Breonna Taylor supporters launch campaign against GOP gubernatorial nominee in Kentucky
By Bruce Schreiner and Dylan Lovan,2023-06-05
Breonna Taylor’s mother endorsed a grassroots campaign Monday aimed at defeating Republican Daniel Cameron 's bid for Kentucky governor, reviving anger over a criminal investigation he led that yielded no charges against any officers for the fatal shooting of the Black woman during a police raid.
Tamika Palmer plunged into the political fray on what would have been her daughter's 30th birthday. Breonna Taylors death in 2020 spurred nationwide racial justice protests alongside the killing of George Floyd.
Palmer and other activists announced a campaign to bolster voter registration and turnout against Cameron's bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in November.
Taylor's family and scores of protesters have long blamed Cameron for a lack of criminal charges against the officers for Taylor's death on March 13, 2020. Police opened fire into Taylor’s Louisville apartment after her boyfriend fired a shot at them from a hallway, wounding one of the officers. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, has said he thought he was firing at an intruder.
Kentucky's first Black attorney general, Cameron was thrust into the national spotlight when his office investigated the shooting and actions of officers that day.
Cameron has defended the investigation, saying he “followed the law without fear or favor.” Palmer and other activists said Monday that Cameron's handling of the case shows he's unqualified to be governor.
“He decided that we didn’t matter," Palmer told reporters in a downtown Louisville park that was the epicenter of 2020 protests in Louisville. "He decided that Breonna didn’t deserve justice.”
Lonita Baker, one of the attorneys who represented the Taylor family's lawsuit against the city of Louisville and its police department, said Monday that Cameron’s investigation left her angry.
“As a former prosecutor, I knew that there was sufficient evidence to indict the officers responsible,” Baker said. "As a former prosecutor, I knew that Daniel Cameron did not even present the question of whether those officers should be indicted.”
At a widely viewed news conference in September 2020, Cameron announced the grand jury’s findings, which was to charge one officer with endangerment for firing into a neighbor’s apartment. That officer later was acquitted at trial. After the grand jury's findings were revealed, Cameron said the grand jurors “agreed” that homicide charges were not warranted against the officers. That statement outraged protesters and prompted some grand jurors to take the extraordinary step of speaking publicly to dispute Cameron’s account of the closed proceedings.
In a 2021 interview with The Associated Press, Cameron said his prosecutors had an obligation “to bring forward recommendations on which they think they can prove in front of a jury in a trial. That was what our prosecutors believed was appropriate.”
At Monday's anti-Cameron event, Shameka Parrish-Wright, who is Black and a former Louisville mayoral candidate, said she "would love to see a Black man as governor, but not Daniel Cameron."
“He lost that when he denied Breonna Taylor justice,” she said. “He lost that when he didn’t appoint a special prosecutor. He lost that when he failed to properly inform the grand jury.”
Activists said they plan to open offices in Louisville and another in Lexington – Kentucky’s two largest cities — to canvass neighborhoods and operate phone banks in a mobilization against Cameron. In 2019, Beshear carried the counties containing those two cities by about 135,000 votes in barely defeating then-Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
Cameron, who is closely aligned with former President Donald Trump, says Taylor’s death was a tragedy. In campaign speeches, Cameron has turned protests over the case into an appeal for support from Republican voters, portraying it as an example of his steadfastness in the face of pressure. He speaks about a July 2020 demonstration by protesters on his front lawn that led to dozens of arrests.
“My obligation is to follow the law, no matter what — even when protestors show up on my lawn,” Cameron said in a statement Monday.
In 2020, three jurors on the 12-member grand jury came forward to say Cameron’s team limited their scope and misled them about what charges they could consider against the officers. Beshear, who preceded Cameron as attorney general, points to that development in criticizing Cameron's handling of the case.
“First time I’ve ever heard of it happening, grand jurors come forward and accuse the top prosecutor of lying," Beshear said in a recent interview with the AP . “Of lying about what they were told, lying about what they were shown and lying about what they could decide.”
Kentucky state Rep. Kevin Bratcher, a Republican from Louisville, has staunchly defended Cameron's handling of the case.
"I think that the way the critics of Daniel have attacked him is not fair, because I think he did what he thought was right and he stuck to the letter of the law,” Bratcher said recently.