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Breonna Taylor was in her apartment at about 12:40 am on March 13, 2020. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was with her. They had already turned in for the night and were in bed watching a movie, when Breonna fell asleep.
According to Kenneth Walker, they suddenly heard a loud bang at the door. They didn’t know who it was and thought it might be some kind of intruder at that time of night. Breonna yelled, “Who is it?” They heard no reply.
Kenneth and Breonna got out of bed and started putting on their clothes, when they heard another loud bang.
Breonna, again, yelled, “Who is it?” They heard no response.
Kenneth got his licensed firearm and they began walking out of the bedroom. The front door flung open and Kenneth let out a single shot toward the front door. Then a barrage of shots came into the apartment and Breonna never made it out of the hallway.
On the other side of the door were police officers, in plain clothes, who were executing a search warrant. This event was a part of a narcotics investigation where Breonna’s home had been identified as a place where a man she knew (who was a target in the investigation), received mail there and used the address as his own home address recently. The officer who secured the warrant indicated that he thought that the address might be a place where narcotics, or proceeds from the sale of narcotics, might be stored.
Neither Breonna Taylor nor Kenneth Walker were targets in this raid. Meanwhile, across town, about 10 miles away, the subject with whom Breonna’s home was associated was taken into custody, just before this raid began.
So, when Breonna and Kenneth got up because they heard loud banging at their door, they had no idea that their home was a part of an investigation and did not know that police were outside with a battering ram, ready to come in with a search warrant.
In a few moments Breonna was bleeding on the floor and Kenneth was yelling and wondering, “What happened?” He immediately called his mother, in shock, who told him to call 911. He called 911 in confusion and stated,
“I don’t know what just happened. Somebody kicked in the door inside my girlfriend’s…”
He later started to scream and cry out, “Help! Somebody help, oh my God!”
In response to the 911 operator’s question, he said that Breonna was shot in the stomach, he thought. The operator asked him if he could turn her over on her back to get look at where she was shot, but he was too distraught. At this point he still didn’t know who shot Breonna and why—he told the operator that he had to call Breonna’s mother. He stayed on the phone with 911, while not knowing what was going on outside the front door, for at least two minutes. During that time you can hear nobody in the background, telling him what to do or identifying that they were police and giving him instructions.
Eventually, he did get instructions.
A few minutes later, there is video, shot by a neighbor that does show officers in the parking lot of Breonna Taylor’s apartment complex, instructing Kenneth Walker to walk, backwards out of the apartment, into the parking lot—as he is still crying and complying with their instructions. Keep in mind, just fifteen minutes earlier, Breonna Taylor was in bed, sleeping with him.
Kenneth was taken into custody where he was questioned, and maintained, the entire time, that he did not know that it was police banging on the door and that he heard no one identify themselves as police when they came through the front door.
Kenneth was charged with murder, because his bullet struck the officer who was coming through the front door, but the charge was amended to “Attempted Murder—Police Officer”. By March 19, 2020 a grand jury heard the case against Kenneth Walker.
In Kenneth’s complaint, which he filed in September of 2020, Kenneth alleged that the officer who testified in front of the grand jury (which was one of the officers who questioned him at the station) did not mention anything about Breonna, nor did she mention that Kenneth maintained that he was acting in self-defense. She only mentioned that he shot an officer while the police were executing a lawful warrant.
Kenneth Walker was indicted on charges of Attempted Murder and First-Degree Assault. He was kept in jail for a period of a couple of weeks and then sent home on home incarceration.
The charges against Kenneth Walker were dismissed two months later, but with the possibility that they could bring charges again before a grand jury, if the evidence suggests so.
As for the officers, a grand jury heard evidence during the week of Sept. 21st and issued an indictment for one of the officers.
That night, one officer was shot (by Kenneth Walker when the door was flung open) in the thigh and he fired six shots in return. Another officer fired 16 times into Breonna’s apartment and it is believed that one of these shots killed Breonna Taylor (who was struck at least 5 times by bullets).
A third officer fired 10 times, from outside of the apartment, through the patio door, which was covered by curtains, and through a window, through which he could also not see. Some of his bullets ended up endangering residents in the apartment next to Breonna’s apartment. He was fired, later on, and was the only officer to be indicted by the grand jury—not for endangering Breonna’s life, but for Wanton Endangerment in the First Degree of the people next door!
Duvall, Tessa and Costello, Darcy. “Louisville police ‘no—knock; search warrant in fatal shooting of ER tech in her home.” Courier Journal. May 12, 2020. Updated August 30, 2020. Accessed Sept. 22, 2020.
Kenneth Walker III v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, Complaint for Declaratory and Monetary Relief.
