The Breonna Taylor Verdict

A case where the truth doesn't seem to matter.

Marissa Pantoja, 23, made this protest sign as a tribute to Taylor. "I think the biggest thing that hit home was that she was an essential worker," Pantoja says. "I want to make sure her name is never forgotten."

On the drive to the office this morning, I listened to the New York Times’ The Daily podcast episode, “The Breonna Taylor Decision: On the Ground in Louisville.” I thought it was incredibly even-handed.

My takeaways:

The prosecutor and the grand jury got it exactly right: the officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor did not commit a crime. They were operating under a lawful search warrant, knocked and announced themselves, were fired upon by Taylor’s boyfriend (Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly was hit in the femoral artery) and reasonably and properly returned fire. Taylor’s death was a tragic accident.

The officer who was indicted on what amounts to reckless endangerment charges was rightly charged. Alas, we know from the ballistics report that the bullets he recklessly fired without knowing where he was aiming did not kill Taylor or, indeed, anyone.

None of that much matters under the circumstances. Breonna Taylor’s name has become a stand-in for a larger, righteous cause. Indeed, most of the people protesting don’t know the facts of the case and, indeed, they’re woefully misinformed about what happened.

The notion that the facts of the case justified murder charges was, frankly, absurd. Everyone who closely followed the case* knew that. The grand jury result was not only exactly what was expected, anything else would have been a miscarriage of justice.

While prosecutors got the end result right, they badly mishandled the public messaging on this from the outset. While they understandably wanted to protect evidence from contaminating the jury pool, they were incredibly stingy with information that could have dispelled the misunderstanding. Instead, outright lies by attorneys representing Taylor’s family** became the received truth.

Not covered in the podcast but seemingly a red flag: Why execute the search in the middle of the night? To be sure, Taylor’s boyfriend, the target of the search, was a known drug dealer with a registered firearm. But banging on the door in the wee hours and then storming in would seem to be a recipe for disaster. Was the risk of escalation offset by fear that the drugs and/or boyfriend would be gone?

_______________

*A group that does not include me. Like the protestors demanding that we Say Her Name, I just assumed that she was one of too many unarmed Black people killed by white police officers using woefully excessive force. Until this morning, I was unaware that they had been fired upon first.

**Most notably, that the officers neither knocked nor announced themselves. That they did is not in dispute. Indeed, the person who would have most benefited from having us believe otherwise, the boyfriend who shot at police, has admitted the truth.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Race and Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. JohnMcC says:

    I’ve not followed the story here so closely that I can state this with a lot of confidence but it seems to me that there are two characters here called ‘boyfriend’. As I understand it, there is a former boyfriend who is known to be a serious dealer. The warrant asserted that Ms Taylor was receiving packages from him and using her home for storage of contraband. The present boy friend (with legal pistol) was at Ms Taylor’s home and it was he who fired at the persons breaking down his girlfriend’s door.

    Jus’ sayin’….

    Gosh, the ‘edit’ is back. Thanx!

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    The drug war + guns in private hands = yet another unnecessary tragedy.

    End the drug war. Demilitarize the cops. Get guns out of private hands. Or just accept that innocent people will die again and again and again. And, when the victim is black, given the inexcusable racism, incompetence and thuggery that unfortunately characterize so much of US law enforcement, you get rage in the streets.

    In addition to racism as the fuel to the fire, we are seeing the results of what is so aptly called toxic masculinity. Macho assholes with guns, some cops, some citizens. Breonna Taylor’s dead and there are riots in Louisville exacerbated by who? By toxic male militia thugs and toxic male cops.

    I am sick to death of the pitifully transparent excuses from gun lovers. Honestly, fuck all of you. Sick of the world you people have forced on us. Grow up. Man up. There is no bigger pussy than a weak-ass, insecure, macho poseur with a gun.

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  3. Jon says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Indeed.

    I think it was Atrios (Duncan Black) who started calling them ‘external death penises”, or maybe I just saw that for the first time on his blog.

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  4. Mister Bluster says:

    Until this morning, I was unaware that they had been fired upon first.

    All the reports that I heard or read recently included this fact.

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  5. JKB says:

    @Michael Reynolds: you get rage in the streets.

    As someone memed, back a few months ago

    We now have a country where mobs burn down police stations and politicians defund the police….And I’m suppose to give up my gun?

    The first rule of gun safety is: Never let the government take your guns.

    Gun ownership is going through the roof, especially in the swing states. And they are new gun owners.

    When the mob comes after you for flying the American flag outside your home, and promises to come back and burn down your house, that’s not a good way to “get the guns”. It didn’t even work when the Democratic party’s paramilitary arm were burning the houses of black Americans from 1870-1970.

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  6. Kathy says:

    How many shots did Breonna Taylor fire at the cops?

    In some jurisdictions, murder includes depraved indifference for human life.

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  7. R. Dave says:

    OP wrote:

    Most notably, that the officers neither knocked nor announced themselves. That they did is not in dispute. Indeed, the person who would have most benefited from having us believe otherwise, the boyfriend who shot at police, has admitted the truth.

    I think the “announce” part is disputed. See, e.g., this David French article:

    At approximately 12:40 a.m. on March 13, the police executed the search warrant. The police claim that they knocked and announced their presence before forcing entry into the apartment. Taylor was in bed with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. In interviews after the incident, Walker claims there was banging at the door, but he did not hear anyone say “police.” He grabbed a licensed firearm and walked toward the door with Taylor.

    I’ve seen various claims about whether any neighbors corroborate the cops‘ claim, but unless there’s new info, it seems Taylor’s boyfriend, Walker, at the very least disputes whether any such announcement was audible to him.

