- Louisville’s Mayor announced that the city’s police department was “initiating termination procedures” against Brett Hankison, one of the three officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor.
- In a pre-termination letter, Police Chief Rob Schroeder said Hankison violated standard procedures and “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “blindly” fired ten rounds into Taylor’s apartment.
- Schroeder also noted that Hankison had been disciplined last year for “reckless conduct that injured an innocent person.”
- Though not mentioned in the letter, Hankison is also the subject of a separate investigation involving multiple allegations of sexual assault.
Mayor Announces Termination
Brett Hankison, one of the three Louisville Metro Police officers involved in the shooting and killing of Breonna Taylor, is being fired, Mayor Greg Fischer said Friday.
A statement from the mayor’s office said that Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) Chief Rob Schroeder had begun “initiating termination procedures” against Hankison.
“Unfortunately, due to a provision in state law that I very much would like to see changed, both the Chief and I are precluded from talking about what brought us to this moment, or even the timing of this decision,” the statement said.
Taylor was killed inside her apartment on March 13 after Hankison, along with Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove, entered by force with a no-knock warrant and shot her at least eight times.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at the officers whom he reportedly believed were intruders. The police fired back, killing Taylor. Walker later told investigators the officers failed to announce themselves after he and Taylor asked repeatedly who was at the door.
The no-knock warrant did not require the police to announce themselves, but the officers claimed they did so anyway before using a battering ram to open the door. Taylor’s family and multiple neighbors have disputed that claim.
The warrant in question pertained to a narcotics investigation that involved two men who police believed had used Taylor’s apartment to receive packages. Neither Taylor nor Walker had any prior drug arrests or convictions, and no drugs were found in the apartment.
Taylor’s death has led to nationwide protests and increasing calls for action to be taken against the officers who killed her. No charges have been filed, and Mattingly and Cosgrove have been placed on administrative reassignment.
Hakison’s pending termination represents the most significant action taken to date against the officers involved in Taylor’s death.
In a pre-termination letter sent to Hankison Friday, LMPD Chief Schroeder said that the officer violated standard operating procedures regarding obedience to rules and regulations.
“I have determined you violated Standard Operating Procedure […] when your actions displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life when you wantonly and blindly fired ten (10) rounds into the apartment of Breonna Taylor,” he wrote.
He added that the rounds created “substantial danger of death and serious injury” to Taylor and three occupants in the apartment next door.
Schroeder also said that Hankison violated standard operating procedures pertaining to the use of deadly force when he fired into Taylor’s apartment “without supporting facts that your deadly force was directed at a person against whom posed an immediate threat of danger or serious injury to yourself or others.”
“I find your conduct a shock to the conscience. I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion,” the letter continued. “I have the utmost confidence in my decision to terminate your employment for the best interest for the Louisville Metro Police Department and our community.”
Along with this, Schroeder noted that Hankison had been previously disciplined in January 2019 for “reckless conduct that injured an innocent person.”
In recent weeks, Hankison has also been accused of sexual assault by multiple women in now-viral social media posts. The allegations, which are all similar, claim that he offered to drive intoxicated women home from bars then sexually assaulted them.
Though not mentioned in Schroeder’s letter, the LMPD Integrity Unit is already investigating the allegation against Hankison, and last week, Mayor Fischer ordered that the investigation be expanded.
U.S. Pledges To Donate 500 Million More Vaccines Globally
The announcement comes as wealthy nations face pressure to help lower-income countries deal with the pandemic and as American vaccine makers face calls to share their technology.
Biden Promises More Vaccines
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. will purchase 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for countries in need, bringing the total number of U.S. vaccine donations to more than 1.1 billion.
Biden’s pledge, which was made at a virtual COVID-19 summit, comes as world leaders and organizations have criticized wealthy nations for not doing enough to help lower-income countries deal with the pandemic. Many have also slammed countries like the U.S. for moving forward with plans for booster shots while so much of the world remains unvaccinated.
According to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project, of the six billion shots administered globally, nearly 80% percent have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries compared to just 0.5% in low-income countries.
While several wealthy nations begin to give booster shots, just 2% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.
Pressure Grows for American Companies to Share Vaccine Technology
It’s not just wealthy countries and their leaders that are being met with criticism over the massive vaccination gap. There is also a lot of growing pressure on American drug companies to share their formulas with manufacturers in poor nations that need more doses.
Senior officials told The New York Times that the Biden administration privately asked Pfizer and Moderna to engage in joint ventures where they license their technology to contract manufacturers in an effort to provide vaccines to low- and middle-income nations.
While those conversations reportedly prompted Pfizer to sell the U.S. the 500 million doses announced this Wednesday at a not-for-profit price, the company still refused to license its technology.
Meanwhile, the alleged discussions appear to have had no impact at all on Moderna.
Many have argued the Moderna has even more of an obligation to share its technology given that it was developed in part by the National Institutes of Health. On top of that, the company accepted an additional $2.5 billion in taxpayer money as part of Operation Warp Speed.
In a statement to The Times on Tuesday, a Moderna spokeswoman said that the company had agreed not to enforce its COVID-related patents and was “willing to license our intellectual property for Covid-19 vaccines to others for the post pandemic period.”
But experts say that vaccine technology is needed now, not when the pandemic is over.
Many have argued that Biden should put more pressure on the companies to share their intellectual property, including some legal experts who said he could compel them to do so using the Defense Production Act, which gives the president broad emergency powers.
Administration officials, however, have argued that forcing the companies to share the information is more complicated, and any efforts to do so would result in legal battles that will ultimately be counterproductive.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Wall Street Journal)
Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation
Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.
Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed
A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.
In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.
“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.
A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”
Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.
Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.
Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)
Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11
Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works
Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.
While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.
Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults.
Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage.
That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.
While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course.
With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.
“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post.