A jury recently decided to acquit the officer who fired 10 rounds into Breonna Taylor’s apartment, ending her life in yet another case of a black or brown person in a fatal encounter with law enforcement. There are a lot of words that come to mind when I think about the lack of justice for Breonna Taylor: outrage, disgust, pain. But the bottom line is that this murder is yet another example of cops not being held accountable for their abuse of power. It’s an example that justice is for some, but not for all.
On March 13, 2020, Hankison and other plain-clothes officers forced their way into Breonna Taylor’s apartment as part of an investigation into drug dealing (investigating an ex of Ms. Taylor who did not stay there). Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was with her in the apartment and, upon seeing what he thought were intruders breaking into his home, grabbed his gun and fired a shot that hit one of the officers in the leg. Police returned fire, wildly, into both Breonna’s apartment and into a neighboring apartment, killing Ms. Taylor and endangering the lives of the family next door. Breonna Taylor was hit 6 times and died shortly after.
Mr. Walker was arrested immediately and charged with assault and attempted murder of a police officer, but the charges were dismissed a year later. But did they charge Mr. Hankison for his crimes? Not immediately. He simply lost his job for murdering a person. It took 3 months to actually arrest Brett Hankison. Yet it only took 3 hours for the jury to return a not guilty verdict on charges of wanton endangerment. How’s that for backwards?
If Mr. Hankison weren’t part of a special club, a broken justice system that very discriminately decides who deserves justice and who doesn’t, who’s important and who isn’t, he would’ve been arrested immediately. If Breonna Taylor had been a white woman, we all know that heads would roll ASAP.
The lack of justice happening to black and brown individuals, specifically women, is alarming. Police officer Brett Hankison killed Breonna in cold blood, and yet he walks free. Despite his long history of abuse allegations, including excessive force and sexual misconduct, the jury still found him not guilty. Despite the fact that an innocent black woman is dead, a black man was wrongfully arrested, and another family sitting at home in their apartment was terrorized by this officer of the law, Brett Hankison walks free.
Black lives don’t seem to matter to our justice system. We see it time and time again. The acquittal of former officer Hankison announces to the whole world that there will be no justice for Breonna Taylor.
It’s easy to lose hope when you hear something like that. It’s easy to fall into that trap. But when we keep standing up and saying “no” to police brutality, “no” to one set of rules for white people and one set of rules for black and brown people, “no” to the utter lack of accountability in our justice system, then we can make our own announcement to the world; we are watching, we are holding you accountable, and we demand justice.
Breonna Taylor didn’t get the justice she deserved. But if her death has illuminated one thing, it’s that we are strong when we come together in protest. We are loud when we speak in unison against racial injustice. And it would be folly to lose hope now, at this critical juncture, when we need it more than ever.
We must keep fighting.
Justice for Breonna.