Seeking justice for Breonna Taylor: Essential health worker killed by police
Breonna Taylor. | Courtesy of Ben Crump and the Taylor family

The actual suspect was already in police custody, but that didn’t stop officers from allegedly opening fire and shooting Breonna Taylor eight times. It was March 13 in Louisville, Kentucky when the young Black woman Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician (EMT), was shot and killed. The police who raided her home were executing a search warrant as part of a drug investigation, but no drugs were found in the property. It would later be reported that police were looking for someone else and that person had already been arrested at his home in a separate raid shortly before the shooting.

Two months later, and still, no one has been charged with Breonna’s death.

Since that time, Taylor’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking accountability in her killing. The lawsuit states that Breonna and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, thought their apartment was being robbed when the boyfriend fired his gun in self defense. The lawsuit charges that the officers who entered the apartment did not announce who they were and began “blindly firing” over 20 shots into the home.

Louisville police are telling the press a different story. They claimed that shots were only fired by police after one officer was shot and injured in the incident. At a press conference held shortly after the killing, Lt. Ted Eidem claimed that police had knocked several times on the apartment door announcing “their presence as police who were there with a search warrant.” Eidem then claimed that the officers were “ immediately met by gunfire” upon entering the apartment.

Taylor’s family has enlisted the help of civil rights attorney Ben Crump to seek some form of justice in Breonna’s untimely passing. Crump is no stranger to cases such as these, having represented the families of other fallen young Black people, such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and currently Ahmaud Arbery.

Crump referred to Arbery’s death as a “lynching,” and in a recent press conference called Breonna’s death an “execution.” “With Ahmaud, you can’t jog while Black, but Breonna Taylor was sleeping while Black in the sanctity of her own home.”

Although police claim they knocked and announced who they were before entering the apartment, Breonna’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and the attorneys representing the family are questioning that story. The family states they were told that officers had a “no knock” warrant, which doesn’t explain why the officers claimed they had announced themselves before entering the home.

“It really just looks like they are so desperate to cover this up, and it’s why getting the truth, in this case, is so important,” Sam Aguiar, another attorney representing Taylor’s family, said to the press.

Since the shooting, Breonna’s boyfriend, whose attorney asserts he is also the victim of police misconduct, was arrested and charged with attempted murder of a police officer. On a recent episode of the TV program “The View,” Crump explained that Walker had a license to possess a gun and had even called police thinking he and Breonna were about to be the victims of a home invasion.

Walker pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him and is currently out on bond under home incarceration.

The officers involved, Det. Myles Cosgrove, Det. Brent Hankison, and Sgt. John Mattingly, have been placed on administrative reassignment while under investigation. Mattingly, who was injured with a gunshot wound to the leg, is expected to make a full recovery.

Breonna Taylor is dead, and none of these officers have been brought up on charges. Crump explained further in his interview on “The View” that often when Black women are the victims of police misconduct, they “don’t get as much attention as Black men and boys” who deal with similar struggles.

Crump’s assertion points to a very real problem when it comes to the inequality Black women face when dealing with the criminal justice system and law enforcement. Black girls are 14% of the general population nationally, but 33.2% of the girls who are detained and committed in juvenile justice systems. African-American women are three times more likely to be in prison than white women.

The list of Black women assaulted, dying, or wrongfully imprisoned due to systemic intersecting racism and misogyny include names such as Sandra Bland, Masonique Saunders, Meagan Hockaday, Atatiana Jefferson, and many more.

When reports of the incident first came out, Breonna was referred to as a “suspect,” with speculation made about whether she too was armed at the time of her death. When Black women, often on the frontlines of progress and change, are criminalized and their rights disenfranchised, it is a blow to everyone’s struggle for life and liberty.

Breonna worked as an EMT at two hospitals with plans on becoming a nurse. She was an essential worker in a time when so many working people are risking their health to help during the pandemic.

In an emotional interview with the Washington Post, Breonna’s mother explained that her worries for her daughter were mainly regarding her work in the hospitals and that she never thought her child would lose her life in the way she did. “She [Breonna] was an essential worker. She had to go to work. She didn’t have a problem with that.”

Breonna’s sister Ju’Niyah Palmer, is leading the charge on social media, urging people to use the hashtag #JusticeForBre to bring more awareness to the case.

Breonna’s family is fighting for a jury trial as well as punitive and compensatory damages. California Sen. Kamala Harris is also demanding that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the shooting.


Chauncey K. Robinson
Chauncey K. Robinson

Chauncey K. Robinson is an award winning journalist and film critic. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong love for storytelling and history. She believes narrative greatly influences the way we see the world, which is why she's all about dissecting and analyzing stories and culture to help inform and empower the people.