Oppel, Richard and Bryson Taylor, Derrick. “Here’s What You Need to Know About Breonna Taylor’s Death,” The New York Times. Sept. 21, 2020. Accessed September 22, 2020.
Wise, John P. “Judge releases man who officer during deadly confrontation 2 weeks ago.” Wave2 News. March 27, 2020. Accessed Sept. 22, 2020.
Wise, John P. ”Jon Mattingly: Officer involved in Breonna Taylor shooting sends candid email to LMPD colleagues”. WAVE 3 New 725 S. Floyd Street.
WLKY News Louisville. “AUDIO: 911 call from Kenneth Walker night Breonna Taylor died.” YouTube posted, May 28, 2020, https://youtu.be/G0EnRabtRhg Accessed September 23, 2020.
W.E.B. Du Bois wrote three autobiographies: Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil (1920), Dusk of Dawn (1940) and The Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois (published in 1968, after his death). The following is the first part of the first chapter of Darkwater, it covers his ancestry and offers a look into his most fascinating life.History.png" src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/5877cce62994caa705f6ebd3/1596995599921-55J10Z0N7VJMXS8SAFRU/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kC8uTkkK-EQP1AFWi8C6BOsUqsxRUqqbr1mOJYKfIPR7LoDQ9mXPOjoJoqy81S2I8N_N4V1vUb5AoIIIbLZhVYxCRW4BPu10St3TBAUQYVKctQnp2Js0bV_BwdCByXYKvj2ekYKKXJX0rv67ezR42nO9fke_hE9ea2uPS1eGY4ar/Ad+for+Ten+Things+and+They+Can%27t+and+Stories+about+Black+History.png?format=1000w">
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I was born by a golden river and in the shadow of two great hills, five years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The house was quaint, with clap boards running up and down, neatly trimmed, and there were five rooms, a tiny porch, a rosy front yard, and unbelievably delicious strawberries in the rear. A South Carolinian, lately come to the Berkshire Hills, owned all this—tall, thin, and black, with golden earrings, and given to religious trances. We were his transient tenants for the time.
My own people were part of a great clan. Fully two hundred years before, Tom Burghardt had come through the western pass from the Hudson with his Dutch captor, “Coenraet Burghardt,” sullen in his slavery and achieving his freedom by volunteering for the Revolution at a time of sudden alarm. His wife was a little, black, Bantu woman, who never became reconciled to this strange land; she clasped her knees and rocked and crooned:
“Do bana coba—gene me, gene me!
Ben d’nuli, ben d’le—”Lineage.png" src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/5877cce62994caa705f6ebd3/1600362717241-1LSHUZAS93E18JDMN8HO/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kIIWdAnyBSrZ5E6Gv7JXlDh7gQa3H78H3Y0txjaiv_0fDoOvxcdMmMKkDsyUqMSsMWxHk725yiiHCCLfrh8O1z4YTzHvnKhyp6Da-NYroOW3ZGjoBKy3azqku80C789l0nqf2HYKlysnoifqMU5NjJx7yqCGE_I8MD34_rHhpOCXJXL4amoIyEjBbTEx2gJ8RA/Mother+-+W.E.B.+Du+Bois+Lineage.png?format=1000w">
Tom died about 1787, but of him came many sons, and one, Jack, who helped in the War of 1812. Of Jack and his wife, Violet, was born a mighty family, splendidly named : Harlow and Ira, Cloé, Lucinda, Maria, and Othello! I dimly remember my grand father, Othello, or “Uncle Tallow,”—a brown man, strong-voiced and redolent with tobacco, who sat stiffly in a great high chair because his hip was broken. He was probably a bit lazy and given to wassail. At any rate, grandmother had a shrewish tongue and often berated him. This grandmother was Sarah— “Aunt Sally”—a stern, tall, Dutch-African woman, beak-nosed, but beautiful-eyed and golden-skinned. Ten or more children were theirs, of whom the youngest was Mary, my mother.
Mother was dark shining bronze, with a tiny ripple in her black hair, black-eyed, with a heavy, kind face. She gave one the impression of infinite patience, but a curious determination was concealed in her softness. The family were small farmers on Egremont Plain, between Great Barrington and Sheffield, Massachusetts. The bits of land were too small to support the great families born on them and we were always poor. I never remember being cold or hungry, but I do remember that shoes and coal, and sometimes flour, caused mother moments of anxious thought in winter, and a new suit was an event!
At about the time of my birth economic pressure was transmuting the family generally from farmers to “hired" help. Some revolted and migrated westward, others went cityward as cooks and barbers. Mother worked for some years at house service in Great Barrington, and after a disappointed love episode with a cousin, who went to California, she met and married Alfred Du Bois and went to town to live by the golden river where I was born.
