By DYLAN LOVAN and PIPER HUDSPETH BLACKBURN
LOUISVILLE — Hours after a Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for Breonna Taylor’s death and protesters took to the streets, authorities said two officers were shot and wounded Wednesday night during the demonstrations expressing anger over the killings of Black people at the hands of police.
Interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said a suspect was in custody but did not offer details about whether that person was participating in the demonstrations. He says both officers are expected to recover, and one is undergoing surgery.
He says the officers were shot after investigating reports of gunfire at an intersection where there was a large crowd.
Several shots rang out as protesters in downtown Louisville tried to avoid police blockades, moving down an alleyway as officers lobbed pepper balls, according to an Associated Press journalist. People covered their ears, ran away and frantically looked for places to hide. Police with long guns swarmed the area, then officers in riot gear and military-style vehicles blocked off roadways.
The violence comes after prosecutors said two officers who fired their weapons at Taylor, a Black woman, were justified in using force to protect themselves after they faced gunfire from her boyfriend. The only charges were three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into a home next to Taylor’s with people inside.
The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in connection with the raid at Taylor’s home on March 13.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for Taylor’s family, denounced the decision as “outrageous and offensive,” and protesters shouting, “No justice, no peace!” immediately marched through the streets.
Scuffles broke out between police and protesters, and some were arrested. Officers fired flash bangs and a few small fires burned in a square that’s been at the center of protests, but it had largely cleared out ahead of a nighttime curfew as demonstrators marched through other parts of downtown Louisville. Dozens of patrol cars blocked the city’s major thoroughfare and more police arrived after the officer was shot.
Demonstrators also marched in cities like New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Philadelphia.
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by white officers who entered her home on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. State Attorney General Daniel Cameron, however, said the investigation showed the officers announced themselves before entering. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.
Along with the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, Taylor’s case became a major touchstone for nationwide protests that have drawn attention to entrenched racism and demanded police reform. Taylor’s image has been painted on streets, emblazoned on protest signs and silk-screened on T-shirts worn by celebrities. Several prominent African American celebrities joined those urging that the officers be charged.
The announcement drew sadness, frustration and anger that the grand jury did not go further. The wanton endangerment charges each carry a sentence of up to five years.
Morgan Julianna Lee, a high school student in Charlotte, North Carolina, watched the announcement at home.
“It’s almost like a slap in the face,” the 15-year-old said by phone. “If I, as a Black woman, ever need justice, I will never get it.”
Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, said he authorized a limited deployment of the National Guard. Beshear also urged Cameron, the state attorney general, to post online all the evidence that could be released without affecting the charges filed.
“Those that are currently feeling frustration, feeling hurt, they deserve to know more,” he said.
The case exposed the wide gulf between public opinion on justice for those who kill Black Americans and the laws under which those officers are charged, which regularly favor police and do not often result in steep criminal accusations.
At a news conference, Cameron spoke to that disconnect: “Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief.”
“But my heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor. ... My mother, if something was to happen to me, would find it very hard,” he added, choking up.
But Cameron, who is the state’s first Black attorney general, said the officers acted in self-defense after Taylor’s boyfriend fired at them. He added that Hankison and the two other officers who entered Taylor’s apartment announced themselves before entering — and so did not execute the warrant as “no knock,” according to the investigation. The city has since banned such warrants.
“According to Kentucky law, the use of force by (Officers Jonathan) Mattingly and (Myles) Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves,” he said. “This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor’s death.”
Cameron said an FBI crime lab determined that Cosgrove fired the bullet that killed Taylor.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, opened fire when police burst in, hitting Mattingly. Walker told police he heard knocking but didn’t know who was coming in and fired in self-defense.
Cameron, who is a Republican, is a protégé of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and has been tagged by some as his heir apparent. His was also one of 20 names on President Donald Trump’s list to fill a future Supreme Court vacancy.
At a news conference, Trump read a statement from Cameron saying “justice is not often easy.” He praised both Cameron’s handling of the case and the governor calling up of the National Guard.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told reporters that he didn’t have enough information on the decision to comment fully but warned protesters to stay peaceful.
“Do not sully her memory or her mother’s by engaging in any violence,” he said.
Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate and a former prosecutor, also told reporters she hadn’t fully read the decision.
“But there’s no question that Breonna Taylor and her family deserved justice yesterday, today and tomorrow, so I’ll review it,” she said.
Hankison was fired on June 23. A termination letter sent by interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said he had violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” fired his weapon.
Mattingly, Cosgrove and the detective who sought the warrant, Joshua Jaynes, were placed administrative reassignment.
Last week, the city settled a lawsuit against the three officers brought by Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, agreeing to pay her $12 million and enact police reforms.
Lovan reported from Frankfort, Kentucky. Associated Press writers Bruce Schreiner and Rebecca Reynolds Yonker in Louisville, Kentucky, Kevin Freking in Washington, Aaron Morrison in New York and Haleluya Hadero in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, contributed.
Hudsbeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
This story has been updated to clarify that, according to the investigation, officers did not execute the warrant as a no-knock warrant, not that they didn’t use a no-knock warrant.
