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Family demands release of evidence in Breonna Taylor’s case

Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, right, listens to a news conference, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Louisville, Ky.
Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, right, listens to a news conference, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Louisville, Ky.Darron Cummings/Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Breonna Taylor’s family demanded Friday that Kentucky authorities release all body camera footage, police files and the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings that led to no charges being brought against police officers who killed the Black woman during a raid at her apartment.

The grand jury decision disappointed and angered those who have been calling for justice for Taylor for six months, and protesters vowed to stay in the streets until the officers involved are fired or someone is charged with her killing. On Friday evening, a diverse group of demonstrators, including Taylor’s mother, began marching through Louisville.

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Earlier in the day, Taylor’s lawyers and family expressed dismay that no one has been held accountable for her death.

“I am an angry Black woman. I am not angry for the reasons that you would like me to be. But angry because our Black women keep dying at the hands of police officers — and Black men,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, wrote in a statement that was read by a relative as she stood close by in a shirt that had “I (heart) Louisville Police” with bullet holes in the heart emoji.

In her statement, Palmer said the entire justice system had failed her, and state Attorney General Daniel Cameron was just the final person in the chain that included the officer who sought the no-knock warrant as part of a drug investigation, the judge who signed it, and the police who burst into her Louisville apartment. The warrant was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.

Taylor was shot multiple times by white officers after her boyfriend fired at them, authorities said. He said he didn’t know who was coming in and fired in self-defense, wounding one officer. Cameron, who is the state’s first Black attorney general, said the officers were not charged with Taylor’s killing because they acted to protect themselves.

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The grand jury indicted one officer for wanton endangerment who authorities said shot into a neighboring home but did not strike anyone. He has been fired.

“I hope you never know the pain of your child being murdered 191 days in a row,” said Bianca Austin, reading Palmer’s statement while wearing Taylor’s emergency medical technician jacket.

The gathering in a Louisville park protesters are now calling “Injustice Square” ended with butterflies released by Taylor’s younger sister.

An attorney for the family, Sam Aguiar, said since Cameron is done with his investigation, all the videos should be released, noting that he has seen dozens in full, most of which are not public.

Cameron “got so much wrong. We’ve seen so much piecemeal stuff come out throughout the case,” he said. He did not give specifics.

Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, has also called on Cameron, a Republican, to release what evidence he can.

On Friday, Cameron said through a spokesperson he understood Taylor’s family’s pain

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but prosecutors and Grand Jury members are bound by the facts and by the law,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuhn said in a statement.

At nearly the same time Taylor’s family was decrying the handling of her case, a man accused of shooting at police during protests Wednesday was being arraigned. Two officers were wounded and expected to recover.

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A not guilty plea was entered for Larynzo D. Johnson, 26, and bond was set at $1 million. Zac Meihaus, the attorney representing Johnson at the arraignment, called the streets “a war zone” when the shooting happened and said it is difficult to “pinpoint” if Johnson fired the shots in question. A prosecutor replied that a gun was recovered from Johnson, and there are video and witness accounts of the shootings.

The FBI is still investigating whether police violated Taylor’s civil rights. But the burden of proof for such cases is very high, with prosecutors having to prove officers knew they were acting illegally and made a willful decision to cause someone’s death.

Taylor’s case — and her name — has become a rallying cry for protesters nationwide calling attention to entrenched racism and demanding police reforms. Demonstrations for her have continued after the grand jury findings were released.

On Friday, protesters — some of whom brought their dogs — marched through Louisville with a purple banner with Taylor’s name on it. They danced and chanted “bow for Breonna.” Some handed out pizza or water. Earlier, as they gathered, some people were trying to register voters.

Juanita Baker, an attorney representing Taylor’s family, said she hopes the size and diversity of the crowd sends a message to political leaders that they are serious about their demands for change.

“Solidarity is needed, there is power in numbers,” she said. “These are the people voting you in or out of office, or who will one day run against you. You better take note.”

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At least 24 people were arrested in the Louisville protests Thursday night that authorities said resulted in some vandalism. Among those arrested was state Rep. Attica Scott, a Louisville Democrat, who said she was detained minutes before a curfew started as she headed toward a church that protesters were congregating in.

“It’s clear that this alphabet soup of law enforcement that’s here in Louisville, both local, state and federal law enforcement, are preparing for battle, for war against the people they are supposed to protect and serve,” Scott said Friday after spending the night in jail.

The curfew in Louisville will continue through the weekend, and the governor called up the National Guard for “limited missions.”

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Associated Press writers Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; Rebecca Reynolds Yonker, Claire Galofaro, Dylan Lovan and John Minchillo in Louisville, Kentucky; and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed.

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Hudsbeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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This story has been updated to correct that the officer charged by the grand jury is accused of firing into a neighboring apartment, not more than one.