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Say Her Name: Breonna Taylor Was Killed by Police in March. Why Haven’t the Officers Faced Charges?

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We go to Louisville, where protesters are calling for charges against the officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old African American woman who was an emergency room technician treating COVID patients and was shot to death by police inside her own apartment in March. This comes as the National Guard fired shots at a crowd of protesters on Monday, killing David McAtee, a local barbecue restaurant owner who regularly gave police officers free meals. We speak with Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of Louisville Urban League.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Wednesday marked the seventh night of protests in Louisville, Kentucky, as thousands demanded justice for George Floyd and for two Black Louisville residents killed by police, including Breonna Taylor, 26-year-old African American woman shot to death by police in her own apartment in March. Taylor was an emergency room technician treating COVID patients.

As protests for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd raged on Monday, both police and the National Guard fired shots at a crowd of protesters, killing David McAtee, whose body reportedly lay in the streets of Louisville for over 12 hours. David McAtee owned a local barbecue business. He was a beloved figure in the community, who regularly gave police officers free meals. Wednesday night, hundreds of cars lined up in a caravan to honor McAtee and Taylor, and drove to the site where McAtee was shot and killed by police this week.

Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad has now been fired, after it emerged two officers who were at the scene of McAtee’s shooting did not have their body cameras activated — a violation of police department policy. Conrad had already announced his plan to retire at the end of this month as a result of the police killing of Taylor.

This comes as the Louisville Metro Council’s Public Safety Committee voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve proposed legislation called Breonna’s Law, that would regulate no-knock warrants. The law is based on what happened to Taylor on the night of March 13th, when police with a warrant to search for illegal drugs entered her home and say they were immediately met by gunfire from Taylor’s boyfriend. A lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family says the officers arrived at the home in plainclothes, unmarked cars, did not announce who they were, and that Walker and Taylor thought they were being robbed.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports the police were investigating two men who they believed were selling drugs out of a house that was far from Taylor’s apartment. A judge had also signed a warrant for them to search the house because police said they thought one of the men had used it to receive packages.

911 tapes from the night have now been released. Now, this is a warning: It’s an excerpt of the call from Breonna’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, as he spoke to Metro EMS dispatcher after Louisville Metro Police officers shot his girlfriend. Again, a warning to our listeners and viewers: This call is highly disturbing.

KENNETH WALKER: I don’t — I don’t even know what is happening. Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend. … Bre! Oh my god!

911 OPERATOR: You said 26? Where was she shot at?

KENNETH WALKER: I don’t know. She’s on the ground right now. I don’t know. … Help! Oh my god! Breonna’s so ill! Help!

911 OPERATOR: What’s her name, sir? Is she alert and able to talk to you?

KENNETH WALKER: No!

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, speaking to a 911 operator after Louisville Metro Police officers shot his girlfriend in their own home. This is Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, speaking Monday.

TAMIKA PALMER: I don’t think that I’m asking for too much, just justice for her, just that people know the truth, what happened, that she didn’t deserve this, that people are fired for doing this to her. To know Breonna, she was full of life. She loved life. She respected life. This is so much bigger than her.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go to Louisville, Kentucky, where we’re joined by Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us, Sadiqa. I mean, for people who had not heard this story, perhaps because there wasn’t videotape inside the home of Breonna, this is a young woman who was helping care for COVID-19 patients.

SADIQA REYNOLDS: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: She goes home and — explain exactly what happened.

SADIQA REYNOLDS: Well, she’s working. She goes home. As you said, she’s risking her life taking care of COVID-19 patients. And she goes to bed, is my understanding. And her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was there with her. At some point in the night, the police showed up. It seems to be clear that they did in fact knock. As you know, they had a no-knock warrant. But what they did not do was announce themselves. So, when they knocked, I think it probably frightened Kenneth. He got up. He is a licensed gun owner. He had his gun. And when they came through the door, he fired. One of the officers was shot, and they fired back. And they fired back in such a way that there were 22 bullets sent into that house. Eight of those bullets landed in Breonna’s body. One of those bullets, at least, landed in the next-door neighbor’s house in the bedroom of a 5-year-old. One of those bullets, at least one, landed in Breonna’s sister’s room, who, thank God, was not at home, because if she had been, maybe her mother, Tamika, would have lost both her children that evening.

