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Mother of EMT slain by Louisville police speaks out: Breonna Taylor ‘didn’t deserve this’

Tessa Duvall and Darcy Costello, Published 2:57 p.m. ET May 12, 2020 | Updated 10:07 a.m. ET May 15, 2020

Photos of Breonna Taylor were displayed during a vigil for her outside the Judicial Center in downtown Louisville, Ky. on Mar. 19, 2020.  Taylor was shot and killed by LMPD officers last week.  The family chose the vigil site because it is across the street from the Louisville Metro Police Department.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. —  Two months after 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was gunned down in her home by Louisville Metro Police officers serving a warrant, her family and attorneys say they still have received no answers on why the young ER tech and former MT was killed.

“The case deserves national attention because the police executed an innocent woman,” said Ben Crump, a high-profile Tallahassee, Florida-based civil rights attorney who is representing Taylor’s family in their lawsuit against police. “The fact that had the police followed their own policies and procedures, Breonna Taylor would be alive today.

“She wouldn’t be a trending hashtag.”

Her mother, Tamika Palmer, said police don’t appreciate the consequences of their actions.

“I’m not sure that they understand what they took from my family,” Palmer said Tuesday afternoon. “Not just me, but my family. This has affected so many of us, so many of her friends.”

On the same day Crump promised to ramp up the pressure, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer broke his silence on Taylor’s death through Twitter, calling for a “thorough investigation” and saying his priority “is that the truth comes out and for justice to follow the path of truth.”

“Police work can involve incredibly difficult situations. Additionally, residents have rights,” Fischer wrote. “These two concepts will and must be weighed by our justice system as the case proceeds.”

Taylor was shot at least eight times after three police officers entered her home on a no-knock search warrant in the early morning hours of March 13. Police have said the officers were there as part of a narcotics investigation, but no drugs were found at the home.

Bianca Austin, right, embraced her niece Juniyah Palmer during a vigil for her other niece, Breonna Taylor, outside the Judicial Center in downtown Louisville, Ky. on Mar. 19, 2020.  Taylor was shot and killed by LMPD officers last week. The family chose the vigil site because it is across the street from the Louisville Metro Police Department.

Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, was with her in bed when police entered the home, and police say he shot an officer. Officers fired more than 20 rounds into the home.

Walker now faces criminal charges of first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer, but no drug charges. Walker’s attorney wrote in a motion that the shot was fired in self-defense and that his client has no felony convictions.

Taylor had no criminal record.

Her mother remembers her daughter as a young woman who adored her family above all else.

“She was born into my family, but she made her own with her own friends,” Palmer said.

She said Taylor had made plans to succeed. Taylor worked as an EMT for area hospitals but had even bigger dreams.

“She had plans, and she was following those plans accordingly,” Palmer said. “She had a whole plan on becoming a nurse and buying a house and then starting a family. Breonna had her head on straight, and she was a very decent person.

Tamika Palmer was overwhelmed by the sight of supporters who showed up for a vigil for her daughter, Breonna Taylor, outside the Judicial Center in downtown Louisville, Ky. on Mar. 19, 2020.  Taylor was shot and killed by LMPD officers last week.  The family chose the vigil site because it is across the street from the Louisville Metro Police Department.

She didn’t deserve this. She wasn’t that type of person.”

Crump is not a stranger to firestorm cases. He has become a prominent figure in cases championed by the Black Lives Matter movement, including those of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown Jr.

He is also representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was shot and killed by two white men in Georgia in late February. The case has drawn national attention after a video of Arbery’s death surfaced online last week.

Gregory and Travis McMichael, father and son, were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault two days later.

But unlike the high-profile deaths of black men and boys shot and killed by police — such as 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Ohio, Philando Castile in Minnesota or Walter Scott in South Carolina — Taylor’s death hasn’t prompted wall-to-wall news coverage or massive protests.

“There is no reason this should not get all the attention it deserves, because Breonna Taylor’s life mattered,” Crump said.

Crump said the coronavirus pandemic has had an effect on how the community and news media have responded to Taylor’s death.

With stay-at-home orders, there haven’t been the same wide scale protests in the streets like there have in other controversial killings of black Americans in recent years.

At the same time, Crump said journalists have hardly covered anything other than the coronavirus for two months.

Together, these two factors have given LMPD “a convenient excuse” to not talk about Taylor’s death, said Crump and local attorney Lonita Baker, who is also representing Taylor’s family.

“We’ve seen (LMPD) fail to respond to situations like this before,” Baker said. “It’s not the first time they don’t respond when they act recklessly. They hide between (internal) investigations and they take a long time to get those investigations done.”

A spokeswoman for LMPD declined Monday to answer Courier Journal questions about the case, citing an ongoing internal investigation.

“We held a press conference about this shooting when it occurred to detail what we were able,” spokeswoman Jessie Halladay wrote in an email. “The Public Integrity investigation remains ongoing, therefore it would not be appropriate for us to comment.”

In Fischer’s statement, the mayor said that because the case is still under investigation, “expansive comments are not appropriate until all the facts are fully known.”

Crump also called the arrest of and charges against Walker “unwarranted” and “a red herring and deflection to try to not answer the more serious questions.”

“Breonna should still be here,” Baker said. “She should be sitting right here in this room with us. Her mom should still have her. Her sister should still have her. Her aunt should still.

“She was very much a family person and she should still be a part of their family.”

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