Rioters in Louisville and other cities are misdirecting their wrath over the shooting death of Breonna Taylor and the fact no one has been charged in her death.
There is justification for their rage, but it should be directed at the judge, prosecutors and police who violated Supreme Court guidelines and their own protocols in authorizing the no-knock warrant resulting in her death.
This is not a Black Lives Matter racial justice issue. This is an every person dangerous problem that needs fixing.
No-knock warrants are granted by judges based on info supplied by police and prosecutors who believe evidence might be destroyed or, worse, that knocking and announcing might give bad guys time to get their guns.
Here are some surprising insights cobbled together from a number of different news sources.
According to the Associated Press, the use of no-knock warrants has ballooned from about 1,500 annually in the early 1980s to about 45,000 in 2010. It is not that there are no restrictions on using no-knock warrants but the rules often seem to be ignored. They certainly were in Breonna Taylor’s case.
And even if police are serving a regular warrant, there are plenty of cases where cops fudge the rules by announcing themselves at the same time they bust down the door.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people from “unreasonable” searches and seizures. It is this gray area of “unreasonable” that needs to be defined, strengthened and enforced.
What happened in the case of Breonna Taylor is that Louisville police ignored even their own guidelines.
According to the Washington Post, the cops who conducted the raid on Taylor’s apartment were plainclothes officers hoping to catch Breonna Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, a known drug dealer. Instead she was with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was not wanted for anything nor had he been named in any investigation. Great surveillance. And no drugs were found in her apartment.
Walker is the one that fired at the cops as they broke in, shooting one in the leg. It is an indication of just how wrong this went down that he was not charged – even after shooting the cop.
Walker told prosecutors he thought it might be Taylor’s ex-boyfriend Glover breaking in. Unfortunately Walker’s shot triggered the fusillade from three plainclothes cops, with Detective Brett Hankison firing blindly through a window from outside the apartment.
Hankison is the only one charged and that was for reckless endangerment – not for shooting Taylor. Had any of his bullets hit her, the charge could have been murder.
However, Hankison did manage to shoot up two adjoining apartments – another clear violation of his department guidelines on indiscriminate shooting.
The Washington Post also reported that at some point police were told to disregard the no-knock portion of the warrant after it was issued because Taylor was determined to be a “soft target.” It turns out portions of the warrant were cut and pasted from other warrants – hardly the specific information constitutionally required to justify a no-knock. In fact the police officer that secured the warrant was not even part of the raid.
Police claim they did announce themselves. Yet only one person in the apartment complex is said to have heard it and she later changed her story on CNN.
A retired Louisville police academy instructor told the New York Times he tells recruits that when serving warrants at night to yell “police” at the top of their lungs – this to allow occupants to grant peaceful entry and not have cops mistaken for an intruder.
The warrant that resulted in Taylor’s death was signed by Louisville Circuit Judge Mary Shaw. An attorney for Taylor’s family said Shaw took just 12 minutes to review five related warrants in the investigation that he said were riddled with “falsehoods and misstatements.”
The Post also said the request for the no-knock warrant contained no specific information related to the raid on Taylor – just a generalized statement also appearing in other warrants basically saying that drug dealers are dangerous.
Under the Constitution and Supreme Court guidelines, the information contained in that warrant should not have been enough to grant a no-knock. The judge did not ask for additional evidence and she should have.
Clearly what needs to happen here is that judges, prosecutors and police need to be held accountable for executing warrants that do not fully justify crashing through a door in the middle of the night.