Authorities continue to investigate whether to bring charges against three officers named in a wrongful death lawsuit

By Jeff Truesdell
September 15, 2020 04:07 PM
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Breonna Taylor
Breonna Taylor/instagram

The mother of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman fatally shot by police in a raid of her apartment six months ago in an incident that sparked widespread protests, has reached a $12 million settlement with the City of Louisville, Ky., in a wrongful death lawsuit.

In announcing the settlement on Tuesday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer addressed Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, directly, saying, "I cannot begin to imagine Miss Palmer's pain, and I'm deeply, deeply sorry for Breonna's death."

The resolution comes as the state's attorney general, Daniel Cameron, continues to investigate whether to bring criminal charges against the three officers named in the lawsuit. All three were placed on administrative reassignment, although one has since been fired.

Included with the payout to Taylor's family are promises from the city to reform police practices, including a change in the way that search warrants are approved and carried out, and a commitment to hiring social workers to assist officers in the field. The city also announced that housing credits would be given to police officers to live in Louisville's low-income neighborhoods, and officers would be paid at least two hours per week to perform community service in neighborhoods where they live.

An attorney for Taylor's family, Lonita Baker, said during a press conference in the mayor's office that "justice for Breonna is multi-layered," and the settlement represents "only a portion of a single layer."

Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor's mother, on Aug. 13, 2020
John Sommers II/Getty

Taylor, an aspiring nurse who had been working as an EMT, was in her apartment with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shortly after midnight on March 13 when Louisville Metro Police officers executing a no-knock warrant charged through the door, according to the lawsuit, which was filed April 27.

The lawsuit alleged police actually were looking for a man who lived in Taylor's building but not her apartment, and who had been apprehended before the officers allegedly entered Taylor's apartment unannounced.

The suit alleged Walker fired a warning shot as the unknown persons breached the front door with a battering ram, and that officers responded by firing more than 20 bullets into the apartment. According to the suit — which accused the officers and the department of wrongful death, excessive force and gross negligence — Taylor was hit eight times.

RELATED VIDEO: Breonna Taylor's Mom Wants Charges Against Police Who Killed Daughter: 'They Took a Piece of Me'

Taylor's name soon joined those of others invoked by protesters across the country, in sometimes tense confrontations, 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.

Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James and Beyoncé publicly rallied to Taylor's case and have called for the officers to be charged.

Walker, a licensed gun owner, was uninjured in the shooting, but a shot he allegedly fired struck the thigh of police Sgt. John Mattingly, who recovered, according to reports.

Tamika Palmer
Dylan Lovan/AP/Shutterstock

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Walker initially was arrested on a charge of attempted murder of a police officer and first-degree assault charges. Those charges were dropped in May after the F.B.I. opened an investigation into the case.

Suit Alleged Fatal Shooting Had Roots in Gentrification Plan

In a subsequent amendment to the wrongful death lawsuit, attorneys for Taylor's family alleged that her shooting death resulted from a police operation aimed at clearing out the neighborhood to make way for a multi-million dollar redevelopment project.

According to the suit, the warrant citing Taylor’s address was one of five that police sought in the immediate area in an attempt to arrest a man named Jamarcus Glover, a suspected drug dealer who the suit alleged was considered one of the “primary roadblocks” to the development.

The Courier-Journal, citing Taylor family lawyer Sam Aguilar, reported that Glover was an ex-boyfriend of Taylor’s with whom she maintained a friendship. He was arrested hours prior to Taylor’s fatal shooting on drug and weapons charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty, reports WAVE.

The lawsuit said Glover's residence was in the middle of the planned redevelopment zone. The affidavit requesting the no-knock warrant allegedly described Taylor's apartment as a place where Glover would have his packages mailed. Police allegedly believed these packages contained drugs.

The suit alleged that a police squad — Place-Based Investigations — "deliberately misled" narcotics detectives to put them under the impression they were after some of the city’s largest crime and drug operations.

"The reality was that the occupants were not anywhere close to Louisville’s versions of Pablo Escobar or Scarface," the suit said. "And they were not violent criminals. They were simply a setback to a large real estate development deal and thus the issue needed to be cleaned up." The suit says Taylor’s killing was completely avoidable.

"Breonna's home should never have had police there in the first place," the filing reads, according to the Courier-Journal.

Officer Mattingly and detective Myles Cosgrove remain on administrative reassignment following the shooting. The third officer on the scene of the shooting who also was placed on reassignment, detective Brett Hankison, was later fired.

As the Black Lives Matter movement that embraced Taylor's name expanded across the country, Louisville officials moved to ban the use of no-knock warrants.