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  8. Pylon says:

    Regarding Murder, KRS § 507.020(1)(b) defines Wanton Murder as when a person:

    Caused the death of another;

    a. While under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life;

    b. Wantonly engage in conduct that;

    c. Created a grave risk of death to another.

    I think this is pretty arguable.

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    Speaking of weak-ass macho poseurs.

    FO, clown.

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  10. Pylon says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Your facts are correct. I’d add that the warrant was probably flawed and that, according to the NYT:

    Brett Hankison, a detective at the time, fired into the sliding glass patio door and window of Ms. Taylor’s apartment, both of which were covered with blinds, in violation of a department policy that requires officers to have a line of sight. He is the only one of the three officers who was dismissed from the force, with a termination letter stating that he showed “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.”

    This last sentence is germaine to the definition of murder in Ky.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    [Lies by the family lawyers] Most notably, that the officers neither knocked nor announced themselves. That they did is not in dispute. Indeed, the person who would have most benefited from having us believe otherwise, the boyfriend who shot at police, has admitted the truth.

    There is one witness who heard them shout police once.

    In the middle of the night, when you are not expecting anything, a shout is unintelligible on the first hearing. Without repeating, it is entirely plausible that the boyfriend only recognized someone shouting and then trying to break down the door.

    The police did not identify themselves well enough. Or, the police tried to identify themselves but failed.

    I wouldn’t call that the family lawyers lying.

    The castle defense doctrine and sudden raids do not work well together. This was a tragedy, but an entirely avoidable one where the police were negligent.

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  12. Gustopher says:

    @JKB: No one knows what you are talking about because we are not well steeped in wing-nut. Is Antifa now attacking people hanging flags?

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  13. Chris says:

    The whole idea of no-knock warrants, where there is no imminent threat to life, is un-American. It may currently be legal, but it is not right. I never thought those law enforcement offices should be charged with murder. However, what did they think was going to happen? These cops playing drug war super heroes were acting like warring soldiers instead of peace officers. In this and similar cases, the system is guilty of negligent homicide and those in the system who do not speak out about such terrible practices and actions are contributing to our police being seen more and more as a menace. I respect and appreciate the difficult job our law enforcement officers undertake, but they need to exercise more restraint, good judgment, and care for the people they are sworn to protect.

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  14. JohnMcC says:

    @Gustopher: Darn! You actually read what he writes?!

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    Yes, it was a confused situation and by strict interpretation of current law it was simply a tragic accident that an innocent black person was shot dead by police. Again.

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  16. R. Dave says:

    @Pylon: Regarding Murder, KRS § 507.020(1)(b) defines Wanton Murder as when a person:

    Caused the death of another;…

    Brett Hankison, a detective at the time, fired into the sliding glass patio door and window of Ms. Taylor’s apartment, both of which were covered with blinds, in violation of a department policy that requires officers to have a line of sight. He is the only one of the three officers who was dismissed from the force, with a termination letter stating that he showed “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.”

    This last sentence is germaine to the definition of murder in Ky.

    As I understand it, none of the shots that cop fired actually hit Taylor, so he didn’t “cause the death of another” and thus couldn’t be charged with Wanton Murder (which appears to be the KY version of involuntary manslaughter).

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  17. Jon says:

    They police had a no-knock warrant, so it is peculiar they would then decide to knock and announce themselves. Further, the witness who did say they announced themselves only made that claim during his *3rd* interview with the police. He did not make that claim during his first two interviews, and there are apparently other witnesses who explicitly said they did not announce themselves.

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  18. alkali says:

    @Jon: It would be particularly strange for the police, having obtained a no-knock warrant, would have decided after going out at 3 a.m. to enforce the warrant that, hey, they would just try knocking.

    It would also be strange if Taylor and her boyfriend would not simply have opened the door if the police had knocked and clearly announced themselves.

    It would be stranger still that if Taylor’s boyfriend had clearly been informed that the police were present, he would decide to shoot at them while bare-ass naked.

    In short, the claim that the police knocked is absurd.

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  19. EddieInCA says:

    Bottom line.

    Police screwed up.
    An innocent young black woman ended up dead.
    No one from the police will be held accountable.

    This is a perfect example of “Black Lives Don’t Matter”.

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  20. mattbernius says:

    @Jon:
    You beat me to a number of those points.

    Considering this was a grand jury hearing, with a different evidentiary standard*, the fact that 10 of 11 witnesses did not report hearing any announcement and the one witness who eventually changed his story to say that he heard the announcement also stated he only heard it once feels like it should have carried more weight.

    Additionally, if that was the case, it feel odd that the prosecutors did not end up charging Kenneth Walker for initially firing on the police (though that could be chalked up to prosecutorial discretion as I don’t believe it went to the Grand Jury).

    Constitutional lawyer and CATO VP Clark Neily raised a number of these issues today on Twitter:

    I would strongly urge conservatives who wish to maintain their credibility in the criminal justice space to stop misrepresenting what happened in the Breonna Taylor case:

    1. The cops DID have a no-knock warrant. This is undisputed.

    2. While it appears they knocked, it is hotly disputed whether they announced themselves as police.

    3. If they did announce, it is highly likely based on the totality of circumstances, that they knocked-announced-and-deployed-the-battering-ram all at once, which is an extremely common technique and completely defeats the purpose of the knock-and-announce rule.

    4. It is wildly implausible to suppose that Kenneth Walker heard the knock, then heard the (supposed) announcement that police were serving a warrant and decided to take a single shot at people who he understood to be cops as they battered down his door. Wildly. Implausible.

