September 23, 2020

Campus responds to Breonna Taylor charges

By Joseph Garcia — 

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced a Jefferson County Grand Jury would charge only one officer, former LMPD detective Brett Hankison, with wanton endangerment in the case of Breonna Taylor’s murder.

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi called the announcement “a reminder that we must recommit to pursuing racial justice and pushing for changes in law enforcement, our legal system, public policy and our educational curricula.”

Taylor was killed March 13 when three LMPD officers entered her home with a “no-knock” warrant. When the police came through the door, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a one round at police after asking who was there and receiving no response. The officers returned more than two dozen shots. Taylor’s death certificate says she was shot five times, however today, Cameron said she was actually struck six times.

Hankison is the only one of the three officers indicted. He is charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for firing into neighbor’s apartments, not for the death of Taylor.

A wanton endangerment charge is a class D felony, it comes with a penalty of one to five years.

“While I am pleased that the grand jury has acknowledged the unlawful actions of this police officer and that he will be tried for the unnecessary violence he caused that night,” Bendapudi told students, faculty and staff.  “I am disappointed that our justice system allows these atrocities to occur all too often with relatively little consequence.”

Bendapudi said the attorney general’s announcement does not change the fact that Taylor was killed in her home.

“It does not fix a system that allowed that to happen,” she said, citing a Harvard study which found that Black people are three times more likely on average than white people to be killed during a police interaction.

U of L’s Student Government Association Top 4 said they too are disappointed that Taylor will “not receive the justice she so deserved.”

“For many of our students, waiting for this announcement has been an incredibly emotional time,” SGA said in a statement on social media. “These results will be very difficult to handle, especially for our Black students.”

The university is offering resources for students, faculty and staff to heal during this time.

Faculty and staff may use the Employee Assistance Program to receive counseling services. While U of L’s Counseling Center is offering virtual and personal counseling sessions for students, which SGA said is free to students as part of the $50 insurance fee billed at the start of the year.

“As long as you have not voided this fee on ULink, your visit to the Counseling Center will be covered,” they said.

Some professors have already begun listening to what their student’s are feeling and have canceled their classes.

“I want to respond to the needs of my students,” Siobhan Smith-Jones said after cancelling her 4 o’clock Mass Communications course.

Smith-Jones said she would have continued with class had the students wanted to, pushing down her own feelings of hurt.

“Because I am hurt, I know many of my students are too,” she said. “They are also confused, disappointed and disgusted. They want to protest or protect themselves and their families.”

“I’m here to help, not hinder,” Smith-Jones said.

She also added that the ramifications of this decision will impact Louisville, and therefore U of L, for years to come.

“Our students will have a hand in making the changes needed to our socio-political systems,” she said. “They have a perspective that no one else has; this is their city.”

“So in that,” she said. “Canceling class is a small thing.”

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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