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‘She Was The Rock To Hold Everyone Together’: Family Celebrates Breonna Taylor’s ‘Bittersweet’ 28th Birthday

Breonna Taylor, who was killed in a raid by Louisville police in 2020, has become a powerful symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement and the push for police reform.

Breonna Taylor Memorial G

Tyrone Bell recalls the moment his niece Breonna Taylor sprung into action while visiting him in a Michigan hospital in 2019. He described it as a “proud uncle moment.”

"She came in the hospital freaking out like, 'Where is my uncle?'" Tyrone Bell told PEOPLE. "She was like, 'Did y'all check him for this? Did y'all check that?' Just giving these people the third-degree about their job, and I was just lying there laughing.” 

Taylor, an EMT and aspiring nurse, was “really good at what she did," her uncle recalled.

At the time, Taylor had pushed her uncle to move from Michigan to Kentucky to be closer to her and other family. 

"She just kept saying, 'You got to move down here with us,'" Bell added. "'Come on as soon as you get out of the hospital. We got to take care of you.'”

Taylor, however, was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police on March 13, 2020, after officers executed a botched no-knock warrant at her Louisville home. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who mistook officers for a possible intruder, opened fire on police, who fired back, fatally striking Taylor. Police, who were searching for drugs related to a bust involving Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, allegedly entered her home unannounced. No narcotics were seized in the incident. Taylor’s family has repeatedly denied she was involved in organized crime.

No charges have been filed against police in direct connection to Taylor’s death. Officer Brett Hankison, who fired the deadly shot, as well as two other detectives involved, were fired. The city’s police chief was also terminated. Hankinson was indicted on three counts of weapon endangerment for the incident, since some of his shots were fired into an adjoining apartment.

On June 5, Taylor would have turned 28 years old. 

"She loved to have fun, and she loved for her family to come together and celebrate everything," Bell added. "So, we are going to do that for her."

Taylor's loved ones celebrated her life and legacy in her absence at a number of events in Louisville over the weekend.

"She liked to go out and party, just to celebrate life, another year," Taylor’s cousin, Trina Curry, said. "Anyone that knew her knew that she likes to celebrate and be celebrated. Just enjoy June 5th like it's your birthday."

In 2020, Taylor’s death sparked fervent protests in Louisville and elsewhere across the U.S. 

"It makes me feel good that she's helping to change the world and it also makes me feel good that other people are coming to stand in solidarity with us and knowing that at the end of the day, right is right, wrong is wrong," Alena Battle, Taylor’s friend, told PEOPLE.

Taylor has since become an symbol for the Black Lives Matter movement, alongside George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Manuel Ellis, and others. 

"I believe her legacy is going to be known for bringing the community together," Taylor’s cousin, Trina Curry, said. "A lot of people are saying her name. Even though she's no longer here, she's everywhere. And to me, that just means that she's around me every day." 

Breonna Taylor G

Her face and name — memorialized in sculptures, street art, and on face masks across the country — has emerged as a powerful political statement on race and policing in America.

"That's the bittersweet part," Bell, her uncle, said. "At the same time, it's like, 'Wow, look at baby.' But then it's like, 'Why did it have to be like this for her to be known like that?' But she is making a difference in the world, so I guess some positivity can come out of it." 

No-knock warrants, chokeholds, and mandatory body cameras, have emerged as major flashpoints in the divisive national dialogue surrounding police reform. Louisville, including a number of other cities and states, have banned no-knock warrants in the wake of Taylor’s death. 

"When I see her, I see strength, I see power," Curry said. "I see love, I see compassion. I see someone that would just go to the end of the world and fight whatever battles for her family. She was that. She was beautiful."

Taylor’s family was awarded a $12 million settlement from the City of Louisville last September. 

"She was the rock to hold everyone together," says Curry. "So it's been very challenging with her being gone. ... I don't have anybody to give me those little short motivational speeches anymore. It's rough."

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