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“Breonna’s Law” In Louisville Bans No-Knock Warrant That Led To Breonna Taylor’s Death

Breonna Taylor’s killing in Louisville at the hands of police has been the subject of recent protests, as none of the cops involved in her death have faced charges.

Courtesy of Benjamin Crump

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer on Friday signed into effect “Breonna’s Law,” which bans no-knock warrants in the Kentucky city. The measure is named for Breonna Taylor, a licensed EMT who was shot and killed in her own home in March after three officers forced their way inside. The Louisville Metro Council voted unanimously on Thursday to pass the law.  

No-knock warrants allow officers to enter a property without warning or identifying themselves as law enforcement, and judges issue them when they determine officers’ prior announcement could compromise their safety or lead to the destruction of objects that police are searching for. Taylor’s death sparked a national debate about the warrants’ use and validity. 

According to local reports, the council’s public safety committee approved a version of the ordinance last week that limited the warrants but did not ban them completely. However all 26 council members signed on as co-sponsors to the more recent version that passed on Thursday. The new law states, “No Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) police officer, Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC) officer, or any other Metro law enforcement or public safety official shall seek, execute, or participate in the execution of a no-knock warrant at any location within the boundaries of Jefferson County.” 

The ordinance would also require law enforcement to knock and wait “a minimum of 15 seconds or for a reasonable amount of time for occupants to respond, whichever is greater, before entering the premises.” 

And while it bans Louisville police from using the warrants anywhere in Jefferson County, it does not specify requirements for any other cities’ police departments in the county.

Tamika Palmer, Taylor's mother, praised the law on Thursday in a press conference with the family's attorney, Ben Crump, who is also representing the families of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
 

"I'm just going to say that Breonna, that's all she wanted to do was save lives," Palmer said. "So with this law, she'll get to continue to do that."

The Louisville Metro Police Department claimed in March that the plainclothes officers, none of whom were wearing body cameras, announced themselves before entering Taylor’s home. A warrant for the raid obtained by local news outlet WAVE said authorities suspected a man involved in a drug ring was receiving packages of drugs at Taylor’s home. They then returned gunfire when Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at them. According to a New York Times report, the officers said they announced themselves despite having a no-knock warrant.

However, in a wrongful death lawsuit obtained by CBS News, Palmer said the officers did not identify themselves, and that Walker, a licensed gun owner, thought that someone was breaking into the home. Once inside, the suit says the officers proceeded to “spray gunfire into the residence with a total disregard for the value of human life,” and shot Taylor at least eight times. The suit also says neither Taylor nor Walker have any criminal history of drugs or violence. 

Taylor’s killing has been the subject of many protests over the past few weeks, as demonstrators have taken to the streets nationwide following the death of Geroge Floyd. On Taylor’s birthday June 5 — she would have turned 27 — many activists and lawmakers demanded for the officers who killed her to be held accountable. 

The FBI’s Louisville Office announced on May 21 that it was opening an investigation into Taylor’s death — the same day Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad announced his retirement (Conrad was fired before his retirement went into effect at the end of June over the death of Black business owner David McAtee, who police shot and killed in his own restaurant). Joshua Jaynes, the officer who applied for the no-knock warrant for Taylor's apartment, has reportedly been reassigned. The three officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave, but have not been charged with any crimes.

Following the bill’s passage, Crump reiterated that the officers involved in Taylor’s death must face charges soon.

Though many have praised the bill's passage, others are also working to ban no-knock warrants nationwide. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed a bill on Thursday similar to Breonna's Law that would ban federal law enforcement officers from using no-knock warrants. Democratic lawmakers' sweeping police reform bill introduced this week is also designed to stop the use of such warrants in drug cases, CNBC reported.