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Justine Damond (left); Breonna Taylor (right)
Published 09/24/2020 | Reading Time 3 min 41 sec
Editorial by Mike Creef, Social Justice Senior Writer
Before I go anywhere with this, I want to start this by saying what happened to both Justine Damond and Breonna Taylor are absolute tragedies. My heart goes out to their family and friends as I can’t even imagine what they have gone through. In no way is this a comparison of the two lives lived and placing a higher value on one over the other.
Both were innocent.
Both should be with us today.
Both had their lives senselessly cut short.
And unfortunately, that’s about where the similarities end.
My heart is a mess writing this piece because it’s a theme that feels all too familiar for so many.
A Black, unarmed citizen is shot and killed by police. Months of national outrage and cries for justice go by while the system places the officers on administrative leave. Then, the officers who committed the offense are found innocent of any wrongdoing.
What took place on March 13, 2020, at the house of Breonna Taylor, is something that should shake us all to our core because any of us could have been in that exact position — including the scenario that happened to Justine Damond on the night of July 15, 2017.
In the instance of Breonna Taylor, police executed a “no-knock” warrant at her house shortly after midnight. Breonna and her boyfriend were in their bedroom asleep when police used a battering ram to force open the front door. Kenneth Walker, Breonna’s boyfriend, heard the intrusion and armed himself with his licensed gun and fired once, not knowing it was the police. His action is one anyone would have who feared an unidentified intruder was breaking into their home.
Multiple officers returned fire with 20 rounds entering the house, five of those bullets fatally piercing the body of Breonna.
Justine Damond called 911 around 11:30 at night for what she thought may have been a woman being raped in an alleyway by her house.
Police showed up in their vehicle, lights off, and were “spooked” by Justine as she approached the driver-side window. Mohamed Noor, the officer in the passenger seat, shot once through the side window and struck Justine in the abdomen, killing her.
Both tragedies are situations any of us could find ourselves in: sleeping in a house when police enter unannounced or calling police to help who you think is a person in need.
That’s why I’m having such a hard time dealing with these two tragedies because that could easily have been me.
But why did only one of the two victims receive justice?
Mohamed Noor was charged eight months later for second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder. A year later, he was convicted and sentenced to 12.5 years in prison.
Out of the three police officers who shot into Breonna Taylor’s house, only one was charged six months later for three counts of wanton endangerment.
Brett Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove of LMPD
If you’re like the rest of us and unsure of what that is, I’ll help you: Wanton endangerment is a crime involving conduct that is wrongful and reckless. So the officer was charged because his shots missed Taylor and went into the nearby neighbors’ apartments almost striking a pregnant lady and her child, hence the reckless aspect.
This is the part of the story where I inform you that Justine Damond was a 40-year-old White American woman and Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old Black American woman.
Damond’s shooter was a Brown-skinned Somali-American while all three of Taylor’s shooters were White men.
Is the picture becoming clearer as more and more puzzle pieces are gently laid and placed together?
One shooting took place in a low-crime suburb of Minneapolis, and the other within the urban city limits of Louisville.
When you hear the renewed calls of “Black Lives Matter” and see all of the posts showing Breonna’s image, this is why.
While both families would much rather have the victims alive instead of the settlements paid by their respective cities, only one of the two families got some resemblance of justice. The other family is left knowing that the officers who killed Breonna will soon be free and sharing the same streets as them.
Another issue that must be addressed is our state of policing in America and the immunity we allow police officers to operate.
Does it seem right to you that an officer can legally break into a home and kill someone who posed absolutely zero threat, and then not be held responsible for it?
Everyone knows police officers have difficult jobs, yet still, when mistakes are made, there must be consequences just like there are for civilians. In America, officers rarely are held to anywhere near the standard that civilians are when committing murder.
Qualified immunity is something that has been hotly discussed in 2020, and it’s past time to remove it from our police forces. It gives police the ability to act as if they are above the law without recourse–they are not held to the same laws as the general population.
The protests sweeping our nation are not going to stop any time soon. As long as tragedies like Breonna Taylor continue to take place without any real consequences for those responsible, you can rest assured that the protests are going to grow in size, strength, and force.
Mike Creef is a fighter for equality and justice for all. Growing up bi-racial(Jamaican-American) on the east coast allowed him to experience many different cultures and beliefs. His goal in life is to help people realize there is more that unites us than divides us.