Noted civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump Thursday called on Kentucky’s Attorney General to release more details on what a grand jury was told before members decided not to issue any indictments for the police slaying of Breonna Taylor, as race becomes a central question in the case.
Crump, speaking on “The Today Show” one day after the grand jury issued indictments against only one of the three white police officers who fired into Taylor’s apartment on March 13, said the jury’s wanton endangerment indictment only applied to a white family in a nearby apartment that was struck by bullets, “but not for the bullets going into Breonna Taylor’s body, nor did they have wanton endangerment for the bullets that went into the Black neighbor’s apartment above Breonna.”
Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was killed when three plainclothes officers burst into her apartment in the early hours of March 13, as part of a drug investigation, in a case that only began to get national attention in May, after video went viral showing Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old Black man, being chased and fatally shot by white vigilantes while jogging near Brunswick, Georgia.
In a lengthy statement Wednesday following the grand jury’s announcement, Attorney General Daniel Cameron said his team “spent thousands of hours examining all of the available evidence,” but he gave only limited information on what that evidence was, in part because of the ongoing case against Detective Brett Hankison, the only one of the three officers to face indictment.
Cameron, who is Black, twice pushed back against reporters’ questions about the racial makeup of the grand jury, selected in a county that the Census Bureau lists as 72% white and 22% Black, saying “the fact that this has received so much scrutiny, I think it would be inappropriate for me to share the information about the makeup of the grand jury, just to the extent I can protect them.”
Crump said he and his co-counsels are “trying to figure out” what Cameron presented to the grand jury to “get an outcome like this,” adding: “It underscores what I have said many times, we seem to have two justice systems in America, one for Black America and one for white America.”
Crump’s comments were echoed by well-known sports figures including LeBron James, who said in a tweet “the most disrespected person on Earth is the Black woman,” and Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown who said: “I wasn’t surprised. I think that this society — the way it was built — its intentions was to never protect and serve people of color initially.”
“I certainly understand the pain that has been brought about by the tragic loss of Ms. Taylor… As an Attorney General who is responsible for all 120 counties in terms of being the chief …law enforcement officer, I understand that. I understand that as a Black man, how painful this is, which is why it was so incredibly important [to] make sure that we did everything we possibly could to uncover every fact,” said Cameron.
Cameron said Wednesday the investigation found that Detective Myles Cosgrove, who Cameron said fired the fatal shot, and Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, who was shot in the thigh, were justified in their use of force because Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired first, telling authorities he did not know the intruders were police. The one person killed was not legally considered “endangered,” under the grand jury’s determination. New York Governor Mario Cuomo Thursday called Taylor’s death “murder.” A spokesman for the police union could not be reached for comment.
After Taylor’s case was beginning to get national attention, it was turned over to Cameron’s office on May 20, which has faced unrelenting pressure to bring charges for her death. Walker acknowledged firing a single shot, which hit Mattingly in the thigh, damaging his femoral artery. Mattingly and Cosgrove returned fire toward two figures in the apartment’s hallway — Walker and Taylor. Mattingly fired six shots and almost simultaneously, Cosgrove shot 16 times, Cameron said. In total, six bullets struck Taylor. Hankison, who has been fired but is reportedly appealing, fired his weapon 10 times, including from outside of a sliding glass door and through a bedroom window. Some bullets traveled through Taylor’s apartment, number four, and into apartment three, leading to the wanton endangerment indictments. Cameron did not disclose what the grand jury was told about appropriate use of force, but Crump said the self defense argument “contemplates that you cannot use violence against an innocent by-stander like Breonna Taylor.” Cameron began presenting his team’s findings to the grand jury on Monday, leading to Wednesday’s announcement, which set off protests in several major U.S. cities. In Louisville, two police officers were shot during the unrest.