- 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)
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.