From a U.S. senator to everyday people, demands for an independent inquiry into the March shooting death of Breonna Taylor are increasing. But most government officials in Kentucky haven’t yet said they want to go that far.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he could call for an independent investigation. For now, the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Public Integrity Unit is conducting its own investigation into the incident.
Three police officers forcibly entered Taylor’s home after midnight on March 13 to serve a warrant related to a narcotics investigation. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at them when he heard them enter; his defense lawyer said he believed they were intruders. Walker hit one officer in the leg. All three officers fired back, and lawyers for Taylor’s family say at least 8 bullets struck and killed Taylor, a Louisville Emergency Medical Technician.
Fischer called the situation “tragic” and “complicated” on Wednesday during a media briefing typically focused on coronavirus.
“My administration has always been open to review,” he said. “If that is called for, we will absolutely cooperate.”
After the police wrap up their investigation in a few weeks, the case will be handed over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, which could pursue charges, he said.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine will recuse himself from any investigation into the police’s actions the night Taylor died because Wine is still prosecuting the case against Walker, who was charged with attempting to murder a police officer, Fischer said.
Walker’s lawyer said his client was acting in self-defense. Police and attorneys for Walker and Taylor’s family disagree over whether the officers identified themselves before entering the apartment that night. There is no footage of the incident because police say those in the Criminal Interdiction Unit don’t wear body cameras.
Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron said in a tweet Wednesday evening his office has been asked to serve as special prosecutor for the Taylor case.
“At the conclusion of the investigation, the office will review the evidence and take appropriate action,” he said in the tweet.
In a press conference earlier Wednesday, attorneys for Taylor’s family including prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump and Louisville personal injury lawyer Sam Aguiar cast doubt on the trustworthiness of an internal investigation.
Crump said the family wants to see the officers “held accountable to the full extent of the law.”
They said they had questions about the case, including why police say they identified themselves despite obtaining a “no knock” warrant, and why they entered Taylor’s apartment even though the primary subject of the investigation had already been arrested.
Aguiar said the police have changed their story.
“It seems to me like they’re just trying to cover their tracks from day one, and every single time they keep saying things that conflict with former things, it really just looks like they are so desperate to cover this up and it’s why getting the truth in this case is so important,” he said.
Gov. Andy Beshear addressed the issue in a statement and during his daily press conference Wednesday, saying he has asked the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Kentucky Attorney General to review the preliminary investigation.
Gov. Beshear issues statement on Breonna Taylor: pic.twitter.com/ttiO856BdA
— Governor Andy Beshear (@GovAndyBeshear) May 13, 2020
Sen. Kamala Harris of California linked Taylor’s death to the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery by two white men in Georgia during a television interview, saying what happened to them was not justice. She said she wants the U.S. Department of Justice to step in.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) May 13, 2020
In the video, Harris said police tried to serve a warrant at the wrong address, which is not accurate.
Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth also expressed hope that “some form of justice can eventually be delivered: to Breonna — a brave and selfless public servant — and her family, to a concerned community, and to a nation sick and tired of seeing and hearing of black and brown lives being taken so wantonly and so coldly.”
Meanwhile, an online petition that lists several demands of the investigation into the Taylor case has gathered more than 93,000 signatures in about four days. Those who signed on want charges to be filed against the officers, damages to be paid to Taylor’s family and for a special prosecutor to investigate LMPD.
Charles Booker, the Kentucky state representative who is running for U.S. Senate this year, also called for a special prosecutor.
The color of our skin and our humanity shouldn’t be a death sentence. Breonna and her family deserve justice. We all do.
— Charles Booker (@Booker4KY) May 13, 2020
This story has been updated.