    Thread starts here: https://twitter.com/ConLawWarrior/status/1309138832063856646

    Nelly also notes that in a past *knock* raid 5 of the police involved with the Taylor incident never “knocked first” and immediately went to using the battering ram while shouting “police.” Which is not (a) the protocol and (b) changes the overall situation pretty significantly (and matches Walker’s account of the raid).

    see: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/y3zkax/5-cops-involved-in-breonna-taylors-case-were-also-part-of-a-botched-raid-in-2018

    It’s unfortunate that this time there were no body cams involved.

    All that said, I hope the AG follows through and publicly releases the evidence to see if additional evidence was offered to the grand jury that might change our understanding of things.

    * – While the evidentiary standards are different, I don’t think there was any chance they would have been able to get an indictment on murder.

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  21. Pylon says:

    @Jon: I read somewhere that they ahd a no-knock, but that it was altered to a knock, announce and enter. Be that as it may, the story that Taylor’s BF heard it and fired nonetheless is farfetched.

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  22. Modulo Myself says:

    It would also be strange if Taylor and her boyfriend would not simply have opened the door if the police had knocked and clearly announced themselves.

    Yeah, the police came to fuck things up and they assumed that no one in power cared. This wasn’t an accident. An accident suggests an error. What would be the error be? Do police have to be informed and educated about nighttime and daytime and how at nightime–get this–people sleep and being asleep means you aren’t awake? And guess what? The police were right. No one in power gives a shit.

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  23. Pylon says:

    @R. Dave: I had heard it was inconclusive whether his bullets hit her. But your point remains.

    Even so, it strikes me that the whole scenario calls for some sort of charge related to her death – negligence (leading to manslaughter), etc.

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  24. mattbernius says:

    Man, it continues to be amazing to me how people who are up in arms about federal forces–especially when certain parties are in office–suddenly get so silent on local police over-reach issues.

    Then I wonder if certain libertarian-leaning folks are in it for the white right reasons.

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  25. Gustopher says:

    @EddieInCA: I agree, but we also cannot charge people for things that are (offensively) not crimes. I think the grand jury got this right, from a legal standpoint.

    I would look for justice for Breonna Taylor not in prosecuting the officers involved, but in changing the processes allow routine issuing of no-knock warrants because they are doomed to collide with the castle doctrine.

    It doesn’t get vengeance, but it would make the loss of her life mean something positive.

    (Given the inherent risk of no-knock warrants, I do wonder if the people involved in the decision to seek and approve the no-knock warrant could be held liable… I think negligent homicide would be a stretch (legally, but not a stretch morally), but perhaps there is a reckless endangerment law that might fit…)

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  26. Gustopher says:

    @Pylon: If you cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer’s actions, reckless as they were, led to Taylor’s death, there is no case to be made for negligent homicide.

    From a gentle sociopath point of view, I’m glad they aren’t overcharging and failing — it points out that a significant problem is that the death of Taylor was entirely legal, and how fucked up that is.

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  27. wr says:

    All I ever hear from the right — and especially from tiny-dick losers like JKB — is that a man’s got the right to defend himself with a gun if someone gives him a dirty look. That’s the point of all those Stand Your Ground laws.

    But what the JKBs of the world never mention is that only white males are allowed to Stand Their Ground. Anyone else is expected to grovel at the feet of their superiors, or the white men have a perfect right to kill them where they stand. Or where they sleep, for that matter.

    There is so much, James, that you have left out of your summary. That warrant was fatally flawed, and if fact it had been marked down from a no-knock — which is probably why the cops are so uniformly lying about all the times they identified themselves that no one heard.

    This was flat-out murder by a bunch of cowboy cops. I do not doubt your intentions, but you are simply wrong here.

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  28. mattbernius says:

    **Most notably, that the officers neither knocked nor announced themselves. That they did is not in dispute. Indeed, the person who would have most benefited from having us believe otherwise, the boyfriend who shot at police, has admitted the truth.

    James, do you have a source that Walker stated that he heard the police announce themselves as police?

    My understanding is he hear knocking immediately followed by the battering ram, but has never said he heard the police announce themselves. (see this account: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/crime/2020/07/17/breonna-taylor-lay-untouched-20-minutes-after-being-shot-records/5389881002/)

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  29. SKI says:

    Taylor’s death was a tragic accident.

    Factual inaccuracies about the failure to announce aside, this is the sentence I have most issue with. It wasn’t an accident. It was a predictable result of the actions taken.

    I agree that a murder charge against the officers was inappropriate. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t murderer. The system we have allowed to exist murdered her.

    Bullshit warrants, hyper-militarized police, a gun fetish culture, a judicial and policing system unwilling or incapable of seeing citizens as individuals entitled to dignity.

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  30. EddieInCA says:

    @Gustopher:

    We will disagree. I don’t think the Grand Jury got it right. Not even close. Anytime someone dies from malfeasance, there should be justice. That no one will be held accountable is obscene.

    https://www.foxnews.com/us/breonna-taylor-shooting-judge-napolitano-indict-police

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/23/us/breonna-taylor-police-shooting-invs/index.html

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  31. EddieInCA says:

    @wr:

    This was flat-out murder by a bunch of cowboy cops.

    This.

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  32. James Joyner says:

    @Pylon: But, crucially, his bullets did not strike Taylor. The officer who killed her was firing at the boyfriend in response to mortal danger.

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  33. James Joyner says:

    @wr: Based on the NYT reporting, it sounds like the only cowboy cop was the idiot who ran outside and started spraying bullets at nothing in particular. Had his bullets killed Taylor, I would agree that it was tantamount to murder.

    I don’t claim to have any expertise in stand your ground laws but I don’t think any include shooting at police executing a search warrant.

