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“Loss of the Entire Community”: 6 Months Later, Trauma of Breonna Taylor’s Killing Remains

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Image Credit: NYT Presents on FX and FX on Hulu

Filmmaker Yoruba Richen, director of The New York Times documentary “The Killing of Breonna Taylor,” says the 26-year-old EMT’s killing was not just a devastating blow to her friends and family, but a “loss of the entire community.” Police officers in Louisville, Kentucky, fatally shot Taylor during a raid on her home in March, part of a botched drug investigation. Richen says that in visiting Louisville and speaking with Taylor’s loved ones, she “personally felt the trauma that we endure as African American people” as a result of police killings.

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

AMY GOODMAN: Now you have, most recently, prosecutors reportedly offering Breonna Taylor’s ex-boyfriend a plea deal if he names Breonna as a member of an alleged organized crime syndicate in return for leniency on drug charges. This is Jamarcus Glover, who turned down the plea deal. Prosecutors now deny naming Breonna as a co-defendant in his case. He was facing something like 10 years, and he would get out.

YORUBA RICHEN: Yeah. I mean, that was pretty shocking to find. I think what Tom Wine — and he’s the prosecutor — has said that it was — there’s no denying that there was written up this offer. I think he said it was a draft of an offer or something. I’m not exactly sure. But yes, there was this offer to Jamarcus, in some form, about naming Breonna Taylor as a co-conspirator.

And I just want to point out, Amy, I really think it’s important to emphasize that, A, no drugs or money were found in her apartment, even though the police say that they stopped the search because of the events of that night. But as I say in the film, they could have done the search days later, if that’s the whole reason these whole events came to be, because they thought drugs or money were in the apartment.

And then, even further than that, even if there were drugs or money in the apartment, which there weren’t, people deserve — we’re supposed to be a democracy where you have a fair trial. Are African American citizens not deserved of a fair trial, of an indictment and a fair trial, if that’s the case? You don’t go in and — the police can’t be judge, jury and executioner. You know? And so, we have to always come back to that guilty or innocent. And this woman was innocent. But guilty or innocent, people deserve a fair trial. And this is not the way we go about — we should be going about prosecuting supposed crimes.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Yoruba, you mentioned you were going to say it looks like, in the last days, there may have been police bodycam footage. That’s number one. And also, what was it like for you, as an African American woman, as a filmmaker, to go to Louisville to do this documentary, to, sadly, not meet Breonna herself, but meet her through the memories of others, to flesh out her story, to learn about her as a human being?

YORUBA RICHEN: Well, I’ll take that on first, because the thing that I felt when I started, when I went to Louisville and started talking with her friends and her family and Kenny, and seeing the city and what the city — how the city was in this uprising around her killing, I felt the trauma. I personally felt the trauma that we endure as African American people when we hear and see another killing, another police killing — which, by the way, we also know is nothing new. It’s happened for generations and generations and generations. And it’s a trauma that we have in our community, that I saw in her community, and that we have as a people.

And that is really what — one of the things that I want people to understand when they watch this film, that these are traumatic events that affect not just the — it’s not just the loss of one young woman, it’s the loss of the best friend. It’s the loss of the mentor to her 2-year-old goddaughter. It’s the loss of her and Kenny’s future. It’s not just one person dying. It has reverberations throughout — not one person being killed by the cops and the officers, who we pay to protect, but it’s the loss — who we pay to protect and serve us, but it’s a loss of the entire community.

AMY GOODMAN: And the idea that there is footage actually?

YORUBA RICHEN: And, yes, so, there — because the narcotics unit, which were the first officers on the scene to enact the — to execute the warrants, they were — because of a policy passed in 2015, they don’t have to wear bodycam footage. But there were so many — I mean, body cameras. There were all these other officers there, and as we see in this picture, that some of them were wearing bodycams. But again, none of this has been released. No, none of this has been released. The LMPD has released nothing.

AMY GOODMAN: And the protesters are facing off against the very police department that they are protesting.

YORUBA RICHEN: Absolutely. And you really see — what I saw there, too, and you see it in the subsequent protests — the militarization of the LMPD and of so many police departments across the country. You know, for the most part, these protests were peaceful, and they would be every night. And you would see these heavily militarized police, which only antagonize the situation, coming and confronting these protesters. And again, this is something that we’re seeing all over the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much, Yoruba, Yoruba Richen, director and producer of The New York Times Presents: The Killing of Breonna Taylor, now streaming on Hulu. She is the director of the documentary program at the Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY and a former Democracy Now! producer. Thank you for joining us, Yoruba, and congratulations on this film.

YORUBA RICHEN: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, “How Donald Trump Helped Kneecap the Robert Mueller of Latin America.” We’ll look at how the Trump administration helped kill off a powerful anti-corruption commission in Guatemala in exchange for Guatemala’s supports of Trump’s policies on immigration and in the Middle East. Stay with us.

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