnews.com, theguardian.com, vice.com, courier-journal.com