    Whether the warrant should have been issued, I don’t know. As a general rule, I’m opposition no-knock warrants. And, as stated in the OP, I’m dubious of raids at half past midnight.

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  34. Mike in Arlington says:

    @James Joyner:

    I didn’t see this point raised about your description of the events: the warrant was issued to her EX boyfriend, who was not there. The man who fired at the police was her current boyfriend who was woken by the police breaking the door off of its hinges. And notice from the quote below, they were concerned that he had received packages at that address. Was this an appropriate amount of force to use for a search warrant for a place that may have been a location that received packages of drugs? (to be clear, I do not think this was an appropriate use of force).

    Also, everything I’ve read said that the police claimed that they announced themselves, but her boyfriend never heard any announcement/knocking. It’s possible that he lied, but it’s equally possible that the police lied.

    https://www.nytimes.com/article/breonna-taylor-police.html

    Regarding the ex bf:
    “The police had been investigating two men who they believed were selling drugs out of a house that was far from Ms. Taylor’s home. But a judge had also signed a warrant allowing the police to search Ms. Taylor’s residence because the police said they believed that one of the men had used her apartment to receive packages. Ms. Taylor had been dating that man on and off for several years but had recently severed ties with him, according to her family’s lawyer.”

    ETA: reply link and comment about the use of force when serving the warrant on Breonna Taylor’s apartment.

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  35. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    I will ask again: how many shots did Breonna Taylor fire at the cops?

    Another thing I want to know, is whether police are trained in marksmanship. It strikes me as overkill, literally, for someone wearing body armor to empty their gun against one person, especially when backed up by other officers. It seems more like a panic reaction.

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  36. Pylon says:

    @James Joyner: There were 6 bullets that hit Breonna taylor. One killed her and likely it was Cosgrove’s. I question whether he was firing his weapon properly, at the person who had shot once (not at him).

    There are a number of lesser charges that could apply, if given to a jury. The DA here has chickened out of even trying, based, IMO on assuming the most lenient verdict.

    If a civilian pumped a bunch of bullets into a room in a firefight and mistakenly killed a kid, he’d be charged. The DA would say “we’ll let a jury decide”. Here’ they’ve basically given the cops immunity.

    There should also be charges surrounding the issuance of the warrant itself, since it seems to have been obtained on false info.

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  37. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner:

    This is one of the other cops.

    “I know we did the legal, moral, and ethical thing that night. It’s sad how the good guys are demonized, and criminals are canonized.”

    A normal person would feel enormous amounts of guilt; this guy is aggrieved that Breonna Taylor is being mourned. This is typical behavior from the police. So you’re right. He’s not a ‘cowboy’ or a ‘bad apple’. He’s just another white toxic zero with a gun.

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  38. Mike in Arlington says:

    Just to follow up on the police lying. This is a story from when the police released the incident report about serving the warrant on Breonna Taylor.

    Note the, erm… “inaccuracies”. For example: that she suffered “no injuries”, and they claim that there was no forced entry, even though the door was broken off its hinges.

    https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/crime/2020/06/10/breonna-taylor-shooting-louisville-police-release-incident-report/5332915002/

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  39. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “The officer who killed her was firing at the boyfriend in response to mortal danger.”

    By firing through closed blinds so that his bullets went through the wall into another apartment. This man was at best incompetent. He panicked and just started shooting, not giving a dam which (black) people he happened to hit.

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  40. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “I don’t claim to have any expertise in stand your ground laws but I don’t think any include shooting at police executing a search warrant.”

    And if the “police” kick in your door in the middle of the night without identifying themselves — as eleven and a half of the twelve witnesses said (the thirteenth said this during his first two interviews and then “changed his mind” on his third)?

    Either you have a right to self-defense or you don’t. If you’re white, you do.

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  41. wr says:

    @Kathy: “It seems more like a panic reaction.”

    Or an execution.

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  42. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher:

    If you cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer’s actions, reckless as they were, led to Taylor’s death, there is no case to be made for negligent homicide.

    From a gentle sociopath point of view, I’m glad they aren’t overcharging and failing — it points out that a significant problem is that the death of Taylor was entirely legal, and how fucked up that is.

    I think it would be more correct to say that once they got one out of ten or a dozen witnesses to say maybe he did hear them shout “police”, the prosecutor had sufficient doubt to avoid prosecuting.

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  43. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: A week or so ago I mentioned an old article about police shootings in Germany. This time I found it, or one like it. I also find that the LINK button has gone away, so here’s the link – https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/05/german-police-used-only-85-bullets-against-people-2011/328297/
    In 2011 they fired 85 rounds: 49 warning shots, 36 at suspects, with 15 injured and 6 killed. So about 1-1/2 rounds per targeted individual. None of this every cop in the area blazing away until their magazine’s are empty.
    Apparently German cops are selected and trained to be a deal less prone to panic.

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  44. Gustopher says:

    @wr:

    This was flat-out murder by a bunch of cowboy cops. I do not doubt your intentions, but you are simply wrong here.

    Or an execution.

    They would have killed the current boyfriend as well. It would have removed a witness, and would have made the case vanish.

    Just as I do not believe that the current boyfriend would have shot at the police if he knew they were police, I do not believe that the police would have intentionally murdered one of the two people in the room.

    I assume a degree of rationality until it is demonstrated otherwise.

    There were a lot of flaws in the leadup to and the execution of the search warrant. There were a lot of flaws in the handling of the shooting afterwards. There may be crimes galore there.

    But, the current boyfriend shooting, and the police shooting back at anything moving, is an inevitable consequence of castle doctrine intersecting with the surprise police home invasion.

