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Shooting Of Unarmed Black Woman In Kentucky Gets National Attention


The killing of a black man in Georgia received little attention in February. Later, a video circulated. And it's a big part of the news now. The shooting of a black woman in Louisville, Ky., received little attention in mid-March. Now that has become part of our national conversation. Reporter Amina Elahi of member station WFPL in Louisville has been reporting on the shooting of Breonna Taylor. Good morning.

AMINA ELAHI, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: How was she killed?

ELAHI: Well, she was killed in mid-March. Louisville police officers went to her apartment after midnight to serve a search warrant related to a narcotics investigation. Police broke through the door and entered the apartment. And Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, responded by firing a gun and shooting an officer in the leg. The police officers fired back. And at least eight of their bullets struck and killed Taylor. The injured police officer was hospitalized, and he recovered.

INSKEEP: Eight bullets. Wow. Now, we do know, then, that the police were fired at. And one officer was shot in the leg. Did the people in the apartment know that these were police officers?

ELAHI: This is an area of some dispute. The police say that they identified themselves before forcing their way into the apartment. But neighbors say the police did not. Walker's attorney says his client was acting in self-defense and responding lawfully to what he thought was a break-in. The attorney adds that Breonna Taylor was an innocent bystander killed because of reckless police action. No one has been charged for Taylor's death. And the officers who entered her apartment were placed on administrative reassignment.

INSKEEP: What is Breonna Taylor's family saying?

ELAHI: Her mother, Tamika Palmer, has said she was a good person. Taylor was an EMT who worked at local hospitals. Her mother's filed suit against the police officers who entered the apartment. And her mother has hired prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also represents the family of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.

I should mention, Taylor was killed in mid-March. But it was really just this weekend when her death attracted national attention. And that's because activist Shaun King posted Taylor's story to Instagram. After that, people began sharing her picture and lamenting what they saw as the unjustified killing of a young, black woman by police officers who forced their way into her home while she was asleep.

INSKEEP: Oh, so it is a little like the case in Georgia in that it got national attention, it made news because it spread on social media many weeks after it happened. Now, what are local officials saying now that this has received national attention?

ELAHI: The police aren't saying much. They did hold a press conference that was very brief the day of the shooting. And at that time, they shared a few details. Since then, they've criticized a local judge who released Kenneth Walker to house arrest. But this week, a police spokeswoman declined to comment because there's an internal investigation that's ongoing. We expect that investigation to continue for a few months. The mayor of Louisville, Greg Fischer, released a statement on Twitter yesterday. He said his priority is truth and justice. But he didn't want to make, quote, "expansive comments" before the internal investigation is complete.

INSKEEP: Do activists plan more protests?

ELAHI: Well, that's an interesting question because in the past, we might have expected to see in-person protests to demand answers. But in this current age of COVID-19 and social distancing, that's less likely. Soon after her death, dozens of her family and friends did gather outside the courthouse in Louisville to remember her. But since then, most of the outrage and grief has shifted online. And so in the meantime, those responsible for deciding what justice will look like probably won't have to face the people demanding it.


INSKEEP: Reporter Amina Elahi of WFPL. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.