LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Breonna Taylor’s mother on Monday endorsed a grassroots campaign to defeat Republican Daniel Cameron’s candidacy for governor of Kentucky, reigniting anger over a criminal investigation he led which resulted in no charges against any officers for the shooting death of the black woman during a police raid.
Tamika Palmer plunged into the political fray on what would have been her daughter’s 30th birthday. The 2020 death of Breonna Taylor sparked nationwide racial justice protests alongside the murder of George Floyd.
Palmer and other activists announced a campaign to boost voter registration and turnout against Cameron’s attempt to oust Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in November.
Taylor’s family and dozens of protesters have long blamed Cameron for the lack of criminal charges against officers for Taylor’s death on March 13, 2020. Police opened fire at Taylor’s Louisville apartment after her boyfriend fired at them from a hallway, wounding one of the officers. Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker said he thought he was shooting an intruder.
Kentucky’s first black attorney general, Cameron was thrust into the national spotlight when his office investigated the shootings and actions of officers that day.
Cameron defended the investigation, saying he “followed the law without fear or favour.” Palmer and other activists said Monday that Cameron’s handling of the case shows he is not qualified to be governor.
“He decided we didn’t matter,” Palmer told reporters at a downtown Louisville park that was the epicenter of the 2020 protests in Louisville. “He decided Breonna didn’t deserve justice.”
Lonita Baker, one of the attorneys who represented the Taylor family’s lawsuit against the city of Louisville and its police department, said Monday that Cameron’s investigation angered her.
“As a former prosecutor, I knew there was enough evidence to charge the officers responsible,” Baker said. “As a former prosecutor, I knew that Daniel Cameron didn’t even ask whether these officers should be charged.”
At a widely watched press conference in September 2020, Cameron announced the grand jury’s findings, which were to charge an officer with endangerment for shooting into a neighbor’s apartment. This officer was later acquitted at trial. After the grand jury’s findings were revealed, Cameron said the grand jurors “agreed” that the homicide charges were not warranted against the officers. The statement outraged protesters and prompted some grand jurors to take the extraordinary step of speaking publicly to challenge Cameron’s account of the closed-door proceedings.
In a 2021 interview with The Associated Press, Cameron said his prosecutors have an obligation “to present recommendations that they believe they can prove to a jury at trial.” This is what our prosecutors deemed appropriate.
At Monday’s anti-Cameron event, Shameka Parrish-Wright, who is black and a former Louisville mayoral candidate, said she “would love to see a black man as governor, but not Daniel Cameron.”
“He lost that when he denied Breonna Taylor justice,” she said. “He lost that when he didn’t appoint a special prosecutor. He lost that when he failed to properly brief the grand jury.
Activists said they plan to open offices in Louisville and another in Lexington – Kentucky’s two largest cities – to canvass neighborhoods and operate phone banks during a mobilization against Cameron. In 2019, Beshear won the counties containing those two cities by about 135,000 votes, barely beating then-Republican Governor Matt Bevin.
Cameron, who is closely linked to former President Donald Trump, said Taylor’s death was a tragedy. In campaign speeches, Cameron turned protests over the case into a call for support from Republican voters, describing it as an example of his toughness in the face of pressure. He talks about a July 2020 demonstration by protesters on his lawn that led to dozens of arrests.
“My obligation is to obey the law no matter what — even when protesters show up on my lawn,” Cameron said in a statement Monday.
In 2020, three jurors from the 12-member grand jury came forward to say Cameron’s team limited their reach and misled them about charges they might be considering against the officers. Beshear, who preceded Cameron as attorney general, underscores this development by criticizing Cameron’s handling of the case.
“The first time I hear about it, grand jurors show up and accuse the prosecutor of lying,” Beshear said in a recent interview with the AP. “To lie about what they were told, to lie about what they were shown, and to lie about what they might decide.
Kentucky State Rep. Kevin Bratcher, a Republican from Louisville, strongly defended Cameron’s handling of the case.
“I think the way Daniel’s critics attacked him is not fair because I think he did what he thought was right and he stuck to the letter of the law. law,” Bratcher said recently.