#SayHerName: Breonna Taylor, a COVID-19 Frontline Worker, Killed By Police Violence

Supermajority Education Fund

May 20, 2020

Just after midnight on March 13, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville, Kentucky EMT, was at home in bed with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker when three officers in plainclothes burst through her door to carry out a “no-knock” search warrant, the Courier-Journal reported on May 16. Walker said he thought that intruders were breaking in, called 911, and shot at police in self-defense, NBC News reported. Police fired 20 bullets, and eight struck Taylor, who died in her home. 

Walker is now facing charges of first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer, and the officers are on administrative reassignment. Neighbor accounts say that police did not announce themselves, but police say they did, the Courier-Journal reported. The suspect they were searching for did not live at Taylor’s residence. 

Weeks went by before Taylor’s story reached national attention, even though her family and supporters started shared photos and the hashtag #JusticeforBre as early as March 15. Taylor’s family and supporters are seeking the removal and prosecution of the officers responsible for Taylor’s untimely death, and, with the support of organizations such as Color of Change, a non-profit civil rights advocacy organization, are also pushing for Walker’s charges to be dropped.

“This was a [case of a] black woman who was murdered at home by police,” Malachi Robinson, the criminal justice campaign director at Color Of Change, told Supermajority News. “I think that time and time again, what we see is when black women and girls and femmes experience state-sanctioned violence, there isn’t a large rallying cry often.” That’s why movements like hashtag #SayHerName exist — to highlight that.”

The “no-knock” search warrant the police officers who shot Taylor were granted was ordered by a judge; the officers were given clearance to forcefully enter the home of the suspect they were looking for (who, again, did not live at Taylor’s residence) without identifying themselves. On Monday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said officers must now get clearance from the chief of police or their designee before a judge signs off on “no-knock” warrants. Officials added that police are also now required to wear body cameras executing search warrants. Officers were not wearing them in this incident. 

Taylor’s family also demands that the special prosecutor State Attorney General Daniel Cameron seeks full transparency in what happened the night Taylor was killed, accountability for the officers involved in the incident, that the local independent civil police accountability council receives all necessary information, that officials create a policy for a transparent investigation process when there is police misconduct, and to release Walker’s 911 call to the public.  

Robinson says that Taylor’s case — as well as Ahmaud Arbery’s case — exemplify why the appointments and elections of prosecutors matter.

“The importance of having elected officials in office who are actually going for our best interests, and who aren’t going to let murders of innocent black people go uncharged or swept under the rug for months without protest,” is particularly apparent in these cases, Robinson said.