After weeks of silence, national attention on the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor recently forced Louisville’s mayor and others to respond. Suddenly, some things started to change.
Mayor Greg Fischer proposed changes to policies for no knock warrants and body camera usage. The FBI opened an investigation into the incident. Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad announced he would retire. And Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine moved to dismiss charges against Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend.
Walker was released by a judge on Tuesday. He had been awaiting trial under house arrest.
But supporters say those changes aren’t enough.
Bianca Austin, Taylor’s aunt, said the goal isn’t getting things to change quickly — it’s getting them to change forever.
“We don’t want this to ever happen to anybody else. This is devastating. It’s not right. Nobody should ever have to go through this,” she said after a protest outside Fischer’s office on Tuesday. “We’re in it for the long haul.”
Dozens of people gathered on the steps of Metro Hall to demand changes they believe will deliver justice for Taylor, Walker and other victims of police violence. Some asked for a civilian oversight programs, others for an end to no knock warrants, and others for the officers involved in the incident to be fired and charged.
Fischer opened the door to a civilian review board last week, and announced the creation of a task force to develop that. Days later, two Metro Council members filed legislation aimed at restricting the use of no-knock warrants and defining how body cameras should be used when executing search warrants.
Sgt. John Mattingly, who was shot in the leg by Walker during the raid, and officers Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison were placed on administrative reassignment after the incident. Taylor’s family has taken up a civil suit against them alleging excessive force and unlawful death.
Velicia Walker, Kenneth’s mother, said she is mourning the trauma her son endured, as well as the loss of Taylor, whom she considered a daughter.
“Her engagement ring is in my jewelry box right now,” she said.
She said her faith in God fuels her belief that justice will be served. She does not have the same faith in the city.
“That didn’t just begin now. This elevated it to a place I can’t even register. I can’t measure it,” she told WFPL.
Immediately preceding the protest, Fischer held a virtual town hall discussing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Louisville’s Black citizens. He said they make up nearly a third of the city’s 154 deaths, despite representing less than a quarter of Louisville’s overall population.
Austin said she believed the pandemic gave officials a way to avoid addressing her niece’s death.
“I believe they thought that would be an excuse for them to sweep it under the rug and not deal with it. But they came for the wrong family,” she told WFPL. “We’re not tolerating this at all.”
She said the next step in her community’s pursuit of justice is getting all possible details about what happened that night and seeing the police officers involved held accountable. After that, she plans to continue pushing for reforms that she and other believe could make Louisville safer for its Black residents.
Achieving that will require sustained effort, said Linda Sarsour, co-founder of advocacy group Until Freedom, which helped organize the protest. The group is focused on addressing racial injustice.
“You get the justice you fight for,” Sarsour said.
She called on justice seekers to remain engaged and continue demanding answers from public officials.