Since May, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has been investigating the circumstances surrounding the March 13 shooting death of Breonna Taylor. The nation, likely the world, knows the name of the 26-year-old woman killed in the hallway of her apartment after being shot five times by Louisville police carrying out a no-knock search warrant during a drug investigation gone bad.
Attributed to anonymous sources, Louisville’s WAVE-3 News was alone among local news media in recently reporting the AG soon will hand the case over to a Jefferson County grand jury for potential criminal indictment of the officers involved.
As he has for months now, Cameron did not confirm that report. He continues not to signal any deadline.
In a social media response, Cameron posted, “My office has endeavored since day one to find truth and pursue justice, wherever that may take us and however long that may take.”
He added, “When the investigation concludes and a decision is made, we will provide an update about an announcement. The news will come from our office and not unnamed sources. Until that time, the investigation is ongoing.”
The weight of Cameron making the right decision based on the totality of evidence gathered in this case is staggering not only for Taylor’s family, but also for the officers involved, their own families and for Louisville and the U.S. as a whole.
Much is at stake. As more time passes, pressure grows for Cameron to complete this critical and heavy work for the sake of truth and justice.
The AG’s job was made much more difficult last week. During a news conference Tuesday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city by Taylor’s family.
Louisville will hand over a $12 million payment to Taylor’s estate to settle the civil case.
In addition to this settlement payment, Fischer outlined a long list of policy changes intended to reform LMPD and mitigate risks of such a tragedy occurring in the future. The list of policy and practice changes and additions involve community policing, search warrant issuance and police accountability reform.
Louisville Metro City Council passed “Breonna’s Law” earlier in the summer banning no-knock warrants and mandating the use of officer body cams while carrying out searches.
What wasn’t included in the announced settlement agreement was admission of wrong-doing on the part of LMPD or the city.
No admission of guilt was necessary. A $12 million settlement speaks louder than those missing words.
Cities – and their taxpayers left to foot the bill – don’t pay out multi-million settlements unless they believe they are culpable. The fact this financial settlement repercussion is the largest ever paid by Louisville in a case involving alleged police misconduct and abuse of force – and among the largest in the U.S. – adds more volume to the statement made by Fischer’s announcement.
This isn’t to say the Taylor family and estate aren’t due the millions being paid. No monetary exchange can recompense fully the loss of life in matters such as this.
Neither will those seeking justice for Taylor be fully satisfied with the terms of the settlement.
Those who spoke from the mayor’s podium Tuesday demand indictment, arrest, criminal charge and conviction of all officers involved. The words “murder,” “corruption,” “cover-up” and “systemic racism” were used by speakers to describe LMPD and the actions of its officers involved in Taylor’s death. Fischer’s silence as he stood in the background could be viewed as agreement – the honorable and hard-working men and women of LMPD certainly could believe so.
With the settlement and through Mayor Fischer’s news conference, a very clear and demanding expectation has been communicated to the attorney general: Regardless of the findings of his investigation, nothing short of criminal indictment and conviction of LMPD officers Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove, Jonathan Mattingly and Joshua Jaynes will be acceptable in the justice being sought.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.