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Following Louisville settlement, all eyes on Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron

Louisville Courier-Journal logo Louisville Courier-Journal 9/16/2020 Morgan Watkins, Lucas Aulbach and Bailey Loosemore, Louisville Courier Journal
a man wearing a suit and tie: Daniel Cameron was sworn in Tuesday as Kentucky's 51st attorney general. Dec. 17, 2019 © Alton Strupp/Courier Journal Daniel Cameron was sworn in Tuesday as Kentucky's 51st attorney general. Dec. 17, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — All eyes are on you, Mr. Attorney General.

Now that Louisville's Metro Government Tuesday settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Breonna Taylor's family for $12 million, all parties are looking to Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron. The commonwealth's rookie top law enforcement official is leading the criminal investigation into the Black woman's death at the hands of Louisville police. 

Benjamin Crump, an attorney who represents Taylor's family, called on Cameron to file, at minimum, second-degree manslaughter charges against the Louisville police officers who were involved in the shooting that killed Taylor in March.

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"Regardless of this landmark step on the journey to justice, we still are demanding that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron bring charges immediately against the police officers that murdered Breonna Taylor," he said. "Immediately. This week. 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, and at the very minimum … second-degree manslaughter charges, because we want full justice for Breonna Taylor, not just partial justice."

Someone is guilty of second-degree manslaughter if they wantonly cause the death of another individual.

Background: Louisville agrees to $12 million settlement, police reforms in Breonna Taylor lawsuit

Tamika Mallory, the co-founder of the New York-based social justice group Until Freedom, likewise said the settlement — which also requires Louisville to make a series of police reforms — is a good step but stressed that the officers involved in the shooting should be indicted. 

And if that doesn't happen, she said Mayor Greg Fischer must ensure every one of them is fired.

"The restitution portion is one part," Mallory said at Tuesday's press conference.

"But arresting the officers is what will make this city do right by its citizens, and not just Breonna Taylor, but all the Breonna Taylors across this city who are afraid sitting in their homes — because to not have an indictment happen in this city is to say that no matter how much we pay, no matter how much reform we do, we’d rather pay, we’d rather cover it than to deal with the issue."

Cameron has been at the helm of the state's criminal investigation into Taylor's death since May. 

His spokeswoman, Elizabeth Kuhn, said in an email Tuesday, "The civil case involving Ms. Breonna Taylor is separate from our office’s ongoing investigation into potential criminal violations of state law. That investigation continues."

A Jefferson County grand jury could hear the Taylor case as early as this week and has the power to decide whether criminal charges should be filed against any (or all) of the officers involved. It potentially could indict them on second-degree manslaughter or on other charges, including murder, reckless homicide or wanton endangerment.

Cameron has the ability to decide not to bring a case to a grand jury and previously has declined to discuss the timing of a possible presentation to such a jury.

Breonna Taylor shooting: What we know about Louisville's $12 million settlement with her family

Related: What Louisville mayor, attorneys and Breonna Taylor's family said about the settlement

Louisville police officers shot and killed Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, in her apartment March 13 when they came to serve a "no-knock" search warrant related to a narcotics investigation. 

Law enforcement says they knocked first and announced they were there, but Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, has said he and Taylor did not know who was at the door. Walker fired what he later described as a warning shot after the police broke down the door.

One officer was hit in the thigh. Officers returned fire, and Taylor was hit five times and died in the hallway.

Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly were the three LMPD officers who fired their weapons that night.

In addition to them, Mallory — of Until Freedom — said LMPD detective Joshua Jaynes also should face charges. Jaynes applied for the no-knock warrant that was used at Taylor's apartment ahead of the fatal shooting, along with four other warrants, as part of a narcotics investigation.

LMPD fired Hankison in June. Cosgrove, Jaynes and Mattingly are on administrative reassignment.

Gov. Andy Beshear, Cameron's predecessor in the attorney general's office, indicated Tuesday he thinks it's good for Cameron, whose role in the Taylor investigation has put him in the national spotlight, to feel pressure right now.

"I hope that the attorney general is feeling pressure, and I don't mean that negatively," Beshear said. "I mean pressure to get this done. Pressure to get it right. Pressure to explain any decision or process properly to the public.

"Those are all things that any attorney general ought to want to do, and here it is a very high-profile case and situation," the governor continued. "People are watching it very carefully, and so I think that there ought to be a positive pressure to get it right."

Although Cameron faces national scrutiny, much of the recent pressure on him has come from Kentuckians.

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Protesters in Louisville have spent 110 days demanding justice for Taylor, and several of them indicated Tuesday they won't be satisfied until the officers involved are fired and charged.

"Yes, it's a pretty decent settlement. Breonna's family deserves that and a million times more," said Delaney Haley, a community organizer who has been a regular at local protests. "But we won't have true justice until the cops who did that have to face some kind of repercussions. Fire, arrest, indict, convict. It's just that simple."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is a mentor of Cameron's, told reporters Tuesday he has a lot of confidence in the attorney general.

Cameron has been criticized for taking too long to conclude his investigation into Taylor's death, but McConnell said Tuesday it "seems to have been more complicated than a lot of people felt ..."

"I think when he fully understands what charges are warranted by the facts that they're investigating, that he will let us know," the longtime Kentucky senator said.

People in Louisville and around the country are anxiously waiting to hear the results of Cameron's investigation and to find out whether any of the officers involved in Taylor's death will be charged with a crime. 

There has been speculation the ongoing protests in Louisville could intensify and potentially grow ugly if the officers aren't indicted. As a result, Beshear has been asked if the Kentucky National Guard will be mobilized to come to Louisville to try to deal with any such demonstrations.

Beshear previously sent the National Guard to Louisville when the protests first began in late May, during which there was some vandalism and looting. On June 1, the fourth night of protests, David McAtee — the Black owner of a local barbecue stand — was fatally shot by the National Guard after members of the Guard and LMPD arrived to disperse a crowd at 26th and Broadway.

On Tuesday, Beshear said he has not requested the National Guard be activated to deal with potential protests in Louisville. However, he has asked Cameron's office to provide 48 hours' notice of any pending decision "if Louisville believes that the National Guard may be needed ..."

Reach reporter Morgan Watkins: 502-582-4502; mwatkins@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @morganwatkins26. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscribe.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Following Louisville settlement, all eyes on Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron

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