LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The long-overdue firing of two cops involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor here last March is a step forward that opponents of police brutality and racism can build on.
Nearly 10 months after police broke down the door of the 26-year-old African American emergency room technician’s apartment in the middle of the night, shot her and left her dying on the floor, interim chief of the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department Yvette Gentry announced the firing of detectives Myles Cosgrove and Joshua Jaynes at a press conference Jan. 5.
“They should do jail time,” Machala Apatong, a Walmart produce worker, told this Militant worker-correspondent when I asked her reaction. Apatong encouraged co-workers to take part in a march of 200 against police killings last year in her hometown of Radcliff, southwest of here.
Cosgrove, who the FBI says fired the shot that killed Taylor, was dismissed for violating procedures in using force and failing to use a body camera.
Jaynes was found in violation of department policy for truthfulness because he lied to get the search warrant that justified breaking into Taylor’s apartment. He claimed there was evidence Taylor was criminally involved with alleged drug dealer Jamarcus Glover, her ex-boyfriend, and received illicit packages for him. “Detective Jaynes lied when he swore ‘verified through a U.S. Postal Inspector,’’’ Gentry stated in her termination letter to the officer. And “Detective Jaynes also lied when he swore a U.S. Postal Inspector advised ‘that Jamarcus Glover has been receiving packages at [Taylor’s apartment].’”
No cop has been charged with killing Taylor, nor has anyone been charged with failing to call for medics to attend to her as she lay bleeding to death.
After an initial investigation, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced Sept. 23 that a grand jury had charged one cop — Brett Hankison, who was fired in June — with felony wanton endangerment. He wasn’t charged for killing Taylor, but for firing recklessly into a nearby apartment in the raid. He pled not guilty.
The two other cops who shot at Taylor — Jonathan Mattingly and Cosgrove — weren’t charged at all.
When the cops broke down Taylor’s door her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was convinced they were in danger. He picked up his gun, which he was carrying legally, and fired, hitting Mattingly. The cops responded with the hail of bullets that killed Taylor.
In Kentucky, like in most states, the law stipulates that if someone fires a gun at police, no matter the circumstances, the cops are justified in returning fire. This is how the attorney general tried to justify failing to bring charges in Taylor’s killing.
Protests call for justice
The killing of Breonna Taylor won broad national and international attention and protest, here and elsewhere, in large towns and small. This pressure is reflected in the latest firings, the ongoing FBI investigation into civil rights violations, and the city government’s decision to pay Taylor’s family $12 million to settle a civil suit they filed.
But in the absence of working-class leadership from unions, churches and other mass organizations, protests grew smaller and more narrow, as groups carrying weapons participated and protest misleaders targeted Caucasians, restaurant owners and others, as opposed to focusing on demanding the cops be held accountable. And these later actions were organized in ways that encouraged vandalism, looting and attacks on cops and bystanders.
“This narrows the space for increasing an understanding that police brutality is an essential component of the continued rule of the capitalist class and its government,” Samir Hazboun, Socialist Workers Party congressional candidate here in the 2020 elections, told the Militant. “We can build on the victory of the police firings and demand charges be brought against those responsible for Breonna Taylor’s death.”