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Breonna Taylor's Mother: 'I Won't Go Away. I'll Still Fight'

Tamika Palmer, mother of Breonna Taylor, addressed the media in Louisville, Ky., last month. She says she wants the officers involved in the deadly raid to be charged.
Dylan Lovan
Tamika Palmer, mother of Breonna Taylor, addressed the media in Louisville, Ky., last month. She says she wants the officers involved in the deadly raid to be charged.

The mother of Breonna Taylor says that if the police reforms announced this week by officials in Louisville were in place six months ago, her daughter might still be alive.

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who worked as an emergency room technician, was fatally shot by Louisville police during a botched narcotics raid at her home during the early morning hours of March 13.

A decision on whether to bring charges against the three officers who carried out the raid is expected in the coming days.

Tamika Palmer, her mother, says she has not been given any indication if the officers will be indicted. But she made clear that, for her, that's what justice would look like.

"I'm hoping to hear that there will be charges," Palmer said Friday in an interview on NPR's Morning Edition. "That these people will be fired and arrested."

"2020 was her year"

Earlier this week, the city of Louisville said it would pay $12 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Taylor's family. As part of the settlement, city officials unveiled several changes to the way the police department operates, including requiring that only high-ranking commanding officers approve requests for search warrants.

"Had we had those practices in play already, a lot of things could have been avoided that happened with Breonna," Palmer told NPR's Rachel Martin.

"Breonna was a beautiful person inside and out," Palmer said, adding that her daughter was someone who wanted to help people and lift them up.

"Even in the very beginning of this year, she kept saying 2020 was her year," Palmer said. "And she was absolutely right."

"I hate that it came in that form, but it definitely is her year."

In the six months since her death, Taylor's name has been chanted countless times at demonstrations in Louisville and across the nation as activists call for greater police accountability and an end to police brutality against communities of color.

Taylor is among a steadily growing list of Black Americans who were killed or seriously injured by law enforcement this year and have now have become household names, including George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and Jacob Blake.

Demonstrators hold their cases up as examples of police using excessive force during encounters with communities of color. In many cases, including Taylor's, critics say justice for the victims' family has so far been elusive.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's office is weighing whether to charge the three Louisville police officers involved in Taylor's shooting death.

Lonita Baker, a Taylor family attorney, said the multi-million-dollar settlement with the city should not take the pressure off of Cameron's office.

"It is important for people to understand that the settlement of the civil case involving the officers is completely different from that of the criminal case," Baker said.

"So settling the civil suit has absolutely nothing to do with the criminal case."

A decision on charges expected in coming days

Two of the officers — Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — have been reassigned to administrative duties. The third officer, Brett Hankison, was fired because he "wantonly and blindly fired ten (10) rounds" into Taylor's apartment, according to a pre-termination letter made public in June.

Cameron, who is a Republican and the state's first Black attorney general, is reportedly close to presenting his findings to a grand jury. But in a statement last week, he tried to knock down such speculation, adding that the investigation is ongoing and any announcements regarding the charges will come from his office.

Palmer expressed gratitude for the people of all races who have kept her daughter's case in the national spotlight.

"If the investigation ends and there are no charges, what's the next step for you?" Martin asked Palmer.

She responded: "I won't go away. I'll still fight."

Cameron, who was asked to serve as special prosecutor in the case in May, had said part of the delay in his decision on whether to bring charges was because he didn't have the FBI ballistics report.

In an interview with CBS News on Aug. 30, he revealed he obtained it.

"That is a critical piece of this investigation," he said. "It's not the end-all-be-all. There are still some witness testimony and interviews that have to be conducted. But we do have that ballistics report."

Mayor announces police reforms

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat, has unveiled what he called a series of "significant" police reforms as part of the settlement with Taylor's family.

The reforms aimed at providing more oversight for the city's embattled police department and incentives for police to build stronger relationships within the community.

The Louisville Metro Police Department now plans to hire social workers for officer support. The settlement also includes creating a housing credit program that will incentivize officers to live in neighborhoods they police.

Earlier this month, Fischer named Yvette Gentry as the department's new interim police chief. When she assumes the role on Oct. 1, she'll be the first Black woman to lead the department. She will also be the troubled department's third chief since the March killing of Taylor.

Gentry had retired from the police department in 2014 but agreed to come back until a permanent police chief is hired. Officials hope to name a permanent chief by year's end.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.