The city of Louisville, Kentucky, will pay $12 million to the family of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman shot dead by police in a botched raid on her apartment in March, to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit, Mayor Greg Fischer said on Tuesday.
The settlement will be accompanied by reforms of the Louisville Metro Police Department, including a requirement that commanders approve search warrants before they are put to a judge, Fischer said at a news conference, alongside Taylor’s family.
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“I’m deeply, deeply sorry for Breonna’s death,” Fischer told reporters. “My administration is not waiting to move ahead with needed reforms to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”
Taylor’s shooting by police serving a narcotics warrant at her home has sparked months of protests in Louisville and calls nationwide for the officers to be charged in her death. The state’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, is investigating police actions in the March 13 shooting.
The lawsuit, filed in April by her mother, Tamika Palmer, alleged the police used flawed information when they obtained a “no-knock” warrant to enter the Black woman’s apartment in March. Taylor, 26, was shot multiple times and police found no drugs at her home.
The suit accused three Louisville police officers of blindly firing into Taylor’s apartment the night of the March raid, striking Taylor several times. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was in the apartment with her and fired a single shot that struck an officer in the leg. Walker said he did not hear police announce themselves and said he thought he was guarding against an intruder.
“We won’t let Breonna Taylor’s life be swept under the rug,” said Ben Crump, an attorney for Taylor’s family, on Tuesday.
Palmer has said she is trying to be patient about the results of Cameron’s criminal investigation and the long wait for them – it has been six months since her daughter’s death. At Tuesday’s news conference she said “we must not lose focus on what the real job is, and with that being said, it’s time to move forward with the criminal charges, because she deserves that and much more.”
Crump also called for charges against the officers and urged people to “say her name,” a phrase that has become a refrain for those outraged by the shooting.
The news conference was broadcast over a loudspeaker in downtown Louisville and protesters listened as they sat around a memorial to Taylor.
In the time since Taylor’s shooting, her death – along with George Floyd and others – has become a rallying cry for protesters seeking a reckoning on racial justice and police reform. High-profile celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and LeBron James have called for the officers to be charged in Taylor’s death.
The warrant that led to the raid that killed Taylor was one of five issued in a wide-ranging investigation of a drug trafficking suspect who was a former boyfriend of Taylor’s. That man, Jamarcus Glover, was arrested at a different location about 16 kilometres (10 miles) away from Taylor’s apartment on the same evening.
The settlement includes reforms on how warrants are handled by police.
The city has already taken some reform measures, including passing a law named for Taylor that bans the use of the no-knock warrants. Police typically use them in drug cases over concern that evidence could be destroyed if they announce their arrival.
Mayor Fischer fired former police chief Steve Conrad in June and last week named Yvette Gentry, a former deputy chief, as the new interim police chief. Gentry would be the first Black woman to lead the force of about 1,200 sworn officers. The department has also fired Brett Hankison, one of the three officers who fired shots at Taylor’s apartment that night. Hankison is appealing the dismissal.
The largest settlement previously paid in a Louisville police misconduct case was $8.5 million in 2012, to a man who spent nine years in prison for a crime he did not commit, according to news reports.
But despite mounting public pressure on the authorities to file criminal charges, prosecutors may face significant obstacles to bringing homicide-related charges against the police officers, legal experts said.
The officers were not wearing body cameras and the department said there is no video of the raid. Her boyfriend was initially charged, but those charges were later dropped.