- Lawyers for the family Breonna Taylor reached a $12 million settlement with the City of Louisville in a wrongful death lawsuit. The payout is the largest Louisville has ever agreed to in a police misconduct suit.
- Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was shot and killed in March after police forcibly entered her apartment to serve a warrant, firing numerous rounds.
- In addition to the payout to Taylor’s family, the settlement also included several police reforms, like adding social workers to the police force, requiring commanding officers to review all search warrants, and creating an early warning system to identify red flag officers.
- While Taylor’s family and their lawyers applauded the settlement, they also said it was just the first step in getting justice and called for criminal charges to be filed against the three officers involved in Taylor’s death.
Lawyers for the family of Breonna Taylor confirmed Tuesday that the City of Louisville had reached a historic $12 million settlement in a wrongful death suit brought by Taylor’s family.
Taylor was the 26-year-old woman who was shot and killed in her apartment by police serving a warrant earlier this year. The incident occurred just after midnight on March 13 when three Louisville Metro Police officers entered her apartment by force with a battering ram and fired multiple rounds. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said they were in bed when they heard someone pounding on their door.
Walker claimed both he and Taylor repeatedly asked who was at the door, but the police failed to announce themselves. Believing the police to be an intruder, Walker fired, striking one of the officers in the leg. Police responded by firing several shots, hitting Taylor five times. One of the officers, Detective Brett Hankison, fired 10 shots blindly into the room.
The warrant officers were serving pertained to a narcotics investigation that involved two men who police believed were selling drugs out of a house 10 miles away. A judge had signed a warrant allowing officers to search Taylor’s apartment because police said they believed one of the men — who was an ex-boyfriend of hers — was using her apartment to receive packages.
Neither Taylor nor Walker had any prior drug arrests or convictions, and no drugs were found in the apartment.
While it was initially reported that police had a no-knock warrant — meaning they did not have to knock or announce themselves before entering — officials have since said that the orders were changed before the raid to “knock and announce,” which means police were in fact required to identify themselves.
Notably, police have said they knocked several times and announced themselves as officers with a warrant before they broke down the door, but their account has been heavily disputed. Taylor’s family, Walker, and multiple neighbors have all said police did not say who they were or that they were serving a warrant.
Many others have also pointed to the fact that the police’s incident report had multiple errors. For instance, it listed Breonna’s injuries as “none” despite the fact that she was killed after being shot five times. It also claimed that officers did not force their way into the apartment, even though they used a battering ram.
Taylor’s family filed the wrongful death lawsuit in April
Lawsuit and Settlement
The $12 million settlement for that suit was announced by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer in a joint press conference with Taylor’s family and their lawyers on Tuesday. It is by far the largest amount ever paid by Louisville police in a police misconduct suit.
According to Ben Crump, one of the lawyers for Taylor’s family who spoke at the press conference, it is also the largest settlement ever paid out for a Black woman killed in a police-involved wrongful death suit and one of the largest amounts for any Black person killed in a police shooting in America.
In addition to that historic payment Mayor Fischer also announced that the city was enacting a number of police reforms as part of the settlement.
Among other measures, those reforms included:
- Creating a program to include social workers in LMPD to provide assistance on certain police runs.
- Requiring commanding officers to review all search warrants and other documents connected to them before an officer gets approval from a judge on them.
- Implementing an early warning system that tracks all use of force incidents, citizen complaints, investigations, and other factors to identify officers with red flags.
- Creating a housing credit program to incentivize officers to live in certain low-income areas of the city as well as encouraging officers to perform two paid hours a week of community service to better connect police with the communities they serve.
The First Step
While both the settlement and the reforms were applauded by Taylor’s family and their lawyers, they also emphasized that these are just the first step.
Currently, none of the officers involved are facing criminal charges, but investigations by both the Kentucky attorney general and the Federal Bureau of Investigations are underway.
Two of the officers, Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove, have been placed on administrative leave, and Detective Hankinson was fired in June. Hankison has reportedly appealed his firing, but the case was delayed until the criminal investigation is complete.
City officials have also made some changes, including banning no-knock warrants, as well as requiring all officers serving warrants to wear body cameras and other changes to the police department aimed at ensuring accountability and transparency.
However, many have called for more to be done, including Taylor’s family, who for months have been pushing for criminal charges against the officers.
“As significant as today is, it’s only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer said during Tuesday’s briefing.
“And with that being said, it’s time to move forward with the criminal charges because she deserves that and much more. Her beautiful spirit and personality is working with all of us on the ground, so please continue to say her name.”
Crump also echoed that sentiment, calling for the officers to be charged “immediately.”
“We want, at minimum, 2nd degree manslaughter charges,” he said. “We want full justice for Breonna Taylor. Not just partial justice.”
According to reports, a grand jury may hear the criminal case as soon as this week.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Associated Press) (The Louisville Courier-Journal)
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)
COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open
While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.
Schools Respond to Omicron Surge
U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.
According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.
That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.
Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.
In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.
Teachers Protest In-Person Learning
Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.
One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).
Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.
On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.
Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”
Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.
On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.