There was no justice for Breonna Taylor today. The woman who has become the global face of #BlackLivesMatter, whose image and name have been shared millions of times, whose face covered magazines and billboards, and became the rallying cry of protests around the world, didn’t get the one thing she deserved most. Two of the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death, Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly, faced no charges for their actions on the night of March 13th. The third, Brett Hankison, was fired and charged with “wanton endangerment,” a D-class felony.
The sick irony of today’s verdict is that the only police officer reprimanded for his actions was charged for a crime in which Taylor was not even listed as a victim. After Breonna Taylor was fatally shot, Hankison fired 32 rounds into a neighboring apartment, where a pregnant woman, her husband and their five-year-old child slept. Nobody was hurt, but it was their initials, “C.D.,” “T.M.,” and “Z.F.” that appeared on Hankison’s wanton endangerment indictment. Breonna Taylor, who was struck by one of Hankison’s bullets (alongside the five bullets from officer Myles Cosgrove that ultimately killed her), does not. As The Cut so poignantly put it: “The woman whose death helped to galvanize mass protests and a racial reckoning in America was quite literally erased by the justice system.”
For those acquainted with the details of the case, today’s result was heartbreaking, but not entirely unexpected. The Breonna Taylor case doesn’t just represent an individual case of police incompetence— it demonstrates a justice system that is completely broken. A system, centuries in the making, which prioritizes white lives by design. This system led to events of March 13th, and that same system shielded those involved from accountability six months later.
It’s a system in which a woman’s front door is shattered with a battering ram in the middle of the night by three armed police officers who were not, by law, required to even knock. A system in which citizens are legally allowed to own firearms and in which fatally shooting someone who trespasses on your property is considered legal, yet which still somehow allows for the execution of no-knock warrants. The raid was informed by flawed and outdated information, including the officers’ false belief that Breonna lived alone (she didn’t), and that she was still romantically involved with an ex-boyfriend (she wasn’t). When Taylor was killed, it was Mosgrove, who had been shot in the leg, who was whisked away in an ambulance. Taylor was left behind. Her partner had to call the ambulance and—most outrageously—the police, himself.
This doesn’t feel like the time for platitudes about how hope prevails, even in moments of despair. The world, and Black women in particular, has little room for anything but profound, profound sadness today. In Louisville, people are still fighting. The injustice of today’s verdict should be the pertinent reminder we need to keep joining them.