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Activists welcome Breonna Taylor settlement — but what about criminal charges?

The city of Louisville, Kentucky, has announced a settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by police in March. Taylor’s name became a rallying cry for protesters demanding racial justice and police accountability. But despite the settlement, the question of criminal charges for the officers involved remains unanswered. Amna Nawaz talks to author and activist Hannah Drake.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The city of Louisville announced its settlement today with Breonna Taylor's family, six months after she was shot by police and her death became a refrain of national protests.

    As Amna Nawaz tells us, policing changes are part of that agreement. But the larger question of potential criminal charges against the officers remains front and center to the family and to many around the country.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In the eyes of her family, one step toward justice for Breonna Taylor.

  • Tamika Palmer:

    It's only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna. Her beautiful spirit and personality is working through all of us on the ground. So, please continue to say her name.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Today, the city of Louisville announced a $12 million settlement with Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, after she sued over her daughter's killing by police. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer:

  • Greg Fischer:

    I cannot begin to imagine Ms. Palmer's pain, and I am deeply, deeply sorry for Breonna's death.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    It is the largest sum ever paid by the city in a police misconduct case, and the settlement includes a package of police reforms.

  • Protesters:

    Say her name!

  • Protesters:

    Breonna Taylor!

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The settlement comes after months of protests following Breonna Taylor's death. The 26-year-old emergency medical technician was shot in her home March 13 by Louisville police serving a drug warrant.

    Police say, that night, they identified themselves before breaking down Taylor's door. But her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, says he never heard that, thought it was a break-in, and fired a single shot from his licensed firearm.

    Police responded, shooting Taylor more than eight times, and killing her. No drugs were found in the home.

    Of the three officers involved, only one was fired in June. A separate criminal investigation is under way by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

  • Protesters:

    Say her name!

  • Protesters:

    Breonna Taylor!

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But Taylor's story remains at the center of a nationwide movement seeking racial justice, police reforms, and reminding people to say her name.

    Now, the settlement may have taken six months, but this only relates to the Taylor family civil suit, and there's no admission of wrongdoing by the city of Louisville in today's deal.

    All eyes are now on the Kentucky attorney general to see if criminal charges against the officers will be filed.

    Joining me now to discuss this is Hannah Drake. She's an author and an activist in Louisville. She's been leading the calls for justice in Breonna Taylor's name.

    And welcome back to the "NewsHour," Hannah. Thanks for being with us.

    Before we dig into some of these details, I just want to get your reaction to today's news. It's been a long time coming. I just wonder, when you heard today's news, very briefly, what did you think?

  • Hannah Drake:

    It has been a long time coming.

    I was certainly very emotional. As one that has been protesting and demanding justice, it was a very emotional feeling for me to see Breonna Taylor's mother get some form of justice for her daughter.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We mentioned it's not just the $12 million, the single largest city payment in a police misconduct case. There's a whole slate of police reforms.

    I want to tick through a few of them right now. They're now going to require commanders to approve search warrants before that goes to a judge. They're going to offer housing credits for officers to actually live within the cities that they police. They want to expand drug and alcohol testing for officers involved in shootings. That's just a few of the highlights there.

    But, Hannah, when you look at those reforms, when you look at the disproportionate violence by police against black Americans, what kind of difference do you think those reforms will make?

  • Hannah Drake:

    Certainly, it's going to take manifesting these reforms on the ground actually in the community.

    I will say that I was encouraged that, for this to be a civil suit, for police reform to be tied to it. I do not know if I have ever seen that has ever been the case when there has been a payout for police misconduct, police brutality and the murder of a person at the hands of the police.

    So, I'm thankful to Breonna Taylor's family that they thought to have police reform tied to the civil lawsuit. And I know that Lonita Baker said it was non-negotiable. There would be no civil lawsuit without some type of police reform.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right. We did hear from both attorneys for the family, Lonita Baker and Ben Crump, saying that they knew reforms had to be part of this deal.

    But I wonder, are there additional reforms you didn't hear about today that you think are necessary in Louisville?

  • Hannah Drake:

    I think there are additional reforms.

    I think we have a section of our population that is certainly calling on defunding the police. So, when you look at defunding the police, and you also look at reforming the police, how do we work together as a community for those two things to work hand in hand together?

    I certainly think it's a great opportunity for police to actually live in the communities that they are policing, to actually know the people in the neighborhoods. I love that they also mentioned that there will be some type of volunteerism for the police, so they can actually know the people that they are policing.

    And, hopefully, that will end some of the police brutality. But I certainly think we still have such a long way to go when it comes for justice for Breonna Taylor and justice just in our community.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And we heard from several people who spoke today at that press conference in her name, saying that they don't believe that there will be full justice until those officers are arrested and charged.

    Now, we mentioned that the attorney general is looking into possible criminal charges, that a grand jury is being convened.

    Hannah, I'm curious. Based on your work and your experience in Louisville, how much faith do you have in that process right now?

  • Hannah Drake:

    You know, to be honest, I do not have faith in that process.

    I have tried to remain hopeful, as someone that is an activist and someone that speaks out in the community. But we have seen how these cases have played out across the United States. So, I'm not that hopeful that we will have complete and full justice for Breonna Taylor.

    Every day, I try to wake up and envision something different, that Attorney General Cameron will see Breonna as a 26-year-old black woman that was murdered in her home, that she should still be here today, that she deserves justice.

    If any one of us did this, went into our neighbor's home and killed them, we would be charged. And so I do not think anything less should happen just because someone is a police officer.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And, legally, we have already heard, Hannah, I should ask you, from some experts who say it looks like it's an uphill battle legally to meet that burden, because the officers can claim self-defense. They know there was a shot fired toward them in the beginning.

    I'm curious, if today's restitution is the only justice that ends up coming in the name of Breonna Taylor, what do you think the response will be from you and others in the community?

  • Hannah Drake:

    I think people in this community will be very upset. I think this is a community that has been forever altered by what has happened in Louisville.

    There's certainly a ton of trauma that has happened in Louisville. And this is a city that needs healing. For us not to get justice, for the officers not to be charged will only cause further trauma in this community.

    And quite frankly, I don't think it will sit well for the people that have been protesting for more than 100 days. I think the people that are protesting are demanding full justice.

    We're very happy for Breonna Taylor's mother. We certainly expected that there would be some restitution paid to her family. But justice is like an airplane. There are two wings to it. So, we have restitution, and, on the other wing, we need criminal charges pressed against the officers.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    You mentioned the days and days of protests. There have been celebrities, magazine covers, people making sure that her name continues to be said and that the pressure is kept up.

    What do you think this step today means for all the many other cases in which we don't even hear about the names of black women killed?

  • Hannah Drake:

    I think this is a very important step, especially for black women that have been killed by the police, that have faced police brutality.

    I have always said that Breonna Taylor had two things working against her. She's black and she's a woman. And, often, that's where rock and a hard place collide for black women in America.

    And so I think this was a call-out that you cannot continue to brutalize black women. You cannot continue to murder black women in their homes, and it's going to be OK, it's going to be acceptable. That ends today.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That is Hannah Drake joining us from Louisville, Kentucky.

    Thanks so much for your time.

  • Hannah Drake:

    Thank you.

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