Alfred, my father, must have seemed a splendid vision in that little valley under the shelter of those mighty hills. He was small and beautiful of face and feature, just tinted with the sun, his curly hair chiefly revealing his kinship to Africa. In nature he was a dreamer, romantic, indolent, kind, unreliable. He had in him the making of a poet, an adventurer, or a Beloved Vagabond, according to the life that closed round him; and that life gave him all too little. His father, Alexander Du Bois, cloaked under a stern, austere demeanor a passionate revolt against the world. He, too, was small, but squarish. I remember him as I saw him first, in his home in New Bedford, —white hair close-cropped; a seamed, hard face, but high in tone, with a gray eye that could twinkle or glare.
Long years before him Louis XIV drove two Huguenots, Jacques and Louis Du Bois, into wild Ulster County, NewYork. One of them in the third or fourth generation had a descendant, Dr. James Du Bois, a gay, rich bachelor, who made his money in the Bahamas, where he and the Gilberts had plantations. There he took a beautiful little mulatto slave as his mistress, and two sons were born: Alexander in 1803 and John, later. They were fine, straight, clear-eyed boys, white enough to“pass.” He brought them to America and put Alexander in the celebrated Cheshire School, in Connecticut. Here he often visited him, but one last time, fell dead. He left no will, and his relations made short shrift of these sons. They gathered in the property, apprenticed grandfather to a shoemaker; then dropped him.
Grandfather took his bitter dose like a thorough bred. Wild as was his inner revolt against this treatment, he uttered no word against the thieves and made no plea. He tried his fortunes here and in Haiti, where, during his short, restless sojourn, my own father was born. Eventually, grandfather became chief steward on the passenger boat between New York and New Haven; later he was a small merchant in Springfield; and finally he retired and ended his days at New Bedford. Always he held his head high, took no insults, made few friends. He was not a “Negro”; he was a man! Yet the current was too strong even for him. Then even more than now a colored man had colored friends or none at all, lived in a colored world or lived alone. A few fine, strong, black men gained the heart of this silent, bitter man in New York and New Haven. If he had scant sympathy with their social clannishness, he was with them in fighting discrimination. So, when the white Episcopalians of Trinity Parish, New Haven, showed plainly that they no longer wanted black folk as fellow Christians, he led the revolt which resulted in St. Luke's Parish, and was for years its senior warden. He lies dead in the Grove Street Cemetery, beside Jehudi Ashmun.Lineage.png" src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/5877cce62994caa705f6ebd3/1600362797165-SC1R6ELDR1J34XTAP259/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kIIWdAnyBSrZ5E6Gv7JXlDh7gQa3H78H3Y0txjaiv_0fDoOvxcdMmMKkDsyUqMSsMWxHk725yiiHCCLfrh8O1z4YTzHvnKhyp6Da-NYroOW3ZGjoBKy3azqku80C789l0nqf2HYKlysnoifqMU5NjJx7yqCGE_I8MD34_rHhpOCXJXL4amoIyEjBbTEx2gJ8RA/Father+-+WEB+Du+Bois+Lineage.png?format=1000w">
Beneath his sternness was a very human man. Slyly he wrote poetry,—stilted, pleading things from a soul astray. He loved women in his masterful way, marrying three beautiful wives in succession and clinging to each with a certain desperate, even if unsympathetic, affection. As a father he was, naturally, a failure, hard, domineering, unyielding. His four children reacted characteristically: one was until past middle life a thin spinster, the mental image of her father; one died; one passed over into the white world and her children’s children are now white, with no knowledge of their Negro blood; the fourth, my father, bent before grandfather, but did not break— better if he had. He yielded and flared back, asked forgiveness and forgot why, became the harshly-held favorite, who ran away and rioted and roamed and loved and married my brown mother.
Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt. Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil. Harcourt, Brace and Howe, New York, 1920.