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  45. Modulo Myself says:

    But, the current boyfriend shooting, and the police shooting back at anything moving, is an inevitable consequence of castle doctrine intersecting with the surprise police home invasion.

    No, it’s the inevitable consequence of criminalizing and policing behavior in black people that for white people equals ‘boys being boys’. Take Brett Kavanaugh and his prep school buddies, make them black, put them in a poor neighborhood, and the police will be kicking their doors in, giving them records, screwing with their money and lives. Whenever racists get too close to this truth the mental crackup occurs and they need reassurance that somehow it’s not as it seems.

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  46. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    I assume there are fewer guns privately owned in Germany, too.

    You know, given the ethnic strife, the corrupt and brutal police, the arcane and unrepresentative elections, the widespread poverty, the huge income inequality, the pervasive violence, the large infant mortality rate, subpar schools, decaying infrastructure, and the large amount of guns in the streets, America looks more like a rich Third World country with the world’s best entertainment industry.

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  47. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @Kathy: Sadly, I don’t really think you’re wrong Kathy. That *is* modern America.

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  48. Pylon says:

    @gVOR08: This is my issue, which I think you’re getting at as well. They investigated this seemingly towards getting an excuse to avoid laying charges. In any normal case, they’d say “we have enough evidence to form a case, even if there’s a chance a jury would find reasonable doubt”. Hell, they charged the boyfriend and only afterwards dropped the charges.

    The evidence of this supposition is that fact that the witness only said he might have heard “police” after being cajoled. He initially didn’t say that. Any normal investigation would have just taken the initial statement at face value.

    I wonder if federal charges would still be possible (assuming a change in administration). A civil rights charge?

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  49. Kathy says:

    @Pylon:

    I wonder if federal charges would still be possible (assuming a change in administration). A civil rights charge?

    I’m inclined to think so. There’s the doctrine of separate sovereigns.

    But in the first place, these killer cops haven’t been indicted, much less tried. A federal charge wouldn’t come even close to being in conflict with the prohibition on double jeopardy.

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  50. ImProPer says:

    @mattbernius:

    “Then I wonder if certain libertarian-leaning folks are in it for the white right reasons.”

      Any ally in the quest for justice should be welcomed. For better or worse, the faces of those that are denied it, aren’t usually model citizens like a Rosa Parks. This makes the battle much more complicated than in  the civil rights era. I hate to  be pessimistic, but the newest victims of the prison industrial complex are more likely to die of old age, than see any meaningful reform from either major party, as it is a reliable source of political power for both

     

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  51. mattbernius says:

    @ImProPer:
    Oh, to be clear, principled Libertarians are great allies in CJ Reform–Cato and Reason have both shown that in the past. And the Koch Foundation and groups like Arnold Ventures are doing excellent work as well. They’re putting in the hard work and funding a lot of great efforts.

    So to are a bunch of principled Conservatives, the folks at R-Street are doing great work on numerous issues. And great organizations like Families Against Mandatory Minimums and Right on Crime are staffed by people from the Right.

    I’ve had the chance to interact with a bunch of those folks. I’ll be the first to say that Criminal Justice Reform creates very strange bedfellows.

    My beef is with a certain type of individual who claim to espouse Libertarian principles but are primarily liberty for me and not for thee–especially if you’re non-white. We’ve historically had a bunch of those folks here. The type who are full in for Ammon Bundy, but suddenly go completely deaf when Bundy extends beyond federal forces to local police and starts talking about how black lives matter and defund the police. These are the type of folks who are willfully blind to the rather awful history Libertarianism has with race issues*.

    And yeah, I agree that neither of the two main parties is perfect on these issues. However, I can make a strong argument that the Dems typically are slightly better on a lot of things. Or at least are often easier to work with. Though that varies from state to state and region to region–not to mention topic to topic.

    Honestly, I have been trying to do my best to ignore those folks, but occasionally, I just need to let off some steam.

    * – To be fair this is far from just the Libertarians. For more specifically on Libertarianism’s issues with race, I suggest Jonathan Blanks, Bonnie Kristian, and Zuri Davis.

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  52. mattbernius says:

    @ImProPer:

    For better or worse, the faces of those that are denied it, aren’t usually model citizens like a Rosa Parks.

    For the record, by today’s standards, Parks was far from the “model citizen/naive little black woman who just got caught up in events” that history has sanitized her into being. She was an activist from the start and was part of a strategic effort to provoke the very situation she was known for. Which in no way is to hold anything against her. But it is to complicate our history which turned her into a naive victim rather than a proud activist and community organizer.

    But these days, those titles tend to be dirty words.

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  53. mattbernius says:

    @mattbernius:

    My beef is with a certain type of individual who claim to espouse Libertarian principles but are primarily liberty for me and not for thee–especially if you’re non-white. We’ve historically had a bunch of those folks here.

    It suddenly occurred to me that the folks I’m thinking of are more or less the John Birch Society folks who aren’t willing to own up to that title and so they tend to make lots of libertarian-ish noises but at the end of the day are just anti-federalist ethno-nationals.

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  54. ImProPer says:

    @mattbernius:

    “Which in no way is to hold anything against her. But it is to complicate our history which turned her into a naive victim rather than a proud activist and community organizer.”

    Well put, I knew that part of her history, and consider her a model citizen, and American hero. My point is that today, much of the horror we are confronted with is against people that aren’t as sympathetic, case in point, the ex boyfriend of Ms. Taylor looking at decades in prison for evidently selling a little dope. All the intrigue with the DA, making dubious plea bargains to implicate her and try to make it look like it was a major criminal enterprise to rationalize their behavior.
    IMO, the largest breakthroughs in social justice will be through criminal justice reform.
    In this age of oxymorons, I wouldn’t be surprised if John birch libertarians exist, but I as one will take an ally, now matter how ill-conceived their title. I’m don’t want to keep seeing the perpetual carnage, and predictable responses after the fact.

