Breonna Taylor's Family Says They're Still Waiting For Justice : Consider This from NPR Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police in March. Her killing in Louisville, Ky., was part of the fuel for the nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism this spring and summer.

On Tuesday, an announcement came that the city of Louisville had reached a $12 million settlement in a civil lawsuit brought against it.

But Taylor's mother, Tamika Parker, says this is only the beginning when it comes to getting full justice. There are on-going state and federal investigations, but still no criminal charges against any of the officers involved.

Before she became the face of a movement, Taylor was a daughter, a niece and a treasured friend. Ahead of what would have been Taylor's 27th birthday, NPR's Ari Shapiro went to Louisville to speak with her family and friends about how they remember Taylor.

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Email us at considerthis@npr.org

Special thanks to Becky Sullivan, Sam Gringlas, Sarah Handel, Jason Fuller and Ari Shapiro for the reporting featured in this episode.
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Who Was Breonna Taylor Before She Became The Face Of A Movement?

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Who Was Breonna Taylor Before She Became The Face Of A Movement?

Who Was Breonna Taylor Before She Became The Face Of A Movement?

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For months in cities across the country...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #1: Say her name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Breonna Taylor.

CORNISH: ...In night after night of protests...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #2: Say her name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Breonna Taylor.

CORNISH: ...You hear the same chant.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #3: Say her name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Breonna Taylor.

CORNISH: Say her name. Breonna Taylor's killing in Louisville, Ky., was part of the fuel for the nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism this spring and summer. Police shot and killed her in March.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BENJAMIN CRUMP: It had been so long getting to this day...

CORNISH: Tuesday brought some measure of justice.

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CRUMP: ...Where we could assure that Breonna Taylor life wouldn't be swept under the rug like so many other Black women in America who have been killed by police.

CORNISH: That's Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Breonna Taylor's family, at a press conference, announcing a $12 million settlement in a civil lawsuit against the city of Louisville. The agreement also included some police reforms.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

CRUMP: We took significant steps today in the name of Breonna Taylor of trying to correct this broken criminal justice system.

CORNISH: Breonna Taylor's mother, Tamika Parker (ph), says this is only the beginning when it comes to getting full justice. There are ongoing state and federal investigations, but still no criminal charges against any of the officers involved. So the activism continues.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

TAMIKA PALMER: Her beautiful spirit and personality is working through all of us on the ground. So please continue to say her name - Breonna Taylor.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: Her name is still a symbol for those speaking out against police violence towards Black Americans. But it's more than that. CONSIDER THIS - before she became the face of a movement, Breonna Taylor was a daughter, a niece and a treasured friend. From NPR, I'm Audie Cornish. It's Wednesday, September 16.

It's CONSIDER THIS. I'm Audie Cornish. Breonna Taylor was killed in March. In June, as racial justice protests spread throughout the country after police killed George Floyd, Taylor's case picked up more national attention. That's when my colleague Ari Shapiro went to Louisville to cover the protests but also to talk with Taylor's friends and family about the person she was and about how strange it can feel when all across the country, people are chanting the name of the loved one you've lost.

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ARI SHAPIRO: Is it weird to share your best friend with millions of people you've never met?

ERINICKA HUNTER: Yes.

SHATANIS VAUGHN: Yes. It makes me jealous a little bit 'cause it's hard.

HUNTER: Like, you don't even know her.

VAUGHN: Seriously. Like...

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

HUNTER: But it's wonderful. It's a blessing all in the same. Like, thank you for, you know, acknowledging her and - you know, and loving her just off of what you think. But I actually knew her, you know?

SHAPIRO: Let's make that clear.

HUNTER: And she blessed my life. You don't know.

CORNISH: Here's the story Ari reported back then the day before Breonna Taylor would've turned 27.

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BIANCA AUSTIN: That's my little mini-me.

SHAPIRO: Your little mini-me - is that what you call her? (Laughter).

AUSTIN: I said Tamika had her but that she was all mine.

SHAPIRO: Breonna's aunt, Bianca Austin, invited us to her home, along with another aunt, Tahasha Holloway, and an uncle, Tyrone Bell.

TYRONE BELL: I called her Breezy (ph).

TAHASHA HOLLOWAY: He called her Breezy.

AUSTIN: Breezy (laughter).

HOLLOWAY: She's cool. She's a cool cat.

