George Floyd was murdered by members of the Minneapolis Police Department on May 25, 2020. Less than 24 hours later Black Lives Matter movement kicked off a series of protests and rallies in various American cities. It did not take long for solidarity demonstrations to go global despite the risky backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. Floyd’s death sparked an international call to put an end to police brutality, racial injustice and systemic racism. It also called attention to an earlier incident involving the killing of a young woman in Kentucky.
Breonna Taylor was an emergency medical technician who worked for the University of Louisville Health system. On the night of March 13, she was shot multiple times by officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department during the execution of a no-knock search warrant. The officers involved in the shooting of Breonna Taylor barged into the apartment she shared with Kenneth Walker, a man who was named as a suspect in a narcotics investigation. Walker shot at the officers when they barged into the apartment, thinking they were intruders.
The officers fired a barrage of twenty rounds into the apartment, eight of them impacting Taylor, who was killed on the scene. Breonna was 26 years old and would have celebrated her birthday a couple of months later. Once the smoke from the gunfire cleared, a search of the dwelling did not produce any controlled substances. Nothing illegal was found.
In the months following, and with the backlash following George Floyd’s death, Black Lives Matter and social media activism put a spotlight on Taylor’s death, particularly to the sloppy handling of the case. Walker was initially charged with attempted murder of a police officer, but he was cleared in court. Incorrect police reports, obfuscation by the police department, and the actions of the officers, who were wearing plainclothes, drove an unmarked vehicle, and did not wear body cameras despite being armed and entering a residence without knocking, have been questioned. Taylor’s family members have clamored for justice, and their insistence resulted in Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad announcing his retirement four days before George Floyd was suffocated to death in Minneapolis.
Chief Conrad was not able to carry out his retirement. When Black Lives Matter organized protests in the wake of Floyd’s murder, things got out of hand in Louisville. In the midst of riots and looting situations, Kentucky Army National Guard soldiers called in to support police officers shot and killed David McAtee, a local business owner, on June 1. Mayor Greg Fischer had enough of Chief Conrad and terminated him on the spot, thus stripping him of retirement benefits.
Mayor Fischer has issued various orders in the aftermath of Taylor’s death. One of the officers involved was terminated before the investigation concluded, but this does not exonerate him from facing potential criminal charges. The other two officers will likely face similar consequences. From now on, Louisville police officers will no longer be able to execute search warrants without knocking, and they must wear body cameras. The LMPD will likely be reformed. More than four months after Taylor’s death, protests calling for police reform continue across the United States.