LOUISVILLE—Just hours after three Louisville Metro Police officers dodged charges for the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in March, protesters took to the streets in outrage.
In a stunning decision, a grand jury on Wednesday indicted one of the officers, former detective Brett Hankison, with several counts of wanton endangerment. But the charges stemmed from the shots Hankison fired—during a “no-knock” warrant served at Taylor’s apartment—that hit or endangered people in other units.
In other words, the actual shots that killed the emergency medical technician, an icon of Black Lives Matter protests in recent months, were not deemed criminal. The two other officers, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove—the cop who fired the shot that killed Taylor—were not charged at all in an action that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said “was justified to protect themselves.”
Over a hundred protesters who began in Jefferson Square Park, which has served as the home base for Louisville Black Lives Matter protests over the last 118 days, started to march after Cameron’s Frankfort press conference, calling for justice for Taylor and chanting “No Justice, No Peace” and “Keep going.” Police cars took to trailing the activists, and in The Highlands, a gentrified, residential neighborhood of Louisville, hundreds of protesters, some throwing bottles, faced off with police before 4 p.m.
Police fired a volley of pepper balls, while a man used a wooden bat to try to break a UPS storefront. Protesters were soon spotted sitting on a side parking lot with injuries they said stemmed from the law-enforcement onslaught. Some were taken into police custody.
Protesters were effectively boxed in by an aggressive early police presence, before venturing deeper into a residential neighborhood, chants of “Say Her Name” emanating in call and response.
Meanwhile, several National Guard humvees were seen driving into downtown Louisville, which had been largely closed down ahead of the grand-jury announcement. In the same area, a militia group in tactical gear was walking around—several of the members armed.
The city’s mayor and the interim police chief had already issued “state of emergency” declarations in anticipation of the grand jury’s decision this week. Streets and downtown parking garages were closed, some local businesses boarded up their storefronts, and the federal courthouse was shuttered for the week.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear activated the National Guard on Wednesday to quell any fallout and the mayor implemented a three-day curfew.