Michelle Obama paid her respects to Breonna Taylor, the Black EMT who was killed by police in her Kentucky home, on her 28th birthday.
“Thinking of you today, Breonna,” tweeted the former first lady on Saturday, sharing an illustration of the essential worker by painter Amy Sherald.
On March 13, 2020, Taylor died after two Louisville undercover police officers burst into her home, where she lay sleeping with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, and opened fire, striking Taylor five times. Officers Myles Cosgrove, Brett Hankison and Jonathan Mattingly of the Louisville Metro Police Department had arrived with a “no-knock” warrant to search Taylor’s home, the address of which her ex-boyfriend had used to mail drugs, reported ABC News.
When the officers forced open Taylor’s door, Walker, a registered gun owner with no criminal record, yelled out to who he believed were intruders but said he heard no response (Mattingly claimed the officers repeatedly yelled, “Police, search warrant!”). So Walker fired his gun and the officers fired back with more than 25 bullets, some of which entered neighboring homes. Walker called 911 for help; however, he was arrested for attempted murder of a police officer.
The killing, which happened only months before the murder of George Floyd by police, sparked a national outcry, and Taylor’s image became another symbol for the many Black citizens who have been disproportionately shot and killed by law enforcement. According to the Washington Post, which has tracked all fatal shootings by on-duty police officers in the United States since 2015, “Although half of the people shot and killed by police are White, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans.”
In September, Taylor’s family received a $12 million settlement from the city of Louisville and the charges against Walker were dropped. However, only Hankison faced legal consequences — he was fired and charged with wanton endangerment for the bullets that entered neighboring homes. Hankison pleaded not guilty, and his trial will take place next year. Mattingly is still employed on the police force, and Cosgrove was fired.
On Saturday, other public figures acknowledged Taylor, whom her family described to People as “the rock to hold everyone together.”
“Happy heavenly birthday Breonna!” tweeted Viola Davis. “We will never forget. We will always keep fighting.”
“We want to be celebrating people’s birthday and graduations while they are alive and thriving not because they were killed by gun violence,” tweeted Rosanna Arquette. “Today is Breonna Taylor’s birthday who was killed in her own home by police officers. Rest in power Breonna.”
“Breonna Taylor should be celebrating her 28th birthday today, yet not one officer was held accountable for murdering her,” tweeted Rep. Cori Bush. “That lack of accountability doesn’t change the fact that her life mattered. Her joy mattered. Her dreams mattered. And she should be here celebrating today.”
While Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., shared a photo montage of Taylor that included her tweet from her birthday in 2018. “Bre Day Was A Success! I’m Twenty-Fine Now Y’all,” she wrote.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, shared her own thoughts on her daughter’s milestone day. “Everybody saying Happy 20Gr8 & that’s cool but ain’t nothing happy about you not being where you supposed to be at 20Gr8,” she wrote on Instagram. “I was robbed, your sister was robbed, your friends was robbed, your family was robbed. But with all that being said the world is showing out for you Breonna I know I wouldn’t want it any other way and you don’t deserve anything less, but what I will say is I’m sorry.”
Palmer continued, “I’m sorry the world you loved and the city you adored traded your life as if you didn’t matter, but as I said before I’m grateful I raised a Queen to show the world and the city different I couldn’t of asked for anything different but you left a legacy with me, your sister, friends & family and we are eternally grateful to you. Happy Birthday Baby WE LOVE YOU!!!”
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