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Lansing, EL community members react to grand jury's decision in Breonna Taylor case

September 24, 2020

Six months and 10 days. The calls for justice and protests through the nation for Breonna Taylor have gone on six months and 10 days, after Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers fatally shot her, in her apartment, on a botched, no-knock drug search warrant.

No drugs were actually ever found and the warrant in question targeted another individual who had lived miles away and already been detained at the time, The Cut reported.

After six months and 10 days only one of three officers connected were indicted.

Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove left without a charge, former detective Brett Hankison, per a Jefferson (Ky.) County grand jury, faces three charges of first degree wanton endangerment.

According to Kentucky law, as of 1975, "a person is guilty of wanton endangerment in the first degree when, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, (they) wantonly engage in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious injury to another person."

Wanton endangerment, Louisville Courier Journal reported, is a class D felony that carries a penalty of one to five years in prison.

Except, the type of wanton endangerment Judge Annie O'Connell read said that Hankison "wantonly shot a gun" into adjoining Apartment 3, where the occupants were identified by initials — none reflected B.T. for Breonna Taylor.

"The grand jury did not find that Hankison wantonly fired into Taylor's apartment the night she died or that any of the officers are criminally liable in her death," according to a USA Today article.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron confirmed that the grand jury decided homicide charges weren't applicable in Taylor's case because the investigation showed justified self defense from Mattingly and Cosgrove after Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at them.

He also said there was "nothing conclusive to say" that any of Hankison's bullets hit Taylor, the Courier Journal said.

The judge has set a $15,000 cash bond for Hankison, but he has already posted it, according to the Courier Journal.

Community members react

Paul Birdsong, leader of We the Free People of Lansing and many protests on injustice and police brutality this summer was angry at the decision.

"I don't understand the charges," he said. "Police officers, more than one, went into a house and murdered somebody in their sleep. They should've been charged with first degree murder, minimum first degree manslaughter."

"If me and three other bloods broke into a house and murdered somebody in their sleep, we'd all get charged with first degree murder," Birdsong said. "Even those of us that didn't actually pull the trigger, they'd get charged as accessories to first degree murder because they broke in the house with me. Not only that, but we'd get charged with unlawfully entry too."

Birdsong said that there is no equality in the United States because as soon as someone puts on a badge they are allowed to get away with things like murder, referring to the charges on Hankinson and the lack thereof on the two other officers.

"What the h--- does wanton endangerment have to do with somebody being shot," he said.

Similarly, James Henson, leader of The Young Black Panther Party and another participant and organizer of the protests in the summer, also shared his dislike for the grand jury's decision and their act of only prosecuting one of the three officers.

"It shows you how much cops got each others' backs, no matter what, even if they do something wrong," he said. "And the case with Breonna Taylor is still very sad, even though this stuff has been happening for decades."

Henson hopes to reach out to every Black organization, as well as the LGBTQ+ community, sometime soon and plan for their future in order to properly protect the next generation.

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"I want people to know that if you want to make a change in this world, you can't only settle on Black Lives Matter and murals on the street," Henson said. "You have to change the history programs in schools. You have to change the schools to teach the truth about history."

On the other hand, Farhan Sheikh-Omar, a community activist and organizer of protests on police brutality, specifically focusing on altercations with the East Lansing Police Department, said he honestly wasn't shocked and, while he is disheartened and heartbroken, he has become numb to the pain of these types of incidents.

At the moment, while he typically works on his own, Sheikh-Omar is in close contact with city officials to make sure that proactive measures are set in place so Lansing can better avoid what happened in Minneapolis with George Floyd and Louisville, Kentucky, with Taylor.

"I think we need to be proactive, rather than reactive," Sheikh-Omar said. "We cannot just wait for a police officer to kill a Black man and then say we're going to make changes. And I think the changes need to happen before hand. There needs to be a structural change, not just broken promises and words."

Sheikh-Omar believes that America has fallen asleep, he sees incidents of police brutality time and time again and believes now is the time to hold America accountable.

"The time is now for America to wake up, look itself in the mirror and realize that Black people are being hunted, they're being killed and those who are killing them are not being held accountable," he said. "The badge doesn't give you the right to kill. You're not above the law. You're there to enforce the law. You're there to make an arrest and have that person face our judicial system."

"When a cop kills a Black person, they have denied that Black person their due process," he said. "We are a country that states that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, ... (but) we're not practicing what we're preaching and what we stand for."

In conjunction with the multiple community leaders and organizers, Michigan State accounting senior Hudson Elowsky said that the charge Hankison received is not only a blatant lack of justice, but it shows the ways that the police so often get away with their atrocities.

Similar to Sheikh-Omar, Elowsky said it was a bit shocking to see Hankison even get charged.

"When a group of plainclothes officers try to break down a door without announcing who they are (as 12 witnesses say) it is not unjustifiable when a single shot is fired back through the door to ward them off," he said. "It is, however, unjustifiable to them shoot over 20 rounds back through that door, fully knowing there is a good chance that there's more people inside than who fired the shot."


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