Police killing of Louisville’s Breonna Taylor, other deaths are ‘salt in wound’

A protester remembering Breonna Taylor listens to a Black Lives Matters rally at City Hall in Dallas on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Taylor was fatally shot by police officers in Louisville, Ky.
A protester remembering Breonna Taylor listens to a Black Lives Matters rally at City Hall in Dallas on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Taylor was fatally shot by police officers in Louisville, Ky.

Credit: Tom Fox

Credit: Tom Fox

When an unarmed Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville police, it hit Daryle Unseld Jr. particularly hard.

Unseld, 45, who works with a nonprofit, is the cousin of Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend.

The Louisville protests, which have spilled out from downtown into neighboring communities, were the result of widespread anger over the March 13 shooting death of 26-year-old Taylor, killed in her home here by officers executing a no-knock warrant

Unseld said his cousin is “traumatized.”

Walker has said he didn’t hear police announce themselves that night and fired a shot thinking someone was breaking in. He hit a police officer; other officers returned fire, hitting and killing Taylor.

Protesters rally in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Protests in Louisville have centered on the death of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot dead by white police officers who entered her home in March.
Protesters rally in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Protests in Louisville have centered on the death of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot dead by white police officers who entered her home in March.

Unseld is fed up.

“I feel a high level of rage with these situations,” he said. “All of this is a manifestation of the systems, institutions and structures that continue to devalue black life. I think this is salt in the wound.”

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The protests against Taylor’s death grew in Louisville and elsewhere after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis and led to the death here of restaurant owner David McAtee, who was killed by law enforcement officers enforcing a curfew imposed during protests.

People gather outside the restaurant owned by David McAtee in Louisville, Ky., on June 2, 2020. McAtee was shot and killed by law enforcement officers enforcing a curfew imposed during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis police custody.
People gather outside the restaurant owned by David McAtee in Louisville, Ky., on June 2, 2020. McAtee was shot and killed by law enforcement officers enforcing a curfew imposed during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis police custody.

Unseld said it didn’t start with the deaths of Taylor and Floyd. It goes back generations. And it goes beyond police incidents.

“This is another incident related to the totality of incidents that continue the physical, social and economic assault on black lives,” he said. “For so long, black people in general have had to bear the brunt of the danger of their own innocence in every single generation.”

The Rev. Kevin W. Cosby agreed. Cosby is the son of a civil rights leader and the grandson of a prominent pastor. His roots are deep in this city.

“What you’re seeing in Louisville is the same thing you saw in the 1960s,” said Cosby, senior pastor of the 14,000-member St. Stephen Baptist Church and president of Simmons Bible College of Kentucky. “In the 1960s, police brutality was the fuse, but what happens to a fuse when it’s not connected to anything? It fizzles out … but when a fuse is connected to a powder keg with gunpowder, you’re going to see an explosion. Police brutality is not the powder keg. The powder keg is economic injustice, poverty and absence of social mobility.”

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Unseld’s office is closed because of COVID-19. Just recently, he went to deliver a package to a white colleague at her home in a predominantly white area.

His mother insisted he call her and stay on the phone while he placed the package on the front porch.

“That’s how serious this is,” Unseld said. “For folks to say racism doesn’t exist and everybody has a fair chance is another demonstration of willful ignorance.”