‘Say their names’: A student’s letter to Joe Biden

Dear President-elect Biden, 

Congratulations on your election win. You’ve named racial equity as one of your top priorities. I think you should start with the case of Breonna Taylor and the tragedy that occured in Louisville.

Many of us have seen Taylor’s name and face on social media and in news. The 26-year-old emergency room technician was shot and killed on March 13, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. Officers entered her and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker´s apartment that evening. The officers had a knock-and-announce warrant to enter the building but used a battering ram to enter. Upon entering, Walker fired one shot at Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, who told investigators that he fired at least six shots in response. This led to an all out assault and the untimely death of Ms.Taylor, Walker’s arrest, and the endangerment of people in the adjacent home, which housed a pregnant woman and her child. 

My opinion on this situation is a lot like many of my peers’, classmates’, and much of the world right now. We want JUSTICE for Ms.Taylor and to see all of the officers involved in her death charged. 

There are some who disagree and feel that the officers involved were within their ”legal¨ rights. And as the country is one divided, the line between police procedures and the public’s moral value gets blurred more and more as we continue to see this case through. 

So I’m going to go over facts that explain why even from a ¨legal standpoint¨ this incident is not the fault of Ms.Taylor and Mr.Walker’s. The officers involved were actually investigating two men who were selling drugs out of a house far from the home of Ms.Taylor. A judge had signed a warrant to enter Ms.Taylor’s home due to the officers’ suspicion that the men used her home to receive packages. Hours before the raid the judge turned the no-knock warrant into a knock-and-announce warrant, which means that the police have to announce themselves before entering. 

According to police they did announce themselves before entering the apartment, but Mr.Walker disputes that claim and says they asked who it was amidst the loud banging on the door and they got no answer. There is no way for sure to figure out who’s telling the truth here as police claim ¨there was no body cam footage,¨ which we have seen to be false as new footage is being released. 

What we can confirm is that there were NO drugs found in the home, and according to a New York Times interview of 12 neighbors of Ms.Taylor only one said they heard the police announce themselves one time and knock three times. The other 11 claimed to hear no knock or announcement. As police entered the building Mr.Walker fired one shot and hit an officer in the leg, which resulted in 32 response fires: 6 from Mattingly, 10 from Officer Brett Hankinson, and 16 from Officer Myles Cosgrove

Hankinson was in complete violation of the LMPD’s ¨line of sight¨ and ¨use of deadly force¨ policies, as he fired all 10 shots into a covered patio door and window. Cosgrove fired all 16 shots from outside the apartment. The only officer who was in the building and discharged their weapon was Mattingly. We´ll get back to sergeant Mattingly later. 

Taylor was hit six times and received no medical assistance for more than 20 minutes. Let’s stop here. An hour before the raid LMPD sent the ambulance on standby away, which is not standard police practice. About five minutes after the shooting police noticed Taylor had been fatally injured. This was also after Walker had already called the police on the police to ask for help for his dying girlfriend. 

So let’s be clear here: a woman laid dead in the hallway and none of the officers on the scene knew until it was already too late. They did not give her medical attention until 20 minutes after the incident occurred and, as we saw on the body cam footage, they cleared the house first. We see the officers step over her body and continue to neglect a dying woman they allegedly didn’t know was injured. This is blatant and clear disregard for HUMAN LIFE, as well as disregard for the laws and procedures put in place to combat these types of situations from occurring in the first place. 

The police officers were negligent and abused their power in four different ways. First, they sent the ambulance away beforehand. Second, they didn’t execute the warrant properly. Third, officers Hankison and Cosgrove neglected LMPD’s line of sight policy. And fourth, they gave Ms.Taylor no medical attention for more than 20 minutes.

Now, for those that say ‘Well, Mr.Walker fired his weapon,” that’s true. He shot one time, and didn’t cause a life threatening injury. He is also a licensed gun owner, not a trained officer but a civilian who at that time feared for the safety of himself and his family. And his charges for opening fire were dropped

The aftermath of this tragedy is the real kicker. EVERY time we see a white officer abuse their power against people of color the officer is NEVER charged sufficiently. That’s the case here, too, as only one officer was fired and charged and the rest remain on administrative leave pending their criminal investigations. 

And the officer who did get arrested was NOT charged for Taylor’s  death but for endangering her neighbors. Let’s say that again: he was NOT charged for Killing Breonna Taylor, only for endangering her neighbors. Hankinson received three counts of wanton endangerment. He could face 5 years in prison for each count and has a bond of $15,000, of which he only has to pay 10 percent. He pleaded not guilty and even asked in court could he keep his gun. 

The AUDACITY of these men. Mattingly also sent an email to the LMPD. ¨ I know we did the legal, moral, and ethical thing that night,¨ he wrote. “It’s sad how the good guys are demonized and the criminals are canonized.” 

A month later Mattingly told ABC News why he’s attempting to sue Mr. Walker and claims that he is the victim. ¨This is not relatable to George Floyd,” he said. “This is nothing like it. It’s not and Ahmaud Aubrey. It’s nothing like that.¨ 

He also said that he feels the police did their job in returning fire. ¨This is not us going hunting somebody down,” he said. “This is not kneeling on a neck.¨

This and many other statements show where his morals are and that these morals correspond with those of the LMPD and many other police departments in this country. We’ve seen instances like this in the Trayvon Martin Case, as George Zimmerman attempts to sue Trayvon’s family for trauma and distress. 

And in addition to the four different points of neglect and abuse that Mattingly and his partners committed during the actual raid, more have emerged during the aftermath. They had already located their main suspect in this case and yet still barged in and opened fire in a residence with total disregard for human life. They did NOT find any drugs in that house, which was the whole reason they were there. The police reports contained multiple errors, as they showed that Ms.Taylor had no injuries and that they did not force their way into the apartment. 

And even after every mistake, they constantly and blatantly try to paint the victims as the perpetrators. The actual man they were looking for – Jamarcus Glover – told a Kentucky newspaper that Ms.Taylor had no involvement with the drug trade “The police are trying to make it out to be my fault and turning the whole community out here,” he said, “making it look like I brought this to Breonna’s door.” 

Everything the officers did that night and moving forward stains everything America holds as ¨ethical and moral.¨ They know they mishandled the situation, and their blatant disregard shows that they are unwilling to take responsibility for this and to punish the officers involved. 

In no way you look at this case from beginning to end can you state that the police did their ¨job.¨ Their job is to protect and serve, and they are paid by taxes that CIVILIANS pay. They lacked the ability to do that job with good intentions and to do it accordingly. This situation is entirely on them. 

So, President-elect Biden, as you begin your work, do not forget to pause and say their names. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Freddie Gray. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. Breona Taylor. Jacob Blake. Alton Sterling. Stephon Clark. Philando Castile. Atatiana Jefferson. Walter Scott. Sandra Bland. Rayshard Brooks. 

The names change and the circumstances are always different, but in each case, police officers demonstrate neglect and abuse of power. 

My heart goes out to the families of Ms.Taylor and Mr. Walker. As this and many other cases continue to pan out I will be watching and hoping that JUSTICE is served.

Sincerely, 

Jakyies Evans

Riverside High School

Durham, NC

Source: Pixabay

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