And the 911 call that you hear, I guess that is when police must have retreated because one of the officers had been shot. And so, that’s why Kenneth had the time to make the call. What is disturbing here is that police have always known that that 911 tape existed. And there seemed to be some controversy — well, we did not know this. The community was not under the impression, never heard about any 911 call, until this case really — it was really in May, I mean. And very quickly, he was released, once we really began the outcry to say this man should not be in jail, because it corroborated what he said: “I didn’t know that it was police coming in.”

And I think they say — they attempt to say sometimes that he’s contradicted himself. But I think it’s insane for them to think like that. If you think about what it is to see someone you love, who you were just in bed with, be murdered in front of you, by the time they take you to interview you, only God knows what you’ll say. You know, there’s so many things going on in your head. And police know this better than anyone. That’s why they wait so long to be interviewed after they have had a situation like this where they’ve taken someone’s life. So —

AMY GOODMAN: And it ends up, Sadiqa, that the man they say they were looking for was already in custody? And they said, “Sorry, this was a mistake”?

SADIQA REYNOLDS: Well, first of all, these police never say sorry, so that absolutely did not happen, that they don’t say sorry. They’ve never said sorry for anything.

What it is, there is a man who was an alleged drug dealer. And the allegation is that he was storing drugs at her house or having drugs shipped there or something. So her name was actually on the search warrant. That gentleman was someplace else. Obviously, she was there with Kenneth Walker. But when you hear the story — when the police told the story, you kind of get this story that “We went into the drug suspect’s house. One of the suspects fired at officers, hitting an officer. A female suspect was caught in the crossfire, basically, was killed.” And so, this whole female suspect, male suspect — well, he was never a suspect, and she was never suspected of selling any drugs or anything like that.

So, one of the things we’re really hoping that the FBI takes a very hard look at is the content of the affidavit, the affidavit that the police officer used in order to get the search warrant, because there are things stated in that affidavit, things like “We observed this other person leaving Breonna Taylor’s home with a package, and we observed Breonna Taylor’s car at this other location.” So the questions that we have are: Well, when was that? Who was driving the car? When did you see him leaving with a package? How long ago? How many times? All of those things. Because there were also some allegations in the affidavit — there’s sworn testimony in the affidavit that — a sworn statement, I’m sorry, in the affidavit that they had spoken with someone from the postal office who said that there were packages, suspicious packages. Well, that’s just not true. So, there are so many things that really need to be checked on and confirmed in the affidavit, because there is some belief that the affidavit is flawed, and, quite frankly, the warrant itself —

AMY GOODMAN: Sadiqa — it looks like we just lost Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League. We’re going to reget her on the Skype. As you see, the way we’re conducting interviews all over is for people to remain safe at home and to be able to do these broadcasts from home. But I want to go to the Kentucky governor, Andy Beshear. On Monday, he said he supported Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s decision to fire the Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR: It is unacceptable that the officers that responded last night did not have body cameras on and recording. This is the entire reason that we have those cameras. … I believe at this point that Chief Conrad, who’s somebody I’ve known and is a nice individual — it had to happen. It had to happen. Two incidences of this significance, no body cameras, it had to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Governor Beshear. Sadiqa Reynolds, take this forward. You have the police chief being forced out — but he was allowed to resign and stay for a couple months, until the end of June — because of what’s happened here. And no officers have been charged — is that right? — in the killing of Breonna Taylor. And then, explain what happened this week in the midst of the protests. Now he’s been fired.

SADIQA REYNOLDS: In the midst of the protests, in the midst of us complaining and the mayor responding — the mayor has tried very hard to be responsive. And he says there legally are things that he can’t do quickly, as it relates to termination of these officers. But he did say that they would, moving forward, be wearing body cameras.

