Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker called a Kentucky grand jury's decision to not charge any officers for their role in Breonna Taylor's death a "gross miscarriage of justice."
"A grand jury made a decision that doesn’t come close to capturing the injustice of what we know to have happened on that tragic night in March when Breonna Taylor, an innocent young woman, was killed by law enforcement officers as she slept in her own home," Pritzker said Wednesday just after the ruling was announced. "That charge does not address the loss of her life. Not nearly."
Pritzker was joined by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and several other state officials in criticizing the grand jury's decision.
The grand jury on Wednesday instead indicted a single police officer for shooting into neighboring apartments. Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in connection to the police raid on the night of March 13.
"This ruling is absolutely heartbreaking," Lightfoot said. "It leaves more questions than it answers. My fear is that it reinforces the deeply held notion that there are two systems of justice. As a lawyer, a former prosecutor and defense attorney, I know our justice system feels unfair, and can be brutal, especially to people of color. We must keep fighting to bring equity to that flawed system."
Immediately after the announcement, people were expressing frustration that the grand jury did not do more.
Chicago and Illinois officials urged people to protest peacefully.
"Peaceful protest is powerful," Preckwinkle said. "However, we cannot meet the violence of the police with violence of our own. It gives ammunition to those who do not share our concern for racial justice. Your voice, your words, your vote represent the path forward for change."
Pritzker on Tuesday put the Illinois National Guard in “a state of readiness” ahead of the grand jury's announcement. On Wednesday, he promised state support for any cities that may need assistance in wake of the decision.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown also promised officers would work to ensure those who feel the need to protest are protected.
"We’re going to do everything we can to protect and support peaceful expression of First Amendment rights," Lightfoot said. "When people step over the line, we are ready and we will be ready to address that with the appropriate level of response.
I don’t want to speculate. We’re not there, but if we get there, we’ll be ready."
Lightfoot asked city residents to join her for a moment of silence honoring Taylor Wednesday evening.
"Breonna Taylor’s family has consistently called for peace, and urged people who are acting in her name to do so in a way that builds, not destroys, community," Lightfoot said in a press conference immediately following the ruling. "In honor of their request for peace, I urge all Chicagoans to join me tonight at 7 p.m. for a citywide moment of silence in honor of the life of Breonna Taylor. Stand on your porch or sidewalk or wherever you are, please take a moment of silence and reflection in her memory."
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by officers who entered her home using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside. The use of no-knock warrants has since been banned by Louisville’s Metro Council.
Protesters have consistently pressured State Attorney General Daniel Cameron to act, and celebrities and pro athletes had joined them in calling on the attorney general to charge the police who shot Taylor. At one point, demonstrators converged on his house and were charged with felonies for trying to intimidate the prosecutor.
Before charges were brought, Hankison was fired from the city’s police department on June 23. A termination letter sent to him by interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said the white officer had violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 rounds of gunfire into Taylor’s apartment in March.
Hankison, Sgt. Johnathan Mattingly, Officer Myles Cosgrove and the detective who sought the warrant, Joshua Jaynes, were placed on administrative reassignment after the shooting.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, opened fire when police burst in, hitting Mattingly. Walker was charged with attempted murder of a police officer, but prosecutors later dropped the charge.
"What do we tell our children when they ask us why? How can we explain that an unarmed person can be killed by police, and there are no consequences when they have Black skin like mine? What do we tell our children when they ask how many more?" said Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton. "We tell them that Black Lives Matter. We want them to grow up with the knowledge that their lives matter too. It is okay to be angry, because I’m angry. It’s okay to cry because I’ve cried. It is okay to pray, because, as a woman, sometimes my faith is all I have to hold onto in a moment like this. The fight for justice continues, and that our young people are leading the way as they always have. It is the peaceful expressions of pain and frustration in moments like these that are shifting the atmosphere and it is those peaceful protests that will shatter the norms and push through real transformation. We will tell them that her Black life mattered, and that she should be alive today. Breonna Taylor is any one of us, and she is all of us. Breonna Taylor is me. Let us continue to say her name."