Kentucky’s Black attorney general choked up Wednesday when explaining why a grand jury didn't seek criminal charges against police officers for Breonna Taylor’s death — but his sympathetic words fell on many deaf ears.
A grand jury indicted fired Officer Brett Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into a home next to Taylor's after police entered her house on March 13. The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in the case.
Attorney General Daniel Cameron cited his own family in seeking to convey that he understood some people in Louisville and across the country would be angry at the jury's decision Wednesday. The jury relied on evidence Cameron presented.
“I understand that as a Black man, how painful this is ... which is why it was so incredibly important to make sure that we did everything we possibly could to uncover every fact,” Cameron told a news conference in the capital of Frankfort.
“My heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor,” Cameron said. “And I’ve said that repeatedly. My mother, if something was to happen to me,” he said, pausing as his voice faltered and he held back tears, “would find it very hard. ... I’ve seen that pain on Miss (Tamika) Palmer’s face,” he said, referring to Taylor's mother. "I’ve seen that pain in the community.”
But Cameron added that under the law, the officers who fired their weapons at Taylor were justified in using force to protect themselves after they were shot at by her boyfriend.
“If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice," he said.
Some reacted to Cameron’s remarks with anger, and claimed he was putting on an emotional show.
“His statements to me are crocodile tears,” said Davante Lewis, director of public affairs and outreach at the Louisiana Budget Project in Baton Rouge, a nonprofit organization that works with the low-income community and advocates racial equality.
“A Black face in a high place doesn’t mean anything if it’s not about actually fundamentally decolonizing and tearing down the systems of inequality and inequity that have existed in this county since its founding,” Lewis said.
Cameron, 34, elected last year as the state's first Black attorney general, is a rising star in the Republican party and was a guest speaker at the GOP convention last month, where he declared himself a “proud Republican and supporter of President Donald J. Trump.” The president has placed the attorney general on the short list for a seat on the Supreme Court.
Commenting during his convention speech on nationwide protests for racial equality and against the police shootings of Black people, Cameron remarked, “Even as anarchists mindlessly tear up American cities while attacking police and innocent bystanders, we Republicans do recognize those who work in good faith towards peace, justice, and equality."
He added that “Republicans will never turn a blind eye to unjust acts, but neither will we accept an all-out assault on Western civilization.”
Lawren Taylor, a nurse educator in Baton Rouge, said Cameron “was being extremely hypocritical” in his remarks Wednesday.
“He can say he understands but his actions are not representing that fact," Taylor said. "If Daniel Cameron was not in that position, he would be like any other Black man: at risk. If he understood that, he would not have made the choice to speak at the RNC and endorse a leader who is constantly spewing racist rhetoric. People like Daniel Cameron are dangerous because they give the illusion of change, in its absence.”
Adams Wagner reported from Decatur, Georgia. Associated Press reporter Haleluya Hadero in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.