A grand jury has indicted one of the three police officers involved in the shooting of Breonna Taylor, a black woman whose death in Louisville, Kentucky, became a rallying cry in anti-racism protests across the US.
Former detective Brett Hankison faces three counts of wanton endangerment for firing his gun into other apartments during the police raid in which Taylor was killed. The charge carries a potential prison term of up to five years. The court set his bond at $15,000.
Detective Myles Cosgrove and Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, who also fired their weapons that night, were not indicted. The Louisville police department has fired Mr Hankinson, saying he “wantonly and blindly” fired 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment, and placed Mr Cosgrove and Mr Mattingly on administrative leave.
The move by the Kentucky attorney-general, Daniel Cameron, not to obtain more serious charges sparked renewed protests in Louisville and in cities across the US.
On Wednesday night a Louisville police officer was shot, according to the FBI. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that two officers may have been shot. The Louisville police department did not immediately respond to an email seeking clarification late on Wednesday.
Ahead of the Kentucky grand jury’s decision, Greg Fischer, Louisville mayor, declared a state of emergency. Robert Schroeder, police chief, invoked emergency staffing provisions to cancel holidays for police officers, and the department restricted access to the city’s downtown.
Mr Fischer also declared a curfew from 9.30pm until 6.30am, starting on Wednesday and lasting for 72 hours.
“I urge everyone to commit once again to a peaceful, lawful response, like we’ve seen here for the majority of the past four months,” he said. “I ask that we, all of us, keep that critical focus on the need for racial justice and reimagining public safety so we can all move forward as a city.”
Taylor was shot in her apartment on March 13, after police officers burst in at night. The officers, who had obtained a no-knock warrant, traded gunfire with her boyfriend as they entered the apartment.
But Mr Cameron, the Kentucky attorney-general, on Wednesday said that while investigating the shooting, his office found a civilian witness who said police in fact knocked and announced themselves before entering the apartment.
“In other words, the warrant was not served as a no-knock warrant,” he said.
The investigation determined that Mr Cosgrove fired the bullet that killed Taylor, Mr Cameron said.
Homicide charges were not appropriate in the case “because our investigation showed, and the grand jury agreed, that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in the return of deadly fire”, Mr Cameron said.
“This is a tragedy, and sometimes the criminal law is not adequate to respond to a tragedy,” he said later.
Taylor’s death, along with that of George Floyd, has become a focal point at protests for racial justice that have swept cities across the US this summer. Protesters chanted it as part of the “Say Her Name” campaign meant to highlight violence against black women.
Ben Crump, an attorney who represents the Taylor family, said in a tweet on Wednesday that it was “outrageous and offensive” that no one had been charged directly with Taylor’s death.
By contrast, the police officer in Minnesota who killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck has been charged with second-degree murder, and other officers present during the arrest are facing charges of aiding and abetting murder.
Mr Mattingly sent an email to all Louisville police officers on Tuesday calling protesters “thugs” who goaded police, and “if you make a mistake during one of the most stressful times of your career, the department and the FBI (who aren’t cops and would piss their pants if they had to hold the line) go after you for civil rights violations”.
Taylor’s family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city. Officials said on September 15 that Louisville would pay a $12m settlement while also enacting reforms, including having commanding officers sign off on search warrant applications, improving tracking of complaints against police officers, and including social workers on calls to assist the mentally ill.