Louisville police threaten protesters with arrests, tear gas in wake of Breonna Taylor grand jury

Police in riot gear threatened to fire tear gas and arrest protesters after declaring ongoing demonstrations demanding justice for the killing of Breonna Taylor an “unlawful assembly.”

Louisville Metro Police Department officers fired pepper balls into crowds on Wednesday during protests over a grand jury’s failure to charge three officers for the killing of the 26-year-old black woman in March.

Armoured officers were also captured using batons and tackling demonstrators, who have led memorials, marches and demonstrations without incident for 120 days following the killing of Ms Taylor on 13 March.

But with a grand jury announcement imminent, state and local officials activated the Kentucky National Guard and issued a state of emergency, while armed militia groups began patrolling streets to defend police and property.

A large memorial for Ms Taylor the centre of nightly protests from downtown Louisville is a large memorial in Jefferson Square, where flowers, cards and messages have been displayed and maintained for several weeks.

That memorial has grown to include tributes to other victims of police violence in Louisville, including David McAtee, who was fatally shot by Kentucky National Guard members during protests in June, as well as Tyler Gerth, a photographer who was killed at the square later that month.

The protests, igniting a national cry to “arrest the cops” who killed her, have demanded an end to police brutality and the brutalisation of black Americans and called for systemic reforms to US policing.

Ms Taylor was in bed with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker after midnight in March when three officers – Brett Hankinson, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove – executed a search warrant by banging on her apartment door before ramming it open.

Mr Walker, who has said that police did not announce themselves and feared that someone broke into the home, fired one shot from a pistol, striking officer Mattingly in the leg. All officers returned fire. Ms Taylor was shot six times.

Now-former officer Hankison faces three counts of wanton endangerment. He could face up to five years in prison in each count, if convicted.

He was fired three months after her death for “wantonly and blindly” firing 10 rounds into the building, according to then-interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder.

But Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron argued on Wednesday that officers Mattingly and Cosgrove were “justified in their return of deadly fire” because Mr Walker had fired first, he said.

That justification “bars” the office from pursuing criminal charges against them, he said.

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