Louisville has hired Atlanta’s former chief to lead its police department after months of unrest over the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, and fired two more officers involved in the deadly raid.
The firings were announced Wednesday by city officials moments after they revealed their choice to lead the department. Erika Shields was the unanimous pick of a panel tasked with selecting the new chief, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said. She’ll be the fourth person to lead the department in Kentucky’s largest city since Taylor was shot by officers serving a warrant in March.
“I commit to begin my work here with a focus on rebuilding community trust, trust that I believe was already eroding prior to Breonna Taylor’s killing,” Shields said. She also pledged to tackle gun violence in the city, which had a record 173 homicides in 2020.
“The last year has shown that we in law enforcement have a long way to go,” said Shields, who starts the job on Jan. 19.
The trust between police and many in the city’s Black community has frayed since Taylor’s death, which sparked months of protests, police reforms and the firing of the city’s longtime chief, Steve Conrad. Two interim chiefs, including the first Black woman to the lead the department, have served since Conrad was fired in June.
“We all felt that Chief Shields was the number one person,” said David James, a former Louisville police officer and the city’s Metro Council president. “She just rose to the top.”
Shields served in Atlanta for 25 years, including more than three years as chief, which ended when she resigned in June after Atlanta officers fatally shot a Black man in a restaurant parking lot.
Shields said she was “sickened” by the shooting of Rayshard Brooks. She said Wednesday that staying on as chief in Atlanta would have amounted to a distraction, so she decided to step down.
To people in Louisville who might be upset over her hiring, she said she “would just ask that people step back, take the time to see what I accomplished, what I believe in and how I led the department.”
Det. Myles Cosgrove, who shot Taylor, and Det. Joshua Jaynes, who sought the warrant that led to the March 13 drug raid, were informed of their firings on Tuesday. Officer Brett Hankison was fired last September after being indicted by a grand jury on charges of endangering Taylor’s neighbors with bullets that went through her home and into an adjacent apartment.
Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician, was shot and killed as officers attempted to serve a no-knock search warrant. None of the three white officers who fired into Taylor’s home were charged by a grand jury in her death.
Investigators said Cosgrove fired 16 rounds into the apartment after the front door was breached and Taylor’s boyfriend fired a shot at them. Federal ballistics experts said they believe the shot that killed Taylor came from Cosgrove.
Interim police chief Yvette Gentry wrote that Cosgrove failed to “properly identify a target” when he fired, according to media reports of the letter, which has not been released.
Jaynes was not at the scene the night of the shooting but sought the warrant that sent police to Taylor’s home. Gentry said Jaynes lied about how he obtained some information about Taylor in the warrant.
An internal investigation by Louisville police found Jaynes violated department procedures for preparation of a search warrant and truthfulness. Jaynes acknowledged in a May interview with Louisville police investigators that he didn’t personally verify that a drug trafficking suspect, Jamarcus Glover, was receiving mail at Taylor’s apartment, even though he had said in an earlier affidavit that he had. Jaynes said he relied instead on information from a fellow officer.
Jaynes and Cosgrove have been on administrative reassignment, along with another officer who was at the raid, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly. Mattingly was shot in the leg by Taylor’s boyfriend, who said he thought an intruder was breaking into the home. Mattingly said in October that he intended to retire from the department.
In September, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who took on the role of special prosecutor in the case, said Cosgrove and Mattingly were not charged with Taylor’s killing because they acted to protect themselves. The decision disappointed and angered those who have been calling for justice for Taylor for six months, and protesters vowed to stay in the streets until all the officers involved were fired or someone was charged with her killing.
Three grand jurors, speaking anonymously, have since come forward to say that Cameron did not allow the grand jury to consider homicide related charges against the officers for Taylor’s death. The three grand jurors said they believe they would have brought criminal charges against the officers if given the chance.
For months, Taylor’s name has been a rallying cry for activists protesting the extrajudicial killing of Black men and women. Famed musicians, actors, athletes and politicians had called for the officers’ arrests.
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