Well, as people were out protesting, the National Guard came in. LMPD obviously was already here. And Louisville, like many cities, has that divide, and ours starts at 9th Street. Most of the protesting was happening in downtown Louisville, which is the business district, and in the Highlands area. For whatever reason, the National Guard and the police department ended up in the West End of Louisville, which is beyond that 9th Street divide.

You know, most of those folks probably didn’t even know there was a curfew. They weren’t in tune — certainly they were in tune with things that were happening, but not probably watching the news or whatever. I mean, they just weren’t protesters. They were going to get barbecue. There was a man there, YaYa, he had a business on 26th and Broadway, and he sold barbecue. And he gave barbecue away, and he fed community, and he fed the police. In fact, I think he had even catered an event that the police had. They thought highly of him, just as the community did.

What police say is that something happened. We don’t know what exactly, because the video that they’ve turned over is not that clear. You know, why they were not wearing body cameras? And he’s dead now. You know, David McAtee is dead now. And we don’t have a clear understanding of what happened. You can certainly see him going out his door, raising his arm, but you also can slightly see smoke there, so you don’t know what happened to provoke this. Was he shooting when he raised his arm? Was he waving? Was he — I mean, we just don’t know the answers. And now he’s gone.

And what people are trying to figure out is: Why was the National Guard at 26th and Broadway? Why were the police — they were supposed to be focused on protesters. And, you know, why were they there? Those people out there were not protesting. They were getting barbecue. They were hanging out. They were doing what they do any typical evening. I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense.

And can I say this? I think it’s so important. Sometimes when you have these kinds of cases, you have this other side that goes, “Aha, he did something wrong.” So, therefore, what? He deserves to be executed?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Sadiqa, I want to go back to a point that you made in Breonna Taylor’s case, namely that the judge was granted a no-knock warrant. Can you explain what that is? Because it seems to have an inherent risk — namely, that people whose houses are searched without a warrant are likely to respond with force or could respond with force, especially in a country which is so heavily armed, that that is a risk. So, why did the judge grant in this case a no-knock warrant? And your response to this proposed Breonna’s Law and groups like the ACLU wanting to ban no-knock warrants entirely?

SADIQA REYNOLDS: Well, I think that — can you hear me?

AMY GOODMAN: We hear you perfectly.

SADIQA REYNOLDS: We’ve lost the video.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yes.

SADIQA REYNOLDS: OK. Well, I don’t understand. There are certainly situations where I can imagine, if you have a kidnapping in process — I think about the case in Cleveland where the man had several women locked in the basement for all of that time, all those years. That’s somewhere — you’re not going to knock there.

But if you think that there are drugs in a home, you’re going in at 1:00 in the morning, you’ve had a search warrant since 12:00 in the afternoon, that’s not exigent circumstances. There is no need to execute a no-knock warrant. And, in fact, they did knock. So there’s evidence that they didn’t need a no-knock warrant. Many, many judges would not have signed it. And not just that it was a no-knock, but there was information that was not clear — timing, was the information in the affidavit stale, how long had it been. All of those kinds of things are things that need to be looked at.

As it relates to Breonna’s Law — and I think it’s right to limit the no-knock warrants. I think the Metro Council here in Louisville and the ACLU and all the organizations that are working on this are exactly right. I think it was right for the mayor to suspend all no-knock warrants, period. But that is not going to bring Breonna back. And what we have to have in this country is a way to more quickly respond to these officers who make these sort of terrible decisions that cost people their lives, innocent people, and sometimes — and this is the hard part for folks — sometimes guilty people. But guilty people don’t deserve to be executed on the streets in America. And —

AMY GOODMAN: Sadiqa, very quickly, your own senator, Senator Rand Paul, opposing the anti-lynching legislation? We have five seconds.

SADIQA REYNOLDS: He is being who he is.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Sadiqa Reynolds, we thank you for being who you are, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, speaking to us from Louisville.

As we broadcast, the U.S. Labor Department has released its latest unemployment numbers. Almost 2 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. A cumulative 42.6 million U.S. workers have now filed claims since the start of the pandemic. Expanded unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of next month.

That does it for our show. A huge thank you to our amazing team as they prevent community spread by working from home. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Stay safe.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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