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  55. DrDaveT says:

    They were operating under a lawful search warrant, knocked and announced themselves

    James, if someone came to your home in the middle of the night, knocked at your door, “announced” who they were, and then kicked in your door… at what point in that proceeding would you even be awake? And does the law now assert that your right to defend your home against invasion ceases if the invaders claim to be the police? Seriously?

    You have not thought this through.

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  56. ImProPer says:

    @mattbernius:

    Some how I scrolled past your initial reply, before answering. Double thumbs up!!

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  57. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    The officer who killed her was firing at the boyfriend who was legally defending his home.

    FTFY

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  58. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner: @James Joyner:

    I don’t claim to have any expertise in stand your ground laws but I don’t think any include shooting at police executing a search warrant.

    Again: are you asserting that the law forbids you from defending yourself against anyone who CLAIMS to be a police officer? That any home invader can be immune against defense by claiming to be the police? Seriously?

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  59. de stijl says:

    @DrDaveT:

    He is a demonstrated institutionalist.

    Eventually, he gets there.

    I chided him for years on R efforts on voter suppression.

    JJ is always going to be slow on issues where justice is not in the institution’s immediate favor.

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  60. de stijl says:

    @mattbernius:

    Add Radley Balko.

    Both his journalism and his books.

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  61. Gustopher says:

    @mattbernius:

    For the record, by today’s standards, Parks was far from the “model citizen/naive little black woman who just got caught up in events” that history has sanitized her into being. She was an activist from the start and was part of a strategic effort to provoke the very situation she was known for. Which in no way is to hold anything against her

    To me at least, this is the part of her story that makes her completely bad-ass.

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  62. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Dead on accurate.

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  63. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: I don’t claim to have any expertise in stand your ground laws but I don’t think any include shooting at police executing a search warrant.

    Other’s have already said what needs to be said on this. But this?

    Whether the warrant should have been issued, I don’t know. As a general rule, I’m opposition no-knock warrants. And, as stated in the OP, I’m dubious of raids at half past midnight.

    No, you do know James. You know damn well a no-knock warrant never should have been issued for an apartment in which it was not known whether either one the occupants was engaged in criminal behavior. Accepting packages for an ex-boyfriend?

    I accepted packages for my sons on occasion for years as they led their gypsy lives. That fact alone would not make me an accomplice in any criminal behavior they might be engaged in and it sure as hell did not apply against Breonna or her current boyfriend.

    They could have easily had one or 2 officers outside her apartment with a warrant waiting for her to leave/come home for work, approach her in the parking lot, identify themselves, question her, and then go in and search her apartment. But they didn’t do that. Why?

    You know as well as I the reasons, but you have your blinders on, the “cops are good guys” blinders. At some point you will have to face the fact that we have a systemic problem with policing as it is practiced here in this country.

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  64. Matt says:

    @de stijl: Radley Balko’s blog during the Bush Jr era was very influential in my political awakening in the early 2000s. He opened my eyes to many things and that resulted in my switch from a reliable Republican voter to an independent. At some point during this awakening I ended up reading this blog. Although I was a lurker for many many years before I started commenting.

    True libertarians are allies in the pursuit of criminal justice reforms.

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  65. Matt says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    They could have easily had one or 2 officers outside her apartment with a warrant waiting for her to leave/come home for work, approach her in the parking lot, identify themselves, question her, and then go in and search her apartment. But they didn’t do that. Why?

    That was my first thought to as I’ve seen many stories where that exact thing was used to arrest white criminals…..

    Apparently I can no longer edit my comments or even use the quote/italics/bold/etc buttons.

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  66. James Joyner says:

    @wr:

    By firing through closed blinds so that his bullets went through the wall into another apartment

    Again, that’s the third officer. He was rightly fired and charged with wanton negligence. But ballistics determined that it was one of the other officers’ bullets that hit and killed Taylor.

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  67. James Joyner says:

    @mattbernius:

    Parks was far from the “model citizen/naive little black woman who just got caught up in events” that history has sanitized her into being. She was an activist from the start and was part of a strategic effort to provoke the very situation she was known for. Which in no way is to hold anything against her. But it is to complicate our history which turned her into a naive victim rather than a proud activist and community organizer.

    Correct. It’s just bizarre, really, that we’ve simultaneously lionized her as a hero and turned her story into one that’s decidedly non-heroic.

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  68. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    You know damn well a no-knock warrant never should have been issued for an apartment in which it was not known whether either one the occupants was engaged in criminal behavior. Accepting packages for an ex-boyfriend?

    Again, I haven’t spent months following the ins and outs of the case and don’t know what police and the magistrate knew. My druthers, frankly, would be for most drug offenses to decriminalized and for no-knock warrants to be exceedingly rare. But I gather Taylor, the current boyfriend, and the ex-boyfriend were all named on the warrant.

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  69. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Consider how the different discussion of the Breonna Taylor killing would be if the Louisville Police were equipped with and required to employ body cameras.
    Intuitively, the police knew that there would be a citizen/police interaction. Police knew in a advance that that interaction had a significant likelihood of conflict when they came equipped with a battering ram.
    The police incident report months ago was opaque, leads an observer to question…. what are they hiding.

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  70. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s just bizarre, really, that we’ve simultaneously lionized her as a hero and turned her story into one that’s decidedly non-heroic.