Excerpt from Mob Rule in New Orleans, 1900, by Ida B. WellsHistory.png" src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/5877cce62994caa705f6ebd3/1596995599921-55J10Z0N7VJMXS8SAFRU/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kC8uTkkK-EQP1AFWi8C6BOsUqsxRUqqbr1mOJYKfIPR7LoDQ9mXPOjoJoqy81S2I8N_N4V1vUb5AoIIIbLZhVYxCRW4BPu10St3TBAUQYVKctQnp2Js0bV_BwdCByXYKvj2ekYKKXJX0rv67ezR42nO9fke_hE9ea2uPS1eGY4ar/Ad+for+Ten+Things+and+They+Can%27t+and+Stories+about+Black+History.png?format=1000w">
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(Excerpt from Mob Rule in New Orleans, 1900, by Ida B. Wells)
The bloodiest week which New Orleans has know since the massacre of the Italians in 1892 was ushered in Monday, July 24, by the inexcusable and unprovoked assault upon two colored men by police officers of New Orleans. Fortified by the assurance born of long experience in the New Orleans service, three policemen, Sergeant Aucoin, Officer Mora and Officer Cantrelle, observing two colored men sitting on doorsteps on Dryades street, between Washington Avenue and 6th Streets, determined, without a shadow of authority, to arrest them. One of the colored men was named Robert Charles, the other was a lad of nineteen named Leonard Pierce. The colored men had left their homes, a few blocks distant, about an hour prior, and had been sitting upon the doorsteps for a short time talking together. They had not broken the peace in any way whatever, no warrant was in the policemen's hands justifying their arrest, and no crime had been committed of which they were the suspects. The policemen, however, secure in the firm belief that they could do anything to a Negro that they wished, approached the two men, and in less than three minutes from the time they accosted them attempted to put both colored men under arrest. The younger of the two men, Pierce, submitted to arrest, for the officer, Cantrelle, who accosted him, put his gun in the young man's face ready to blow his brains out if he moved. The other colored man, Charles, was made the victim of a savage attack by Officer Mora, who used a billet and then drew a gun and tried to kill Charles. Charles drew his gun nearly as quickly as the policeman, and began a duel in the street, in which both participants were shot. The policeman got the worst of the duel, and fell helpless to the sidewalk. Charles made his escape. Cantrelle took Pierce, his captive, to the police station, to which place Mora, the wounded officer, was also taken, and a man hunt at once instituted for Charles, the wounded fugitive.
In any law-abiding community Charles would have been justified in delivering himself up immediately to the properly constituted authorities and asking a trial by a jury of his peers. He could have been certain that in resisting an unwarranted arrest he had a right to defend his life, even to the point of taking one in that defense, but Charles knew that his arrest in New Orleans, even for defending his life, meant nothing short of a long term in the penitentiary, and still more probable death by lynching at the hands of a cowardly mob. He very bravely determined to protect his life as long as he had breath in his body and strength to draw a hair trigger on his would-be murderers. How well he was justified in that belief is well shown by the newspaper accounts which were given of this transaction. Without a single line of evidence to justify the assertion, the New Orleans daily papers at once declared that both Pierce and Charles were desperadoes, that they were contemplating a burglary and that they began the assault upon the policemen. It is interesting to note how the two leading papers of New Orleans, the Picayune and the Times-Democrat, exert themselves to justify the policemen in the absolutely unprovoked attack upon the two colored men. As these two papers did all in their power to give an excuse for the action of the policemen, it is interesting to note their versions. The Times-Democrat of Tuesday morning, the twenty-fifth, says:
Two blacks, who are desperate men, and no doubt will be proven burglars, made it interesting and dangerous for three bluecoats on Dryades street, between Washington Avenue and Sixth Street, the Negroes using pistols first and dropping Patrolman Mora. But the desperate darkies did not go free, for the taller of the two, Robinson, is badly wounded and under cover, while Leonard Pierce is in jail.
The next step in the terrible tragedy occurred between 2:30 and 5 o’clock Tuesday morning, about four hours after the affair on Dryades Street. The man hunt, which had been inaugurated soon after Officer Mora had been carried to the station, succeeded in running down Robert Charles, the wounded fugitive, and located him at 2023 4th Street. It was nearly 2 o'clock in the morning when a large detail of police surrounded the block with the intent to kill Charles on sight. Capt. Day had charge of the squad of police. Charles, the wounded man, was in his house when the police arrived, fully prepared, as results afterward showed, to die in his own home. Capt. Day started for Charles's room. As soon as Charles got sight of him there was a flash, a report, and Day fell dead in his tracks. In another instant Charles was standing in the door, and seeing Patrolman Peter J. Lamb, he drew his gun, and Lamb fell dead. Two other officers, Sergeant Aucoin and Officer Trenchard, who were in the squad, seeing their comrades, Day and Lamb, fall dead, concluded to raise the siege, and both disappeared into an adjoining house, where they blew out their lights so that their cowardly carcasses could be safe from Charles's deadly aim. The calibre of their courage is well shown by the fact that they concluded to save themselves from any harm by remaining prisoners in that dark room until daybreak, out of reach of Charles's deadly rifle. Sergeant Aucoin, who had been so brave a few hours before when seeing the two colored men sitting on the steps, talking together on Dryades Street, and supposing that neither was armed, now showed his true calibre. Now he knew that Charles had a gun and was brave enough to use it, so he hid himself in a room two hours while Charles deliberately walked out of his room and into the street after killing both Lamb and Day. It is also shown, as further evidence of the bravery of some of New Orleans' "finest," that one of them, seeing Capt. Day fall, ran seven blocks before he stopped, afterwards giving the excuse that he was hunting for a patrol box.
