Forty-four members of Congress sent a letter to the Department of Justice on Friday, calling for an independent investigation into a fatal police shooting of an unarmed young black woman who was killed during the botched execution of a search warrant for an alleged drug crime.
In the letter, led by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), the lawmakers said the Louisville, Kentucky Police Department SWAT team acted recklessly and 26-year-old Breonna Taylor’s death “is an unspeakable tragedy that requires immediate answers and accountability.”
Breonna Taylor was an EMT because she wanted the best foundation to become a nurse.
Then she was senselessly shot and killed by police.
Today, @RepLucyMcBath and I are demanding an independent DOJ investigation into her killing. We need accountability for the loss of her life.
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) May 22, 2020
Citing prior excessive force incidents with two of the three officers involved in Taylor’s shooting—as well as prior alleged improper enforcement by the department’s SWAT team in a botched marijuana raid—they requested an investigation “into the shooting of Breonna Taylor, as well as a pattern or practice investigation into the Louisville Police Department for potential civil rights violations.”
In the 2018 cannabis raid case, the family said that the “targets of the investigation did not live at the home, and this could easily have been discovered by police prior to their execution of the warrant,” the legislators wrote. “In light of the troubling parallels between these cases, we ask the Justice Department to conduct an independent investigation to determine whether the Louisville Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of constitutional violations.”
“Ms. Taylor was a young woman with plans for a long, fruitful life. Her mother has said that Ms. Taylor had planned to become a nurse, buy a home, and one day start a family. Instead, her life was brutally cut short by a haphazard law enforcement exercise. Ms. Taylor worked to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic; it is time for the U.S. Department of Justice to honor hers.”
Other lawmakers signing the letter include: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA).
The letter has been endorsed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Drug Policy Alliance and ACLU.
The day prior to the letter’s release, FBI announced that it will be investigating the shooting. It’s not clear if the scope of the investigation will fully satisfy the legislators’ request.
According to a recent report from the ACLU, Kentucky ranks second in racial disparities in marijuana enforcement, with black people there being 9.4 times more likely to be arrested for the offense compared to white people despite similar cannabis consumption rates.