    I don’t think it’s bizarre at all… it was a strategic (on both sides, though for different reasons). American’s don’t like activists when they are alive. They are trouble makers.

    So from MLK’s side, they wanted to turn her into a “perfect victim” — there were others they had considered, but none were as sympathetic. They saw portraying her as that as the only way to advance their agenda.

    On the establishment side, the side that writes history, the effort was made to minimize the activist role in provoking this situation, because as a whole we really don’t like encouraging social activism. Things had to change because people were innocent victims, not because they demanded and provoked change. Activists are never considered innocent. Its a reminder of how we are really, really bad at teaching any grays.

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  71. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    My druthers, frankly, would be for most drug offenses to decriminalized and for no-knock warrants to be exceedingly rare.

    Yes! It is worth noting that in many respects, Taylor is a another victim in our failed, overmiliterized drug war.

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  72. JohnMcC says:

    @mattbernius: As a little guy I observed the Montgomery Bus Boycott from the back seat of the family car as my dad drove our ‘help’ home. Have two memories. One was wonderment at all those (as we would have said) Negroes walking down the shoulders of roads. The other was the next door neighbor telling my folks that there were gangs of (n-words) beating up any ‘Negro’ who got off a bus.

    Not too much changes. The need to valorize ‘our’ side and to denigrate ‘their’ side. Fortunately in that case the good guys won.

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  73. Northerner says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    End the drug war. Demilitarize the cops. Get guns out of private hands.

    I’d guess that your murder rate is as you say, a combination of drug laws, allowing hand-guns, militarized police — but I suspect a big part of it is a wide-spread sense that its okay to shoot people. The latter, more than even availability of guns, is what seems so dangerous. For example, a number of countries have a lot of private fire-arms and the same crime inducing war-on-drugs laws but low murder rates, for example Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Serbia, Finland — with the caveat that they allow long guns (useful for hunting, farmers etc) but not handguns (only good for shooting people because they annoy you).

    So given that attitude, how are you going to simultaneously demilitarize the police and get guns out of the hands of private citizens? My sense is that a lot of your co-citizens are firm believers in the saying “You’ll get my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands”. Isn’t that in part why your police ended up being so militarized in the first place?

    Getting rid of the war on drugs strikes me as being the most possible of the steps (seriously, if prohibition didn’t work against alcohol, who could have ever thought it’d work against other drugs?)

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  74. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “He was rightly fired and charged with wanton negligence. But ballistics determined that it was one of the other officers’ bullets that hit and killed Taylor.”

    Are police officers free to shoot anyone they want to if they feel they are threatened, or should they try to restrict their fire to the person they feel threatened by?

    No one short of Tucker Carlson is claiming that Taylor posed any threat at all to the officers, and yet there was no obligation on the part of the cops to find out how many other people might be in the apartment before they unloaded their magazines?

    At the very least this is negligent homicide, and given the cover-up attempted I would never give one of these cops the benefit of any doubt.

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  75. Northerner says:

    @wr:

    No one short of Tucker Carlson is claiming that Taylor posed any threat at all to the officers, and yet there was no obligation on the part of the cops to find out how many other people might be in the apartment before they unloaded their magazines?

    That seems to be a major difference between American police and that of other countries.

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  76. Pylon says:

    On the fact that only one bullet was fatal to Breonna Taylor, it strikes me that, notwithstanding only one cop knelt on George Floyd’s neck, all 4 cops there were charged.

    She was shot six times, her boyfriend, who they were ostensibly shooting at, was not hit at all. They fired with disregard for anyone in the area – there could have been numerous inhabitants. And not one person there was under suspicion of any crime.

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  77. James Knauer says:

    I hope it’s becoming clear that only a general strike will topple the corrupt law enforcement at every level of U.S. government. There will be no voting your way out of this cancer you’ve created and let fester for 240-odd years.

    Now that the lot of you are concerned about corrupt cops, who do you think is next on their list? They have relied on your sheep-like compliance to exist. Cops must get control of the situation. This is their wicked training, even if it means a traffic stop ends with you dead on the street. It ends with an innocent woman being executed in her own bed in the dead of night.

    You’re going to have to take away their money, their badges, their guns, and their unions. Only a general strike is going to accomplish that. The economy’s already tanked and school’s going to be out for the foreseeable future. A wave of evictions and insurance defaults will occur this fall. A tiny number of people who’s names would fit on 3 pages control most of the money and want you to die already. There was never going to be any real COVID-19 relief.

    Get it yet? You can’t do anything with a vote. You’re going to have to strike. You don’t really have anything else to lose at this point since it’s all been stolen from you.

    Then gather around inalienable rights. Those will endure.

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  78. flat earth luddite says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I accepted packages for my sons on occasion for years as they led their gypsy lives. That fact alone would not make me an accomplice in any criminal behavior they might be engaged in and it sure as hell did not apply against Breonna or her current boyfriend.

    Hate to break it to you, but under Federal (and, IIRC, all 50 states’) law, you ARE a part of any criminal act of your sons by accepting the packages. ANY activity. Your house, vehicles, property are ALL tainted by that “conspiracy” and are subject to seizure and forfeiture to the state. Largely without recourse. Even if a jury acquits you, you’re still on the hook, the “State” gets to keep your s***.

    For what it’s worth, I think James will come around. Eventually. Hope it’s before this awful situation comes to his neighborhood.

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  79. mattbernius says:

    @de stijl & @Matt:
    100% to Radley Balko. I’m hoping that one of these day’s our paths will cross in person. In the meantime, and on topic, here is him being interviewed from earlier this year on no-knock raids:

    https://www.npr.org/2020/06/12/876293168/no-knock-warrants-how-common-they-are-and-why-police-are-using-them

    A new edition of his book “Warrior Cop” is on the way (if it isn’t out already). I’m definitely looking forward to it.