At daybreak the officers felt safe to renew the attack upon Charles, so they broke into his room, only to find that—what they probably very well knew—he had gone. It appears that he made his escape by crawling through a hole in the ceiling to a little attic in his house. Here he found that he could not escape except by a window which led into an alley, which had no opening on 4th Street. He scaled the fence and was soon out of reach.
It was now 5 o'clock Tuesday morning, and a general alarm was given. Sergeant Aucoin and Corporal Trenchard, having received a new supply of courage by returning daylight, renewed their effort to capture the man that they had allowed to escape in the darkness. Citizens were called upon to participate in the man hunt and New Orleans was soon the scene of terrible excitement. Officers were present everywhere, and colored men were arrested on all sides upon the pretext that they were impertinent and "game niggers." An instance is mentioned in the Times-Democrat of the twenty-fifth and shows the treatment which unoffending colored men received at the hands of some of the officers. This instance shows Corporal Trenchard, who displayed such remarkable bravery on Monday night in dodging Charles's revolver, in his true light. It shows how brave a white man is when he has a gun attacking a Negro who is a helpless prisoner. The account is as follows:
The police made some arrests in the neighborhood of the killing of the two officers. Mobs of young darkies gathered everywhere. These Negroes talked and joked about the affair, and many of them were for starting a race war on the spot. It was not until several of these little gangs amalgamated and started demonstrations that the police commenced to act. Nearly a dozen arrests were made within an hour, and everybody in the vicinity was in a tremor of excitement.
It was about 1 o'clock that the Negroes on Fourth Street became very noisy, and George Meyers, who lives on Sixth Street, near Rampart, appeared to be one of the prime movers in a little riot that was rapidly developing. Policeman Exnicios and Sheridan placed him under arrest, and owing to the fact that the patrol wagon had just left with a number of prisoners, they walked him toward St. Charles Avenue in order to get a conveyance to take him to the Sixth Precinct station.
A huge crowd of Negroes followed the officers and their prisoners. Between Dryades and Baronne, on Sixth, Corporal Trenchard met the trio. He had his pistol in his hand and he came on them running. The Negroes in the wake of the officers, and prisoner took to flight immediately. Some disappeared through gates and some over fences and into yards, for Trenchard, visibly excited, was waving his revolver in the air and was threatening to shoot. He joined the officers in their walk toward St. Charles Street, and the way he acted led the white people who were witnessing the affair to believe that his prisoner was the wanted Negro. At every step he would punch him or hit him with the barrel of his pistol, and the onlookers cried, "Lynch him!" "Kill him!" and other expressions until the spectators were thoroughly wrought up. At St. Charles Street Trenchard desisted, and, calling an empty ice wagon, threw the Negro into the body of the vehicle and ordered Officer Exnicios to take him to the Sixth Precinct station.
The ride to the station was a wild one. Exnicios had all he could do to watch his prisoner. A gang climbed into the wagon and administered a terrible thrashing to the black en route. It took a half hour to reach the police station, for the mule that was drawing the wagon was not overly fast. When the station was reached a mob of nearly 200 howling white youths was awaiting it. The noise they made was something terrible. Meyers was howling for mercy before he reached the ground. The mob dragged him from the wagon, the officer with him. Then began a torrent of abuse for the unfortunate prisoner.
The station door was but thirty feet away, but it took Exnicios nearly five minutes to fight his way through the mob to the door. There were no other officers present, and the station seemed to be deserted. Neither the doorman nor the clerk paid any attention to the noise on the outside. As the result, the maddened crowd wrought their vengeance on the Negro. He was punched, kicked, bruised and torn. The clothes were ripped from his back, while his face after that few minutes was unrecognizable.
Wells, Ida B., Mob Rule in New Orleans: Robert Charles and His Fight to Death, The Story of His Life, Burning Human Beings, 1900.
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(The following is the testimony of Kate (Catharine) Brown, given to the U.S. Senate Committee on the District of Columbia, in February of 1868. The questions were taken from her beside and posed by Senator Harlan, chairman of that committee).
On Saturday, the 8th of February, I went to the Washington depot at 1 o’clock, waited until two, and purchased a ticket to go and return; I