Breonna Taylor’s death no excuse for the end of civil society

I’ll admit I hadn’t ever taken the time to read the details of the death of Breonna Taylor until today. For some reason, there was just too much going on since the time of her death on March 13, and especially since the death of George Floyd on May 25 had led to anarchy on our streets, for me to focus on Taylor’s death.

I had just assumed that Taylor’s death was indeed, as reported, an injustice, but today I found out that everything I thought I knew about Taylor’s death was wrong.

Turns out the police did not execute a no-knock warrant when they went to Taylor’s apartment to try to arrest her ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover. Police actually knocked three times and announced themselves before entering the apartment. It was Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who fired the first shot, hitting a policeman. At that point, police opened fire, as you would expect them to do. They shot Taylor, but not out of any racial animus. She wasn’t even in the same room, but was shot through a wall.

In other words, it was a tragic accident. The city of Louisville admitted as much by settling a wrongful death suit for $12 million. It had nothing to do with race. Shootings like this happen regularly, and there are courts to determine if laws have been broken.

Just this month, here in Kalispell, Montana, police were cleared in the 2016 shooting of a military veteran named Ryan Pengelly. Police had been doing a welfare check on Pengelly’s mother when he woke up, grabbed a gun, and entered the room with the thought of protecting his mother from what he had assumed were intruders. Police fired at Pengelly, severely wounding him, but a jury found the police had not acted improperly. Pengelly wasn’t happy with the verdict, but the court had spoken. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

On the other hand, two of three policeman involved in the death of Taylor were cleared today in Louisville. A third officer faces charges of wanton endangerment because he fired all his bullets without checking on the situation. That grand jury finding has led to rioting in the streets of Louisville, and yet another instance of the tearing of our social fabric.

People may think they are helping society by setting fires, looting or shooting police, but that is just a sign of how juvenile our civic understanding has become.

The fact is that no society can survive long without the rule of law, and for law to prevail there have to be people willing to enforce the law. As we chip away at that thin blue line, we will eventually be left only with streets running red with blood.


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