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Breonna Taylor: Louisville announces $12M settlement, police reforms

Andrew Wolfson, Darcy Costello and Tessa Duvall Louisville Courier Journal

Published 3:49 PM EDT Sep 15, 2020

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a $12 million settlement Tuesday afternoon with the family of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman fatally shot by police in her apartment six months ago.

In addition to the payment, which is the largest settlement ever paid by Louisville police, the deal includes several policing reforms, such as changes to the approval process for and execution of search warrants, the hiring of a team of social workers to accompany police officers and a commitment to pursue increased drug and alcohol testing of officers involved in any shooting.

The settlement, first reported Tuesday morning by The Louisville Courier Journal of the USA TODAY Network, was announced at a 2 p.m. press conference at Mayor Fischer’s office, with Taylor’s family and attorneys Ben Crump, Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker.

Fischer said the city did not acknowledge any wrongdoing as part of the settlement. 

The police reforms secured in the settlement were meant to “engage police officers within the community, not just when they’re dispatched,” Baker said.

More: Louisville anxiously awaits Breonna Taylor decision — and whether justice or chaos reigns

Sam Aguiar, an attorney for Taylor’s family, said the city’s handling of the case has been slow and frustrating. But, Aguiar said he hopes Metro Government’s willingness to discuss significant police reforms is “a turning point.”

Changes to the police department include: 

  • Early action warning system to identify officers with red flags;
  • Mandatory commanding officer review of all search warrants;
  • Mandatory body camera counting from two officers of all currency seizures;
  • Mandatory written approval of SWAT matrices before search warrants are executed;
  • Encouraging officers to perform at least two paid hours a week of community service in the communities they serve;
  • Housing credits for officers to live in certain low-income census tracts in the city;
  • Hiring a team of social workers to assist with dispatched runs; and
  • Commitment to bargain for increased drug and alcohol testing in the next FOP contract;
  • Overhaul of processes for simultaneous search warrants;
  • Mandatory EMS/paramedic presence for all search warrants; 
  • Elimination of the ‘closed by exception’ basis for closing investigations into officer conduct when there is a retirement or resignation.

The large settlement in the civil suit brought by Taylor’s family comes as a Jefferson County grand jury may hear the criminal case as soon as this week. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is spearheading the criminal investigation. 

Tamika Mallory of activist group “Until Freedom” pressured city and state officials at Tuesday’s press conference for justice in Taylor’s death, calling for the arrest of police officers at the scene the night she was killed.

The grand jury would decide whether criminal charges should be filed against any of the three officers involved in her shooting death March 13 during a search for drugs, cash and other evidence in her Louisville apartment that went awry.

Charges in the Breonna Taylor case? Grand jury could provide ‘Justice for Breonna’ – or exonerate the officers who shot her

Taylor, 26, was shot and killed after Louisville Metro Police officers broke down her apartment door March 13 to serve a signed no-knock search warrant in connection with a narcotics investigation centered 10 miles away. 

Police say they knocked and announced their presence, but Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he and Taylor didn’t know who was pounding on the door.

When police battered in the door, Walker fired what he later called a warning shot. Police say it struck Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh. 

Mattingly and two other officers — detectives Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove — returned fire. Taylor was hit five times and died in her hallway. 

Hankison has been fired while Cosgrove and Mattingly remain on administrative reassignment.

The suit was filed April 27 and named the three officers as defendants.

It alleges Taylor’s life was wrongfully taken, that police used excessive force and the search was grossly negligent.

An amended complaint filed about two months later additionally claimed Taylor’s death was the result of Louisville police’s effort to clear out a block for gentrification, and the newly formed Place-Based Investigations unit consisted of “rogue police” who violated “all levels of policy, protocol and policing standards.”

City officials vehemently denied the accusations that gentrification played any role in the narcotics investigation. 

The case picked up steam and media coverage in May when local attorneys for the estate, Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker, were joined by Florida-based attorney Ben Crump. He has represented Black Americans killed in controversial shootings, including Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown Jr. and Tamir Rice. 

“LMPD has tried to sweep this under the rug,” Aguiar said at the time. “The family right now has a very understandable desire to know the full circumstance of what went on that night.”

Taylor’s family alleged in the suit the warrant served at Taylor’s apartment was targeted at Jamarcus Glover, a convicted drug dealer had been located by police at a drug house 10 miles away before the warrant was served on Taylor’s residence.

A warrant listed Taylor’s name and address, but the main narcotics investigation was centered around Glover and co-defendants’ alleged trafficking on Elliott Avenue in Louisville’s Russell neighborhood. 

Contributing: Jay Cannon, USA TODAY.

Follow Darcy Costello (@dctello), Tessa Duvall (@TessaDuvall), Andrew Wolfson (@adwolfson) on Twitter.

More on the Breonna Taylor case:

 A 180-plus-day timeline shows how her death changed Louisville

Lawyer for Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend sues police, says he didn’t shoot officer

Louisville police have spent more than $90,000 on security for officers in Taylor shooting

Report details why Louisville police decided to forcibly enter her apartment

Published 3:49 PM EDT Sep 15, 2020

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