This story is from the September 2020 issue of O, on stands August 11.
To continue the fight for Breonna Taylor: 1) Sign the Change.Org and Color of Change petitions to demand justice from Kentucky officials. 2) Call Kentucky’s attorney general, mayor, governor, and the public integrity unit of the Louisville Metro Police Department to demand the officers involved in Breonna’s death are fired and charged with her killing. Visit StandWithBre.com for guidance. 3) Donate to the Louisville Community Bail Fund to aid protesters fighting in Breonna’s hometown. 4) Hashtag #SayHerName on social media—so no one forgets her: Breonna Taylor.
She was just like me. She was just like you. And like everyone who dies unexpectedly, she had plans. Plans for a future filled with responsibility and work and friends and laughter.
Not long ago, I spoke with Breonna’s mother, Tamika Palmer. She was having a particularly bad day dealing with the loss and the grief of knowing that her daughter is gone forever. Those of you who’ve lost loved ones know that the pain comes in waves and that any little thing can trigger it. A song. A scent. A word. A thought. The day I called, Ms. Palmer was dealing with the emotion of it all. She told me, “I can’t stop seeing her face. Her smile. It’s what I miss most about her. I still can’t grasp the concept of her being gone. It feels so surreal. I’m still waiting for her to come through the door.”
We know how Breonna died. March 13. Louisville police storming into her apartment in the middle of the night. No uniforms. No “This is the police!” Terrifying Breonna and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker.
Ms. Palmer says she received the call from Mr. Walker, telling her that somebody had kicked in the door and shot Breonna and he didn’t know who it was.
She wouldn’t learn that the somebody was the police until hours later. When she heard it on the news.
In the dark of that awful night, she rushed to her daughter’s apartment, seven minutes away. Was not allowed inside. Was told to go to the hospital. The hospital had received no one by that name. Returned to Breonna’s to wait outside. Hours passed before she was informed by a police officer that the gunshot victim was still inside. That is how she knew her daughter was dead.
Only in the wake of George Floyd’s filmed execution was national attention brought to the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, two and a half months after she was killed. Pleas for justice have fallen on deaf ears. As I write this, in early July, just one of the three officers involved has been dismissed from the police force. This officer blindly fired ten rounds from his gun, some of which went into the adjoining apartment.
The other two officers still have their jobs.
What Ms. Palmer cannot understand is this: “The fact that no one has been charged. It was so reckless. They did all of this for nothing, and she lost her life.”
Breonna Taylor was 26 years old. Breonna Taylor loved cars and treated her 2019 Dodge Charger like a trusted friend. Breonna Taylor loved chicken any way you could cook it. Breonna Taylor put hot sauce on everything, especially eggs. Breonna Taylor appreciated every kind of music and the dances that went along. Breonna Taylor treated all her friends like besties. Breonna Taylor was a force in the life of her 20-year-old sister. Breonna Taylor felt meaning and purpose in her work as an emergency room technician. Breonna Taylor was saving to buy a house. Breonna Taylor had plans. Breonna Taylor had dreams. They all died with her the night five bullets shattered her body and her future.
“Imagine if three unidentified men burst into your home while you were sleeping.”
I think about Breonna Taylor often. She was the same age as the two daughter-girls from my school in South Africa who’ve been quarantining with Stedman and me since March. In all their conversations I feel the promise of possibilities.
Their whole lives shine with the light of hopefulness. That was taken away from Breonna in such a horrifying manner.
Imagine if three unidentified men burst into your home while you were sleeping. And your partner fired a gun to protect you. And then mayhem.
What I know for sure: We can’t be silent. We have to use whatever megaphone we have to cry for justice.
And that is why Breonna Taylor is on the cover of O magazine.
I cry for justice in her name.
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