Virginia Gov. Northam Signs 'Breonna's Law' Banning No-Knock Warrants Flanked by Breonna Taylor's aunts, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a law banning the kind of search warrant used the night Taylor was killed by police in Louisville.
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Virginia Gov. Northam Signs 'Breonna's Law' Banning No-Knock Warrants

"Breonna's Law," which passed in the General Assembly earlier this year, was inspired by Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician, who police shot and killed in her Louisville apartment in March. Steve Helber/AP Photo hide caption

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Steve Helber/AP Photo

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ceremonially signed a law Monday that will prohibit police from using no-knock warrants, which allow police to enter and search a home without notifying residents.

"Breonna's Law," which passed in the General Assembly earlier this year, was inspired by Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician, who police shot and killed in her Louisville apartment in March.

"Virginia becomes the first state to take this action since Breonna's death in March," Northam said. "This is the right thing to do."

Northam signed the law in late October but revisited it on Monday, flanked by Taylor's aunts, Bianca Austin and Tahasha Holloway; civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family; and by African American lawmakers who have spearheaded a push for criminal justice and police reform in Virginia.

"We do not want what happened to Breonna to also happen here in Virginia. Breonna is me," said state Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), who is Black and who sponsored the Senate's omnibus bill that included the measure.

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Under the new Virginia legislation, law enforcement officers must be recognizable and in uniform and give "audible notice" of their authority and purpose, "reasonably expected to be heard by occupants of such place to be searched prior to the execution of such search warrant."

Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg), who sponsored the House bill, said that as a young Black mother of two young boys, the bill is deeply personal.

"In the dark of the night, without even a moment's notice, we lost Breonna Taylor. There are no words or actions that will bring her back but today as we await true justice it is my hope that this bill will offer even a glimmer of hope for Breonna Taylor," she said

Virginia is among several states to consider or pass no-knock bans, including Kentucky, Ohio and New York.

Northam said Virginia bore a "special responsibility" to pass Breonna's Law and other criminal justice changes.

"From the earliest days, Virginia shaped the United States' highest aspirations of freedom and democracy," Northam said. "And from our earliest days, our laws also shaped an economy based on enslaving men, women and children. Four hundred one years later in Virginia we continue to struggle with the burden of our complicated past."

The law is among several changes lawmakers passed in a special legislative session. They also voted to ban most police chokeholds and to give the attorney general the authority to investigate patterns or practices of misconduct.

At Monday's news conference, Crump said he continued to seek justice for Taylor. A grand jury indicted one officer for wanton endangerment for firing into a neighboring apartment. Two other officers who shot their guns received no charges. No one has been directly charged in Taylor's killing. Last week a council of Kentucky prosecutors declined to answer Crump's demand to name a special prosecutor to revisit the case, AP reports.

"Today you all are to be applauded for having responsible leaders and being proactive so that we won't have to see a tragedy like this in Virginia," Crump said. "Breonna Taylor's legacy will be defined by people who believe in due process of the law."

Taylor's aunt Bianca Austin thanked Del. Aird and Sen. Locke for their activism and by showing that "it's ok to be an angry Black woman, and teach us how to portray ourselves."

"We are so grateful and honored for these gestures and these laws, but let us not forget that Breonna Taylor still needs justice," Austin said. "Justice for Breonna Taylor is making sure that these officers are fired, arrested, charged and convicted for their unlawful entry to her home."

Austin said she wanted the officers who shot Taylor to be fired and convicted, and she hoped efforts to pass a similar law in Taylor's home state would succeed.

"Hopefully Kentucky can step up to the plate and follow what Virginia's doing here," she said.

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