Ky. AG Cameron Explains Breonna Taylor Investigation, Grand Jury's Indictment
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron says his office determined that two of the three officers who fired their weapons were justified when they fatally shot Breonna Taylor.
Officer Myles Cosgrove and Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly were returning fire and within their rights to defend themselves, according to Cameron, who spoke in Frankfort Wednesday afternoon at the Kentucky History Center shortly after a grand jury announced it was charging only one of the officers involved in Taylor's death.
The grand jury indicted former Louisville Metro Police officer Brett Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment, all connected to Hankison firing his gun and endangering Taylor's neighbors. None of the counts are for firing into Taylor’s apartment, or directly linked to her death.
Cameron declined to say whether he presented the grand jury with charges for Mattingly and Cosgrove; instead, he said the grand jury was presented with all of the facts and made the determination to indict only Hankison on the three charges.
The fatal shot came from Cosgrove, according to one lab. Another lab couldn't make a determination. Cameron said there's no conclusive evidence that any of Hankison's shots hit Taylor.
Cameron said his office's investigation found that the officers who served a warrant at Taylor's apartment on the evening of March 13 both knocked and announced themselves. That information, he said, was corroborated by an independent, non-law enforcement witness.
When officers entered the apartment, Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a shot at them, saying he was not aware they were law enforcement. Cameron said his office had concluded that Walker's bullet hit Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, and that Det. Myles Cosgrove fired the fatal shot that led to Taylor's death.
Those two officers — Mattingly and Cosgrove — were justified in their use of force, Cameron said, because they had been fired upon.
"According to Kentucky law, the use of force by Mattingly and Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves," Cameron said. "This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor's death."
In a statement, Mattingly's attorney Kent Wicker said the grand jury's decision showed "the system worked."
"The death of Breonna Taylor is a tragedy," Wicker wrote. "But these officers did not act in a reckless or unprofessional manner. They did their duty, performed their roles as law enforcement officers and, above all, did not break the law."
Cameron's investigation into the March 13 police shooting of Breonna Taylor did not examine potential civil rights or criminal violations, leaving that instead up to federal and state-led investigations, respectively. The FBI has not yet shared the results of its investigation.
Hankison has already been fired by the LMPD for his actions that night. He is in the process of appealing his firing, but the police Merit Board that would consider his appeal said it would delay a hearing until September, by which time the criminal investigation may be complete. But since late May, protesters have been demanding all three officers involved in the shooting be charged with Taylor’s murder.
A call to Hankison's lawyer for comment was not returned Wednesday afternoon.
Cameron said he spoke to Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, before the announcement to share the news with her.
The family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, shared a statement on Twitter calling it “outrageous and offensive” that none of the charges were connected to Taylor’s death.
Jefferson County Grand Jury indicts former ofc. Brett Hankison with 3 counts of Wanton Endangerment in 1st Degree for bullets that went into other apartments but NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor. This is outrageous and offensive! pic.twitter.com/EarmBAhhuf— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) September 23, 2020
Protesters have been demonstrating since late May, calling for officials to hold all three involved officers accountable for Taylor's death. In his remarks Wednesday, Cameron noted that “celebrities, influencers” and others who have never lived in Kentucky would portray their message in this international story.
“Do we really want the truth, or do we want the truth that fits our narrative?” he said. "Do we really want the facts or are we content to blindly accept our own version of events? We as a community must make this decision."
Later in the afternoon, Gov. Andy Beshear called for increased transparency from the Attorney General during his own press conference.
Beshear said he had previously made the suggestion, but now is “making the request” that Cameron post online any of the information, facts and evidence that he can without impacting the felony charges announced today.
Beshear is a Democrat who held Cameron's office before he was elected governor last year. He and Cameron, a Republican, have clashed frequently, specifically over the Governor’s coronavirus restrictions.
Beshear seemed to distance himself from the decisions announced today during his comments. “I cannot control decisions made by an Attorney General’s office, [or] decisions made by a grand jury,” Beshear opened his statement by saying. “And I do not lead local law enforcement offices.”
This story has been updated.