By Oluwakemi Ishola
Relatives of Breonna Taylor, a black woman killed in a police shooting in her own home, announced Tuesday they have settled their wrongful death suit with the US city of Louisville for $12 million, as well as promises of local law enforcement reforms.
The civil settlement was substantial and relatively quick, reflecting the public pressure and emotion surrounding the case of the 26-year-old, which became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
After Taylor’s death on March 13, another black citizen, George Floyd, died on May 25 in Minneapolis while a police officer knelt on his neck, sparking protests across the country against racism and police brutality.
Taylor family attorney Ben Crump called the $12 million settlement “historic” but said the “comprehensive reform” plan was “equally important.”
Authorities in Louisville and the state of Kentucky pledged to implement measures that might head off incidents similar to the botched raid in which Taylor was killed.
Those include more oversight from commanding officers about search warrants, the hiring of a team of social workers, and encouraging officers to do community service.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the city “is not waiting to move ahead with needed reforming to prevent the tragedy like this from ever happening again.”
Taylor was killed when three plainclothes police officers executing a “no knock” search warrant burst into her apartment late at night.
Taylor’s boyfriend, who was in bed with her, grabbed a gun and exchanged fire with the officers. He later said he thought they were criminals.
The officers, who had not activated their body cameras as required, shot Taylor eight times, killing her. A police sergeant was also wounded.
The agreement signals an end to the civil proceedings but not to the criminal investigation, which has yet to lead to any charges, six months after Taylor’s death.
The three said they had announced themselves before entering. They later filed an after-action report that was found to be rife with errors.
The raid was carried out simultaneously with a handful of others targeting Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, an alleged narcotics dealer. But Taylor had broken up with him months before.
“As significant as today is, it’s only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna,” said her mother, Tamika Palmer.
Taylor’s family filed a civil complaint in April seeking redress, claiming that the search warrant was in error and that the officers had fired blindly and without due diligence.
One of the three officers, Brett Hankison, has since been fired, and the other two were suspended. The city has also banned “no knock” warrants.
The case has sparked international outrage, and earned celebrity attention.
Oprah Winfrey paid for billboards in Kentucky demanding justice for Taylor. US Open champion Naomi Osaka wore a face mask bearing Taylor’s name during her run for the title.
Formula One star Lewis Hamilton wore a t-shirt that read “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” on the podium at Sunday’s Tuscan Grand Prix.
A portrait of Taylor graced the cover of Vanity Fair magazine’s September issue.
But so far, none of the officers has been charged — a fact that has fueled daily anti-racism protests in Louisville for weeks.
Armed militia members, claiming to want to prevent acts of vandalism, have also been present, notably on the sidelines of the Kentucky Derby on September 5.