As people across the country continue to demand that charges be filed against the three Louisville police officers who shot and killed 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, city officials said Tuesday that they have agreed to pay her family $12 million and enact several police reforms to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.
The settlement, announced during a press conference with Taylor's family and their attorneys, comes six months after Taylor was fatally shot by police in her home in Louisville, Kentucky. Taylor died just before 1 a.m. on March 13 after officers entered her apartment to serve a search warrant as part of a drug investigation.
"Justice for Breonna is multilayered. What we were able to accomplish today through the civil settlement against the officers is tremendous, but it's only a portion of a single layer," said Lonita Baker, an attorney for the family. "When officers cause the death of an individual, it is imperative that we seek justice not only in the criminal system but also in our civil system. … A financial settlement was nonnegotiable without significant police reform, and that is what we were able to do today."
Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were asleep in bed when police arrived, and they believed they were experiencing a break-in, according to her family. In a confrontation, Walker shot a police sergeant in the leg. Police shot Taylor, who was unarmed, at least eight times.
As part of the settlement, the city will establish a housing credit program to incentivize officers to live in low-income census tracts and encourage officers to use two paid hours of each two-week pay period to volunteer with an organization in the community that they serve. The city will also create a program to dispatch social workers to certain calls for service and require a commanding officer to review and approve all search warrants and affidavits.
Mayor Greg Fischer said the city would also implement protocols for money seized as evidence, increase random drug testing of officers, and negotiate with the police union to expand on the records that can be maintained in officers' personnel files.
In addition, the city will be creating what Fischer described as "an early warning system" to track use of force incidents, citizen complaints, and investigations.
The mayor said the agreement does not admit any wrongdoing on the city's part, but added that it was "an acknowledgement of the need for reform."
"We recognize that this reform is not all encompassing and there’s still work to be done, and we commit our time, our talent, and our resources to continue to work with the community to fight the systemic racism plaguing our city," Baker said.
Taylor's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in April against the three police officers who shot and killed Taylor, an EMT who was preparing for nursing school.
After the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 sparked global protests against police brutality, Taylor's case received more public recognition and calls for charges to be filed against the officers grew. Celebrities and professional athletes have publicly demanded the Louisville police officers be held accountable in her death, while millions of people signed and circulated petitions and flooded social media with posts calling for the officers' arrests.
Only one of the three officers has been fired from the department, and no criminal charges have been filed more than 180 days after Taylor's death. The Kentucky Attorney General’s office has been investigating the case since May.
During the press conference, Taylor's mother Tamika Palmer, her attorneys, and activists reiterated their call for Attorney General Daniel Cameron to immediately file charges against the officers involved.
"It’s time to move forward with the criminal charges because she deserves that and much more," Palmer said.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is also representing the family, demanded that Cameron's office file charges this week, saying that, "justice delayed is justice denied."
"The city leadership has done a significant step today but now it is on Daniel Cameron and the attorney general of Kentucky’s office to bring charges," Crump said. "We want full justice for Breonna Taylor — not just partial justice."
Officials have said that the officers knocked on the door multiple times and announced themselves before forcing entry into the home, but Taylor's family has disputed that account, saying the officers did not knock or announce their presence, according to the family's lawsuit.
In June, the city banned "no-knock" police raids under legislation called "Breonna's Law," prohibiting police from forcibly entering a home without first announcing themselves even if they have a warrant.
During his remarks, Crump called on lawmakers to "transform the protest into policy" and adopt similar laws across the country.
"We need Breonna’s Law not just in Louisville, not just in the state of Kentucky, but all throughout the United States of America because her life matters," he said.