Acting the devil’s advocate in Breonna’s death

Thursday, October 1st, 2020 00:00 |
Breonna Taylor. Photo/Courtesy

As was expected, the September 23 return of ‘not-guilty’ verdict by the grand jury on allegations of murder facing the police killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in the US immediately raised mayhem, particularly in her hometown in Louisville, Kentucky.

In what has become a constant feature across US cities arising from protests by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, violence erupted on the streets of Louisville last week as residents expressed rage and resentment against the unexpected verdict. 

It is instructive that the Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, himself black, was categorical on the perceived innocence of the police officers who stormed Taylor’s apartment in an attempt to execute a warrant of arrest against her boyfriend, convicted drug felon Kenneth Walker III, on the night of March 12.

In announcing the verdict, Cameron stated, “I understand that as a black man, how painful this is ... which is why it was so incredibly important to make sure that we did everything we possibly could to uncover every fact,” adding that, “if we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice.”

Taylor’s family was compensated with US 12 million as a show of genuine remorse by the city’s administration for the ‘mistake’.

Most likely, Walker’s family would not have received a dime if he had been slain too. 

Taylor’s case is not as clear cut as, for instance, the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.

Now, police officers globally work in extremely dangerous conditions, often placing their own lives at grave risk.

The Taylor killing was a classic case of who would blink first, with one of the officers having been shot on the leg.

Every year, tens of police officers die in the course of duty in the US.

According to Officer Down Memory Page (ODMP) that honors fallen law enforcement officers, 205 police men and women have so far died while executing their duties in 2020 across the States. Out of this number, at least 35 have died through gunfire.

Kentucky, the epicentre of Taylor’s BLM riots, has recorded one case involving Detective James Traver Kirk, who died on February 11.

Kirk suffered a fatal heart attack a day after being engaged in a struggle with an armed subject. 

Echoes of the death of Kirk reverberated on Wednesday night last week when two officers were shot and wounded during the ongoing demonstrations in Louisville.

It is not that the circumstances leading to the inevitable ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ action is blanket exoneration from accusations of police brutality. But defensive action in the line of fire is ample mitigation of self-defence.  

Liberal gun laws in the U.S., which are protected under the Second Amendment of the Constitution – that protects the individual right to keep and bear arms - have made the work of law enforcement dicier than elsewhere in the world. According to the 2011 Small Arms Survey, the country has an average of 88 guns per 100 people. 

In 2018, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a pro-gun control lobby, estimated an average 11,564 Americans are murdered every year by gun violence.

Further, the lobby reported that an average of 114,994 Americans are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, or by police intervention annually.

As a convicted felon who is deemed a danger to society, Walker should not have been allowed to continue holding a licensed gun.

The Second Amendment of 1791 that has led to proliferation of guns in America is clearly out of touch with 21st century realities.

For the hapless police officers, it is like operating in the Wild Wild West where surviving each day is determined by who blinks first. — The writer is a communication specialist — [email protected]

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