SHAPIRO: And we also visited two of her best friends since high school - Erinicka Hunter and Shatanis Vaughn.

VAUGHN: We met Breonna sophomore year.

HUNTER: Well, I met Breonna through you.

VAUGHN: Yeah. So...

HUNTER: She introduced us.

VAUGHN: So it was me, then her. And we've been inseparable ever since.

HUNTER: Yeah, three amigos (laughter).

VAUGHN: That's what we called ourselves - the three amigos - literally.

SHAPIRO: And collectively, her friends and family gave us the unvarnished picture of Breonna.

AUSTIN: The laugh - her laugh and her voice. She's got, like, this baby, whiney kind of voice. Like, she's like...

HOLLOWAY: Oh, my goodness.

AUSTIN: (Laughter).

HOLLOWAY: Y'all don't know. Y'all don't understand. Like...

(LAUGHTER)

AUSTIN: So you definitely know, like - when we mock her, like, you'll know who it was if you knew her.

SHAPIRO: Breonna Taylor loved old music from the '80s and '90s, card games with family.

HOLLOWAY: Let's play some Phase 10 and listen to some music.

SHAPIRO: OK. What was her favorite game?

HOLLOWAY: Skip-Bo or Phase 10.

AUSTIN: Skip-Bo and Phase 10.

SHAPIRO: And singing.

HOLLOWAY: Last $2 - oh, she's going to sing that to the top of her lungs, like...

SHAPIRO: Oh, so she liked to sing.

AUSTIN: She liked to.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLLOWAY: She couldn't.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: Her friends told us the same thing about her cooking. She loved to do it, but...

HUNTER: She couldn't cook.

SHAPIRO: She couldn't cook. She...

HUNTER: No.

VAUGHN: Yes, she could.

HUNTER: No. She can't cook. She could fry food.

VAUGHN: That's cooking.

HUNTER: Oh, see? She can't cook either.

VAUGHN: I can cook a little bit. Her favorite food was chicken.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

VAUGHN: She fried some good chicken.

HUNTER: Yeah, she did fry some chicken.

VAUGHN: But that's it.

SHAPIRO: Like I said, this is the unvarnished picture. A lot of Breonna Taylor's extended family moved from Michigan to Kentucky, a few at a time over the years. She came to Louisville as a teenager and fit right in.

AUSTIN: Breonna loved it.

HOLLOWAY: She loved it here. Oh, she absolutely...

AUSTIN: To this day, she loved it in Louisville, Ky. Yes.

HOLLOWAY: She absolutely loved it here - like, everything about it.

SHAPIRO: When did you first know that she wanted to go into medical work and help people?

HOLLOWAY: I think...

AUSTIN: She's always had a caring heart. It was just in her nature to just take care of people.

BELL: I got this Facebook post that she made for me last year when I had a stroke. And I don't know. It just, like - I saved it and everything. Like, it just really...

SHAPIRO: Yeah. What does it say?

BELL: ...Touched me. But she said working in health care is so rewarding. It makes me feel so happy when I know I've made a difference in someone else's life. I'm so appreciative of all the staff that has helped my uncle throughout this difficult time and those that will continue to make a difference in his life. Keep pushing, T-Bill (ph). You got this, Unc. With that attitude and determination, I'm positive you will recover in no time. We love you. And it's just so...

SHAPIRO: That says so much about her.

BELL: Right. It do. It say a lot about her. Like, and that's her. Like, that's her all the way.

SHAPIRO: Last year, her friend Erinicka Hunter had brain surgery. She and Breonna had drifted apart at that point, and Breonna showed up at the hospital to reminisce with her about old times.

HUNTER: And - oh, gosh, this is hard. And I'm like, well, why did we fall out? I don't understand. She was like, it doesn't matter, Ni (ph). We together again, you know? Don't worry about that. I love you. Just know that we're here. You here.

VAUGHN: Yep. That's the type of person she was.

HUNTER: But she's not here (crying). She's not here at all. And it's not right. I feel like we was robbed.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Neighbors near PRP people say they woke up to chaos, sounds of breaking glass, gunshots and sirens.

SHAPIRO: Today, we know the outlines of how Breonna Taylor died. Police doing a narcotics investigation burst into her apartment in the middle of the night with a no-knock warrant. Her boyfriend Kenneth Walker thought someone was breaking in and shot an officer in the leg. Police shot up the apartment, killing Breonna. They arrested her boyfriend. There was no bodycam footage. Kenneth has since been released and the charges against him dropped.

