LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY (REUTERS) – The city of Louisville, Kentucky, will pay US$12 million (S$16 million) to the family of Breonna Taylor, a black woman shot dead by police in a botched raid on her apartment in March, to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit, Mayor Greg Fischer said on Tuesday (Sept 15).
The settlement will be accompanied by reforms of the Louisville Metro Police Department, including a requirement that commanders approve search warrants before they are put to a judge, Fischer said at a news conference.
“I’m deeply, deeply sorry for Breonna’s death,” Fischer, who is white, told reporters.
“My administration is not waiting to move ahead with needed reforms to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”
Fischer was joined by Taylor’s family, who said they welcomed the settlement but also demanded officers involved face criminal charges.
“As significant as today is, it is only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna,” said Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, her voice at times shaking with emotion.
“It’s time to move forward with the criminal charges because she deserves that and much more.”
Taylor’s death, alongside that of George Floyd, a black man killed in May by a white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck, gave rise to one of the largest protest movements in US history, with daily demonstrations in cities ever since.
The settlement appeared to be one of the largest ever after a police killing in the United States, Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the family, told reporters.
The family of Philando Castile, a black motorist shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in Minnesota, was awarded US$3 million in 2017; in 2016, Cleveland officials agreed to pay a US$6 million settlement to Tamir Rice’s family after he was shot dead by a police officer.
As part of Tuesday’s settlement, Mayor Fischer said Louisville police officers will be offered housing credits to move to some of the poorest parts of the city in the hopes of improving community ties.
They will also be encouraged to regularly volunteer for community organisations and will face increased random testing for drug use.
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was killed on March 13 when Louisville police forced their way into her apartment shortly after midnight using a so-called “no-knock” arrest warrant that did not require them to announce themselves.
Louisville police obtained the warrant from a judge as part of an investigation into a drug ring at another house elsewhere in the city.
They told the judge that they believed that one of the men suspected of selling drugs had used Taylor’s apartment to receive packages.
Taylor had previously dated the suspected drug seller but had severed ties with him, according to her family.
In June, the police department fired one of the three officers involved, detective Brett Hankison, who is white, for displaying “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he fired 10 bullets into Taylor’s apartment.
The two other officers have been reassigned to administrative duties. The city also banned the use of no-knock warrants.
None of the three officers has been criminally charged, but the Kentucky Attorney-General Daniel Cameron, a black Republican, is expected to bring the case before a grand jury this week, according to local media reports.
Crump told reporters he wanted Cameron to charge the officers “at the very minimum” with manslaughter in the second degree. Cameron’s office has declined to comment on the case before the grand jury has voted.
A spokesman for the Louisville Metro Police Department declined to comment, referring questions to the mayor’s office.
In an investigation earlier this year of police use of excessive force, Reuters found police and the localities that employ them have been largely shielded from having to pay financial settlements to victims or their grieving families, except in high-profile cases.