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  80. keef says:

    “Not covered in the podcast but seemingly a red flag: Why execute the search in the middle of the night? To be sure, Taylor’s boyfriend, the target of the search, was a known drug dealer with a registered firearm. But banging on the door in the wee hours and then storming in would seem to be a recipe for disaster.”

    I think this is the essential, and correct, point. Why do that? Why? The potential problem is obvious.

    Almost all the other commentary I’ve seen is pretty much crap.

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  81. ImProPer says:

    @keef:

    “Not covered in the podcast but seemingly a red flag: Why execute the search in the middle of the night? To be sure, Taylor’s boyfriend, the target of the search, was a known drug dealer with a registered firearm.”

    Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend
    was not a “known drug dealer”, nor a target of the search.
    At least a cursory review of the facts before commenting might get people to take your opinions more seriously. (If that is your goal)

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  82. KM says:

    @DrDaveT:

    James, if someone came to your home in the middle of the night, knocked at your door, “announced” who they were, and then kicked in your door… at what point in that proceeding would you even be awake? And does the law now assert that your right to defend your home against invasion ceases if the invaders claim to be the police? Seriously?

    You have not thought this through.

    THIS. I live in a house full of women, old people and occasionally small children. Nobody is a criminal / criminal-affiliated and we have zero reason to think some asshat screaming COPS outside our door at 3am is anything other then someone trying to get us to open the door. Why is God’s Name would I stumble to the door, open it for armed hostile strangers who only have to say the magic word POLICE and suddenly I’m not allowed to defend myself anymore? Oh hell no, I would be suspicious and fearful of my life…..

    There’s a strain of logic people hold that if a warrant gets served on you, you did something to deserve it and thus they can’t empathize with the terror of strangers busting in out of nowhere. After all, someone like James would be very confident the cops would *never* do that to him and his family in the middle of the night. He’s not a criminal so why would they come for him? It’s not like accidents happen or people make mistakes….. mistakes that can lead to you dying in your sleep because your SO tried to defend their home from surprise invaders.

    Breonna Taylor should have horrified everyone even if you don’t give a damn about the racial aspect of it. The police killed an innocent woman because of their mistakes and the boyfriend, who under any other circumstances, would have been seen as defending them is used as an excuse to let the killers walk. This could have been anyone and it will be again. You are not allowed to defend yourself against a cop….. and they are not expected to they have the right or right circumstances to shoot you.

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  83. mattbernius says:

    @ImProPer:

    Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend was not a “known drug dealer”, nor a target of the search.

    Actually, those were not Keef’s words–they were what James wrote in the body of the post. And I missed that until now otherwise I would have made your correction.

    Taylor’s current boyfriend and the person who discharged the weapon, Kenneth Walker, was (1) not named on the warrent and (2) has no criminal background and was not a known drug dealer.

    source: https://www.whas11.com/article/news/investigations/breonna-taylor-case/who-is-kenneth-walker-breonna-taylor-boyfriend-grand-jury-decision/417-f20e20aa-e97e-4843-95f4-be5aba95201e

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  84. ImProPer says:

    @mattbernius:

    10-4, thanks, I had read James’ post, and somehow missed it. While the facts of this tragedy haven’t been difficult to keep up with, the spin has. I’ve been reading James’ posts for for some time now, and find him to be a man of admirable integrity. Honest mistake I’m sure.

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  85. keef says:

    @ImProPer:

    Is your brain sufficiently functional to know that the issue is the timing of the warrant delivery……….if you want to be taken seriously.

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  86. ImProPer says:

    The issue I brought up was that the individual was mischaracterized as a known drug dealer.
    I Noticed the mistake after reading your post, and pointed it out. If it was a miss on your end, I’m glad to offer an apology.
    As to…

    “I think this is the essential, and correct, point. Why do that? Why? The potential problem is obvious.”

    Good point!

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  87. al Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    When the mob comes after you for flying the American flag outside your home, and promises to come back and burn down your house, that’s not a good way to “get the guns”. It didn’t even work when the Democratic party’s paramilitary arm were burning the houses of black Americans from 1870-1970.

    1870 – 1970? Okay, I’ll play too.
    So how is it that the great majority of the killing that is going on these days is by White Identity/White Nationalists (aka Republican Party paramilitary types) – In Charlotteville, in churches and Synagogues in Charleston Pittsburgh San Diego and Texas, at Walmart in El Paso, in a casino hotel parking lot in Las Vegas, in classrooms in Connecticut and Florida?

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  88. Northerner says:

    @al Ameda:

    So how is it that the great majority of the killing that is going on these days is by White Identity/White Nationalists (aka Republican Party paramilitary types) – In Charlotteville, in churches and Synagogues in Charleston Pittsburgh San Diego and Texas, at Walmart in El Paso, in a casino hotel parking lot in Las Vegas, in classrooms in Connecticut and Florida?

    That’s kind of interesting — America’s highest murder rates are in churches, synagogues, Walmart’s and casinos? I find that very surprising, I’d have guessed there’d be more in people’s homes, or on random businesses and streets. I’m even more surprised that its linked to any particular political motive, I’d have thought it far more situational than that (jealousy or in the course of robbery).

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  89. Litly says:

    Just popping in to say how refreshing to hear people (mostly) civilly disagree. I don’t spend a lot of time online but almost always when I read an interesting article and turn to the comments I find nothing but wacko, hateful spewing. You’ve somewhat restored my faith in this country!

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