The sound of the howling wind, rain and broken glass woke Susan Houck up at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 16 when Hurricane Sally made her presence felt in Gulf Shores, Alabama
“I had never heard wind howl like that and for so long,” said Susan. “You could hear the rain blowing through the condo, and when we came out, I remember praying and hanging onto Brad (her husband).”
The Houcks have been vacationing every year in Orange Beach, Alabama for the past 10 years with friends — including Stacey and Ernie Garst and Ricky and Teresa Sisk. The Houcks made it to the resort on Saturday, Sept. 12, while the other two couples arrived the Wednesday prior.
“The storm was forming on Saturday, but it was going so slow they didn’t know where it was going,” said Susan. “At 10 or 11 p.m. that night (Tuesday, Sept. 15), they were still saying it was going to hit Mississippi.”
The group thought about evacuating, but the concern was for the low areas where water could flood.
“It was a slow moving hurricane, and they didn’t really give us a prediction of what was going to happen,” said Ricky. “We heard everything from a tropical storm to a hurricane one. We knew we were going to get some wind and rain, we just didn’t know the impact.”
A category three hurricane is classified as having winds at 111 miles per hour. Hurricane Sally had winds measured at 110 miles an hour.
“You could just hear crashing because it was the middle of the night. You couldn’t see anything,” said Teresa.
The Houcks had one condo, while the other two couples, the Sisks and Garsts, shared a condo. Susan remembers her husband pushing her into a tiny bathroom after realizing they couldn’t leave because air pressure wouldn’t allow the front door to open.
“It was just like it had been super glued shut,” she said. “He shoved me in the bathroom, and we stayed in there until about 6 a.m., I guess. All you could hear was glass breaking.”
The Garsts and Sisks moved to the back of their condo to get away from the sliding glass doors. Susan said Brad had to sit with his feet against the bathroom door to keep it from blowing open.
Ernie said he heard a squeaking sound, so he put his ear to the wall and heard the rebar flexing. Ricky said he put his hand on the glass door and could feel it vibrating from the wind.
“We were on the second floor, so I can only imagine what the people on the 15th floor could hear,” said Ernie.
The group said they could hear the wind howling until a little before 4 a.m. When they came out, they could see couches and chairs in the pool, the Houcks’ railing was torn off and the refrigerator door was open.
“A wall fell into the Houcks’ bedroom, knocked the dresser over onto the bed with the mirror and (Brad) had just left there to come get (Susan),” said Stacey.
The group usually vacations during the hurricane season, but this was the first time in 10 years they lived through a hurricane.
“That was just a hurricane two,” said Ricky. “I have gained a whole new respect for people that go through a (category) four and five.”
When they started accessing the damage, the couples realized that the Houcks had lost some clothes, shoes and food. Damage was also extensive to many of their cars.
“Once we got up and got out, we noticed our back window was completely gone out of our car, and we had drive it back to Kentucky with glass hanging down. We had to tape it up,” said Stacey. “It was scary going through it, and it was scary trying to get home.”
Teresa Sisk said she had never been so happy to see the Kentucky sign before in her life.
The group said they were just happy to survive, and the real prayers and concern should be with the people in Alabama and the other states affected by Hurricane Sally.
On Friday, the City of Madisonville and the Madisonville Regional Airport Board will have a joint meeting to discuss and vote on a lease agreement between the two entities and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.
The agreement would allow an aviation program at Madisonville Community College to be conducted at the airport.
“This is just a proposal as the Madisonville Regional Airport Board will have to approve it and then the City Council will also have to approve the Lease,” said Madisonville City Clerk Kim Blue. “Once the Airport Board and city council approves, KCTCS will also have to approve it.”
According to the lease agreement, KCTCS would gain 8,000 square feet of classroom and office space located in Hangar B at the airport with the right to the shared use of the community hangar space in Hangar B.
The lease also states that the KCTCS would have “sufficient space” in the community hangar for helicopters but did not specify how many helicopters would be housed there.
The lease states the city has incurred expenses of $48,000 that was used in constructing classrooms, office space, restroom facilities and electrical upgrades in order to make the facilities available for use by the KCTCS.
According to Madisonville Mayor Kevin Cotton, the $48,000 was spent to give temporary space until a completely new facility can be built at the airport for the aviation program.
Funding for the completely new space will be funded through a grant that was awarded to the city through the Delta Regional Authority.
According to Cotton, the award amount is around $500,000.
Cotton also said it is probable that the lease will be approved by all entities.
MCC President Dr. Cindy Kelley announced in August the school is building a new aviation program to help the community and grow enrollment.
The Hopkins County Health Department reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
The total case number now sits at 602 with 38 deaths reported, 483 recovered from COVID and active cases are at 81 in the county.
“It is extremely important that we continue to wash our hands, use hand sanitizer, where our mask again it is just one of those precautionary things,” said Madisonville Mayor Kevin Cotton during Wednesday’s joint city-county news conference.
Cotton also asked residents to work with businesses who are requiring masks and reminded everyone that it is a mandate by Gov. Andy Beshear.
“We need to make sure we are doing the best we can to support those local businesses that are trying to keep their doors open,” said Cotton.
The Hopkins County Health Department has been issuing citations to local businesses that are not following mask mandates.
“We just want people to wear their mask, and we are required to do that,” said Denise Beach, health department director, in a previous article.