Breonna Taylor Remembered by Loved Ones on What Would Have Been Her 28th Birthday
Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police in Louisville, Ky., on March 13, 2020
Tyrone Bell will never forget the moment he was in a Michigan hospital in the summer of 2019 when his niece, Breonna Taylor, an emergency room technician, showed up.
"She came in the hospital freaking out like, 'Where is my uncle?,'" he tells PEOPLE. "She was like, 'Did y'all check him for this? Did y'all check that?' Just giving these people the third-degree about their job, and I was just lying there laughing. Just a proud uncle moment. She was really good at what she did."
Taylor, who lived in Louisville, was trying to get Bell to move from Michigan to Kentucky to be closer to her and their family.
"She just kept saying, 'You got to move down here with us,'" says Bell. "'Come on as soon as you get out of the hospital. We got to take care of you.'"
Bell did relocate, but it didn't happen until after his niece's death.
On March 13, 2020, Taylor was in her apartment with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, when shortly after midnight, Louisville Metro Police officers executing a "no-knock" warrant charged through her front door.
Taylor was shot six times. One of the bullets that struck her was fatal and killed her within two minutes.
Police were executing a search warrant for an investigation into a suspected drug dealer, who police alleged had once retrieved a package at Taylor's home. But the suspected drug dealer didn't live in her building — and had, in fact, just been arrested at a different location. No drugs were found in Taylor's apartment.
Taylor's shooting sparked months of protests in the city, and her name joined those of others invoked across the country by protesters seeking justice for Black victims of alleged bias or police brutality — among them Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, George Floyd in Minnesota and Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
"It makes me feel good that she's helping to change the world and it also makes me feel good that other people are coming to stand in solidarity with us and knowing that at the end of the day, right is right, wrong is wrong," her close friend, Alena Battle, tells PEOPLE.
"I believe her legacy is going to be known for bringing the community together," says Trina Curry, Taylor's cousin. "A lot of people are saying her name. Even though she's no longer here, she's everywhere. And to me, that just means that she's around me every day."
Her face is on murals, statues, hats and T-shirts across the country.
"That's the bittersweet part," says Bell. "At the same time, it's like, 'Wow, look at baby.' But then it's like, 'Why did it have to be like this for her to be known like that?' But she is making a difference in the world, so I guess some positivity can come out of it."
"When I see her, I see strength, I see power," says Curry. "I see love, I see compassion. I see someone that would just go to the end of the world and fight whatever battles for her family. She was that. She was beautiful."
Since her death, "no- knock" warrants have been banned in Louisville, and the city hired a new police chief and reached a $12 million settlement with Taylor's mother.
But no charges relating to her death have ever been filed against the officers, some of whom were fired.
"I know good things have come from it but I don't feel like true justice will be served until the people collectively will be held responsible," says Battle. "I feel like at the end of the day accountability has to take place in order for this to not happen to somebody else's family."
Had Taylor survived, she would have turned 28 on June 5.
"She was the rock to hold everyone together," says Curry. "So it's been very challenging with her being gone."
"I don't have anybody to give me those little short motivational speeches anymore," says Bell. "It's rough."
To commemorate her birthday, events are scheduled around Louisville, including a party.
"She loved to have fun, and she loved for her family to come together and celebrate everything," says Bell. "So, we are going to do that for her."
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Curry hopes that on June 5, everyone will celebrate Taylor.
"She liked to go out and party, just to celebrate life, another year," she says. "Anyone that knew her knew that she likes to celebrate and be celebrated. Just enjoy June 5th like it's your birthday."
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
• ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.