The Failure to Charge Breonna Taylor’s Killers with Murder Is Not Unique

By Mike Talavera

On Wednesday, the Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that no Louisville police would be indicted for the murder of Breonna Taylor, the Black worker who was killed in March. The grand jury only indicted former officer Brett Hankison for “wanton endangerment” for firing 10 shots into Breonna’s apartment after police used a battering ram to break down her door in the middle of the night. Wednesday night, the people showed that it is right to rebel by returning fire against the police, with at least two officers injured from gunfire during a protest.

The failure to indict the officers punctuates a cruel, drawn-out legal process which has enraged the people of Louisville and those around the country. After Breonna’s murder, the police initially claimed that she had sustained no injuries and that they hadn’t broken through the front door. Hankison was not fired until late June, and outside investigations into the case have uncovered multiple discrepancies that point to a police cover-up.

“Justice is not often easy. It does not fit the mold of public opinion,” Cameron said. “And it does not conform to shifting standards. It answers only to the facts and to the law.”

This definition of reactionary justice, ruling class “justice,” is the same that Cameron used to justify charging 87 activists with felonies for sitting on his lawn in protest in July. Despite Cameron’s pretenses of being thorough, the only reason any movement has happened on this case at all is due to the nonstop protests in Louisville that started before the May Uprising.

Breonna’s case is not unique when it comes to police killings. It is rare for officers to be indicted for use of force, and it is even more uncommon for them to be convicted of a crime. This fact reflects the underlying purpose of the police, which is to enforce class society by oppressing the working class and protecting private property.

Below are follow-ups on police shooting cases that have been the focus of protests this year and where they stand now.

Jacob Blake

Former police chief Noble Wray has been appointed to serve as an “independent” arbiter on the case of Jacob Blake, the Black worker and father whom police shot seven times in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 23.

“[We] believe that having an evaluation of the facts conducted by a consultant who can evaluate those facts in light of standard policing practices and explain where they’re consistent with those practices or where they differ from them will help reach the most just outcome in this case,” Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said during a press conference this week.

Following Jacob’s shooting, protests rocked Kenosha through late August, and many professional athletes showed solidarity through boycotts. Knowing full well how loud the calls are for people’s justice in this case, the prosecutors investigating the officers involved have chosen to stack the deck in favor of the police, revealing their class stance.

Elijah McClain

Six Colorado activists who have led some of the demonstrations demanding people’s justice for Elijah McCain, whom police killed last year, were charged with felonies last week while the officers involved in Elijah’s death have avoided any consequences.

Police officers Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt and Randy Roedema confronted Elijah for looking “sketchy” as he walked down the street in August 2019. They then tackled him and placed him in a chokehold, and strong sedatives were injected into Elijah’s bloodstream, resulting in his death.

The only step local government has taken in response was voting to ban the use of the sedative which led to Elijah’s death in an attempt to distract from the racist police who are responsible.

George Floyd

This week, the four former police officers who murdered George Floyd are petitioning to relocate their trials out of Minneapolis. The impact of the police murder of George Floyd has been global, but that will not stop these officers from trying to escape to a backward pocket of the country to evade people’s justice.

Rayshard Brooks

One of the few police to be charged with murder, former police officer Garrett Rolfe, who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta in June, went on vacation to Florida after being released on bond in July. This flouting of the court prompted a call from the district attorney to revoke Rolfe’s bond.

Rolfe has also sued the mayor and the interim police chief as a way to get his job as a police officer back. His indignation shows to what extent police expect to receive preferential treatment and how often the reactionary justice system rewards them.

Erik Salgado

Recent findings have revealed that Sergeant Richard Henderson, one of the California Highway Patrol officers who shot and killed Erik Salgado during a traffic stop shortly after the May Uprising began, had killed another unarmed young man during a traffic stop four years earlier.

After Henderson shot and killed Pedro Villanueva in 2016, he moved out of southern California to the northern part of the state, where he was promoted to sergeant. Henderson was working undercover in both incidents.

Not only has Henderson not faced any consequences for either case, but police had intentionally not publicized his name—it was leaked to a ruling-class news outlet.

Mike Ramos and Javier Ambler

Mike Ramos (LEFT), Javier Ambler (RIGHT)

Protesters marched last weekend in Austin to demand people’s justice for Mike Ramos, killed by police in April, and Javier Ambler, whose case resurfaced this year after new video of his murder by police was released. District Attorney Margaret Moore has refused to move either case forward to grand jury out of spite for losing her reelection bid. “I believe the community has clearly stated it would like to see the new administration oversee the prosecution of these cases from beginning to end,” she said.

Protesters have accused Moore of being an enemy of the people and condemned US imperialism, the system that she represents, as the root of police brutality.

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