July 6, 2020
The Honorable Daniel Cameron
Office of the Attorney General
700 Capital Avenue, Suite 118
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
Dear Attorney General Cameron,
You do not know me. Let me introduce myself. My name is Stephanie Taylor. I am a Black young professional in my 20s who works in media in Los Angeles. I am a daughter, a little sister and a friend. Scratch out my first name, and replace it with “Breonna.” What do you get? Breonna Taylor.
I am Breonna Taylor. She is me.
I heard that you recently celebrated your engagement. Congratulations. At 34 years old, your life is just getting started, both personally and professionally. I wish that at age 26—when Breonna Taylor was murdered in her home by Louisville police—the plot would have played out differently. That she, too, would be just getting started at life.
This is a letter of accountability. I, and millions of people in the United States of America and across the world, want to know how you are going to handle this case. Your silence communicates that this is not your priority. This should be your priority. When the topic at hand is justice, when people are suffering, this is no longer a public relations damage control issue. This is a humanity issue.
I will approach this with truth and as much humility as I can because, to be honest, I am outraged. You should be too.
I am outraged. You should be too.
The facts, which I know you are heavily acquainted with, are plain. Breonna, a 26-year-old award-winning EMT, was shot and killed after being awoken in her bed when three police officers forced entry into her apartment just before 1:00 a.m. on March 13 in an attempted drug raid. According to the family’s lawsuit, filed April 27, the police did not announce themselves or knock once.
Instead, they sprayed gunfire through her home with complete disregard for human life. Some of the rounds even went into an adjacent apartment next door, endangering three lives there.
I remember where I was on March 13. It was a Friday. It was the day when fear of the pandemic in Los Angeles and many cities across the U.S. became real. My boss and I left work early to go to the grocery store, only to find empty aisles and no food. I remember going to sleep that night unsure of how to feel about what was going on. Not once did I think, “This could be the night that I take my last breath.”
I bet Breonna Taylor didn’t either. She didn’t do anything particularly unique that night. She just went to sleep.
[Breonna Taylor] didn’t do anything particularly unique that night. She just went to sleep.
The facts we know portray a serious mishandling of Breonna Taylor’s case, but you know this already. There was no body camera footage. Allegedly, the suspect that the police were looking for had already been arrested by other officers executing a warrant at a separate location.
The report did not acknowledge the forced entry of the officers. In the notes/narrative section, it simply said “PIU investigation,” which is the department’s Public Integrity Unit. And in the space designated for the victim’s injuries? It said none. But how could there be no injuries when Breonna died?
Only one of the three officers involved has been fired, Detective Brett Hankison, who is currently filing an appeal to get his job back due to “lack of a complete investigation and public pressure.” Louisville Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and officer Myles Cosgrove remain on “administrative reassignment,” aka paid leave.
Records of the cases have been withheld from the media and the public. A records request from the Louisville Courier Journal for Breonna’s autopsy was denied. The Courier appealed to you, “arguing that the public is entitled to see the records and that the public agencies have failed to meet their responsibilities under the law.” The Louisville Metro Council and the entire community are calling for transparency into the case. But again, you know this already.
It’s been nearly four months since Breonna was murdered. Your statements about the Breonna Taylor investigation, saying things like “it takes time,” feel like you’re dodging the question. You continue to post on Instagram, but you fail to bring charges against the police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor. You avoid calls from Breonna’s mom, Tamika Palmer. Meanwhile, the name Breonna Taylor is no longer trending. Is that what you wanted? For people to forget? For people to move on to the next big headline? I hope not. I hope you want justice, for our country, for our cities, for our communities and for Breonna.
That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? For people to forget. For people to move on to the next big headline.
Do you ever think about Tamika Palmer, Breonna’s mom? You should. Think of how she felt when she heard her daughter had been murdered and how she died. Think of how she feels now, not being able to properly grieve the death of her daughter because she is too busy fighting to prove her life had worth. For the past month, I have not been able to stop thinking about Ms. Palmer and the pain she must feel. I hope you feel it too.
Life must go on. Yes. So, live your life. Celebrate your engagement, but do that whilst doing your job. Fight for Breonna. Justice doesn’t stop for you. It shouldn’t get lost in politics and paperwork.
Tell us what you’re doing in the case of Breonna Taylor. Explain to the public why arrests haven’t been made. Explain to the public what your office has been doing for four months. Explain to us what accountability looks like when an innocent woman dies. Acknowledge our outrage and our grief, and even better, share that outrage and grief with us. Give us hope that the justice system will not fail Breonna.
Someday, you may have daughters. They will be Black like Breonna. In a 1962 speech in Los Angeles, Malcom X said in a now well-known refrain, “The most unprotected woman in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” I hope your future daughters never know this to be true.
Again, congratulations on your engagement. I wish you well. I also wish you will do better in the fight for justice for Breonna.