One year after Breonna Taylor's death, her mother still wants 'real justice'

Crystal Hill
·Reporter
·5 min read

Before a March 13, 2020, police raid of her Louisville, Ky., apartment woke her from her sleep and claimed her life, Breonna Taylor was planning for her future.

“She wanted to be a NICU nurse,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, told Yahoo News. “But she was already working in two hospitals [as an ER technician], and she loved doing that. She was prepared that year to get back into school, and she wanted to get a house and just work on having a family.”

A nurturer at heart, her mother said, Taylor was always helpful to others, even as a kid. “She was just a mama bear,” Palmer said.

Now, after a year in which Taylor’s case helped propel a global movement against police brutality, moving thousands to demonstrate in the streets of Louisville and beyond, Palmer says her daughter’s absence still seems surreal. “I can’t get used to Breonna not being here,” she said.

Breonna Taylor. (Family handout)
Breonna Taylor. (Family handout)

Taylor, 26, was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police officers executing a search warrant at her apartment. Police shot Taylor after her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was with her at the time, fired a warning shot at who he believed were intruders, injuring an officer in the leg, according to police and Walker’s interview with investigators after the incident.

None of the officers directly involved in the late night shooting were criminally charged in Taylor’s death. The decision drew outrage when it was announced last September by state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who faced intense scrutiny for his role in the investigation. The announcement also sparked more demonstrations in Louisville and other U.S. cities.

Cameron, a Republican and Kentucky’s first Black elected attorney general, was accused of misrepresenting the findings of the grand jury convened to decide if charges should be brought against the officers who fired into Taylor’s apartment: Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detectives Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison.

Tamika Palmer, mother of Breonna Taylor, poses for a portrait in front of a mural of her daughter at Jefferson Square park on September 21, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Tamika Palmer, mother of Breonna Taylor, in front of a mural of her daughter at Jefferson Square Park in September 2020 in Louisville, Ky. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Cameron said Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in the shooting because they fired in self-defense after Walker fired first. He indicated that the jury declined to pursue homicide charges against the officers, deciding to only indict Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment. (The department terminated Cosgrove and Hankison.)

But two members of the jury came forward anonymously, telling reporters in October that the jury was never given the opportunity to deliberate on charges other than the ones against Hankison. They also said the proceedings seemed to be steered toward a specific result.

Cameron stood by his handling of the case, and Palmer sought a new special prosecutor to present the evidence to another grand jury. In December, the Kentucky Prosecutors Advisory Council, which had the authority to appoint a new prosecutor, voted to decline Palmer’s request.

Palmer told Yahoo News that she will keep pushing for a new special prosecutor in Taylor’s case. “She was not given a fair chance,” Palmer said.

In Louisville, many residents have continued to call for police accountability. LeAndrea McCampbell, 32, who protested for more than 100 days last year for Taylor, told Yahoo News that she’s still demonstrating and says many people she knows in the community don’t trust law enforcement.

“We haven’t healed,” McCampbell said. “We have a mother who is still grieving her daughter, who hasn’t received the justice that she deserves. No one has apologized. It’s still all [about] placing blame, because [Taylor] was associated with someone from her past.”

Breonna Taylor. (Family handout)
Breonna Taylor. (Family handout)

The 2020 police raid was reportedly targeting Jamarcus Glover, a former boyfriend of Taylor’s, in connection with a narcotics investigation. Another police officer involved in planning the raid, Detective Joshua Jaynes, obtained the warrant to search Taylor’s home based on speculation that Glover was receiving packages there. But an investigative report released by police in October revealed that Jaynes did not confirm this with the Postal Service and indicates that the information he used to secure the warrant was misleading. The LMPD also fired Jaynes in early January. A search of Taylor’s apartment after the raid found no drugs.

The FBI continues to investigate Taylor’s death and has been in contact with Palmer, Lonita Baker, Palmer’s attorney, told Yahoo News. But little is known about the specifics of the investigation.

In a statement to Yahoo News, the FBI’s Louisville office said it is continuing to actively investigate “all aspects of the death of Breonna Taylor” but that there’s no timeline on the completion of the investigation.

“Regardless,” the statement said, “FBI Louisville has made significant progress in the investigation since it was initiated in May 2020, and will continue to work diligently until this investigation is completed. The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division will ultimately determine whether a federal criminal prosecution is warranted.”

“There’s still the avenue for a prosecutor here to present charges to a grand jury on behalf of Breonna. That has not been done,” Baker said.

Until that happens, Palmer said, she won’t stop advocating for her daughter. She still wants “real justice.”

“We’re tired,” Palmer said, speaking for herself and Taylor’s supporters. “But what else do you do now besides fight back?”

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