Family and supporters of Breonna Taylor said Wednesday that a Kentucky grand jury's lack of homicide charges against the police offers who fatally shot Taylor is "outrageous and offensive to Breonna's memory."
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, signaled that he expected harsher charges against the Louisville officers who fired shots into the young medical worker's apartment, on March 13.
Instead, amid mounting pressure for a decision in the case, a Kentucky grand jury indicted former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree, but neither he nor the other two officers involved in the fatal encounter were charged in Taylor's death.
"Today's news falls far short of what constitutes justice. But by no means does it define this movement or this moment in our history," Crump said in a statement following the announcement. "The Grand Jury may have denied Breonna justice, but this decision cannot take away her legacy as a loving, vibrant young Black woman who served on the front lines in the midst of a devastating pandemic."
The civil rights attorney called the decision another example of how white officers aren't held accountable for what he referred to as "the genocide of persons of color."
"Her killing was criminal on so many levels: An illegal warrant obtained by perjury. Breaking into a home without announcing, despite instructions to execute a warrant that required it. More than 30 gunshots fired, many of which were aimed at Breonna while she was on the ground," the attorney said. "Many others fired blindly into every room of her home. A documented and clear cover-up, and the death of an unarmed Black woman who posed no threat and who was living her best life. Yet here we are, without justice for Breonna, her family and the Black community."
Louisville police officers, executing no-knock search warrant, used a battering ram to forcefully enter the 26-year-old's apartment.
The charges against Hankison, who fired 10 shots into Taylor's apartment, stem from the errant bullets that penetrated a wall of the residence and entered a neighboring apartment occupied by a child, a man and a pregnant woman, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said at a news conference following the grand jury's announcement.
As a result, Crump said, "The rallying cries that have been echoing throughout the nation have been once again ignored by a justice system that claims to serve the people. But when a justice system only acts in the best interest of the most privileged and whitest among us, it has failed."
"For the sake of Breonna Taylor, for the sake of justice, and for the sake of all Americans, law enforcement agencies and their representatives throughout the country need to take a long, hard look in the mirror," he added. "Is this who you are? Is this the example you want to set for the rest of the world and for future generations?"
The attorney said he hoped that, through the FBI's ongoing investigation, "we will finally finally get the justice for Breonna that the Grand Jury refused her today."
Louisville Metro Police Department officers Myles Cosgrove, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Hankison executed a no-knock entry warrant on March 13 based on allegations that Taylor had been accepting USPS packages for an ex-boyfriend whom police were investigating as an alleged drug trafficker, according to the warrant.
Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were awoken around midnight when they heard a commotion at their front door. Walker fired his licensed handgun in self-defense, saying he thought his home was being broken into, according to police.
The plainclothes officers returned gunfire, firing several shots and fatally hitting Taylor, police said.
"Our investigation found that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their use of force after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker," Cameron said. "This justification bars us from pursuing charges in Ms. Breonna Taylor's death."
"The decision before my office as the special prosecutor in this case was not to decide if the loss of Ms. Taylor's life was a tragedy. The answer to that question is unequivocally yes," the attorney general added. "There's no doubt that this is a gut-wrenching emotional case and the pain that many people are feeling is understandable."
"We was failed as a family today," Taylor's sister, Ju'Niyah Palmer, wrote in an Instagram post after the announcement. "My sister, you were failed today by a system you worked hard for and I am so sorry. I love you so so so so so much."
She also shared images and videos from family celebrations showing her slain sister smiling and laughing.
Taylor's family members have become outspoken protesters against police brutality, and Tamika Palmer, Taylor's mother, said the long and intense fight for justice had hindered the grieving process.
"I haven't had time to sit and grieve," she told ABC News in June. "I'm still trying to figure out why my daughter was killed. I'm still trying to figure out, why did it have to come to her being murdered. Why did Breonna have to die?"