After a controversial grand jury decision regarding the death of Breonna Taylor, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville called for unity to work for racial justice and to combat racism, while many in the city of Louisville braced for protests.
The archbishop made his plea on Wednesday, September 23, shortly after the announcement of the grand jury’s decision to indict one of the police officers involved in Taylor’s death.
“I again join with citizens throughout our community and the nation in mourning the tragic death of Breonna Taylor,” said Kurtz in the statement, which was distributed to clergy and leaders within the Archdiocese of Louisville and provided to CNA.
Taylor, 26, was killed March 13 in Louisville during a police raid of her apartment. Taylor, a Black woman, was shot five times by the police after her boyfriend initially fired at the officers who breached Taylor’s apartment’s door to execute a warrant. The officers involved were white. An issue of contention is whether, and how loudly, the officers announced themselves when entering the apartment.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, acknowledged firing the first shots, and claimed that he thought the police were intruders. Walker has said he did not hear officers announce themselves as police.
On Wednesday, a grand jury indicted one of the officers who served the warrant, Brett Hankison, with three counts of “wanton endangerment” for firing three shots into and near Taylor’s apartment. Hankinson was fired from the Louisville Police in June. The other two officers were not indicted. None of the shots fired by Hankinson were those which struck Taylor.
“Whatever our reaction to the decision by the Grand Jury and the Attorney General’s Office, we must now come together to work for racial justice,” Kurtz said Wednesday.
“There is no question that our nation’s original sin of racism continues to destroy the lives of persons of color and that racism extends through so many systems of our society... educational, economic, religious, housing, criminal justice, voting, and employment,” said the archbishop.
The Church, said Kurtz, “stands ready to work with civic, community, educational, business, and non-profit partners to address these issues.”
No officer was directly charged with Taylor’s death. The charges of “wanton endangerment” carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison each.
Taylor’s mother received a $12 million wrongful death settlement from the City of Louisville.
The city declared a state of emergency before the grand jury’s decision was announced. The phrase “Justice for Breonna Taylor” has become one of the most prominent rallying cries of the Black Lives Matter movement, and her portrait has been frequently featured on posters and banners at protests.
Kurtz said he respects the First Amendment right to protest, but pleaded for peace “and the rejection of violence” during demonstrations.
“Let us all join in prayers for Breonna Taylor’s family and friends and for justice, peace, and healing in our community,” said Kurtz.