When all that first happened in mid-March, the initial news reports told only one side of the story, referring to Breonna Taylor and Kenneth Walker only as suspects. This was from the local NBC affiliate.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Video of a deadly exchange of gunfire that happened between officers and suspects early this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: One suspect is dead. An officer is recovering after...

SHAPIRO: And when her family saw those stories...

AUSTIN: I was angry. I was so angry. Oh, my gosh.

HOLLOWAY: It still pisses me off. Just - suspect - like, seriously? Unbelievable.

BELL: When I read that article, I probably said more cuss words in that little time than I said throughout my whole life (laughter). Like, angry is an understatement. Like, that is an understatement.

SHAPIRO: They think this first narrative of Breonna as a suspect could be one reason, on top of COVID-19, that most of the mortuaries they called refused to take her.

AUSTIN: You know, that was part of the reason, like, people were turning us away. Like, you know, we're calling these churches and, you know, mortuaries. And they're like, is this the young - this is the incident, you know, that they - and I'm like, you know, yes. And - oh, we'll get back with you and stuff like that. It was just - it was unbelievable.

HOLLOWAY: And they didn't even know her name.

SHAPIRO: Attorney Lonita Baker has been representing the family since even before Breonna Taylor's funeral. She's a personal injury lawyer who used to work as a prosecutor. She went to Breonna's apartment as soon as she was allowed to.

LONITA BAKER: Even in being a prosecutor, I had never quite seen that many bullets in one apartment. To know and to see that bullets went through neighboring apartments as well - afterwards in talking to Kenny, when he told me where he was - and he was laying on the floor right next to Breonna - it's only a supreme being that - a supreme reason that he's still alive and able to talk to us about it. And I do think that that reason is that we needed someone to tell us the story of what happened so that we could get the change that is needed.

SHAPIRO: So when protesters today say her name, Breonna's family and friends say they feel lifted up. At the same time, they have complicated feelings about the person they love becoming a larger-than-life figure in death.

HOLLOWAY: Never would think that her name would be added to a list...

AUSTIN: Or hashtag.

HOLLOWAY: ...Or hashtag or - you know, now you write and say her name. You just think, like, how? Like, why is she even part of this? How does this happen? Like...

AUSTIN: And in a sense, we're grateful that her name is where she should be, you know, unfortunately in this situation. But, you know, we don't want this at all. We want her back. Like, I'd rather just go back in time. Like...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

AUSTIN: Just crazy.

SHAPIRO: Do you think something good will come of this?

AUSTIN: I hope so. I'm praying to God. I said, we need real change in America 'cause it's scary. Like, I got to still raise a little Black boy here in this world we live in. Anybody - nobody's safe. If this could happen to Breonna, it can happen to anybody.

SHAPIRO: Erinicka Hunter was going through Breonna's things after her death and found something she hadn't seen in years - a scrapbook page that Breonna made in high school memorializing their friendship.

HUNTER: This is our senior page from our scrapbook.

SHAPIRO: It's the two of you in, like, a bunch of different photos together. And then what does it say here in the corner?

HUNTER: Erinicka is like the sister the same age as me that I've always wanted. She is the one who is always there right beside me when I need her.

SHAPIRO: Erinicka sets the page and the tiny urn with some of Breonna's ashes next to each other on her kitchen table.

HUNTER: Yeah, those are her ashes. I know people think I'm so weird 'cause, like, sometimes when I need a drink, I sit down, prop it up just like this. And I talk to her. I talk to her ashes.

SHAPIRO: Across town, there's another image of Breonna. It's a portrait drawn in chalk at the center of the protest in downtown Louisville. People gather in a circle around it, chanting.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #4: Say her name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Breonna Taylor.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #4: Say her name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Breonna Taylor.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #4: Say her name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Breonna Taylor.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #4: Say her name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Breonna Taylor.

HUNTER: She always said that she would be a legend. I just never imagined it would be like this.

SHAPIRO: Is that true? She said that?

HUNTER: Yeah. I'm going to be one of the greats. I'm going to be a legend. Y'all are going to remember me.

CORNISH: Ari Shapiro's reporting from Louisville.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. I'm Audie Cornish.

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