Outcry over the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor reached a boiling point overnight Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky, when gunfire erupted during protests and audio was released of Taylor’s boyfriend’s call to 911 the day of her death.
Seven people were shot downtown, the mayor said in a video message on Twitter. Mayor Greg Fischer later told reporters the gunfire “came from within the crowd, not from police officers.”
Property damage was reported after peaceful demonstrations took a turn, according to Louisville Metro Police Department officials.
Fischer, in a virtual news conference Friday, said two shooting victims were recovering after surgery. Five others were in “good condition,” he said.
Assistant Police Chief LaVita Chavous said the seven civilians were shot in the same incident, with one in critical condition. There were no leads on who fired the shots, she said.
After several hours of peaceful protests, Fisher said, some demonstrators turned to violence.
“These shots came from within the crowd, not from police officers,” he said. “No officers fired their weapons. If you hear anything to the contrary, that is not factual.”
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear read a statement from Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, on CNN Friday, saying the last thing her daughter would want is more violence.
“Breonna devoted her own life to saving other lives, to helping others, to making people smile and to bringing people together,” the statement said.
“Changes are being made, but it is not enough. We will not stop until there is truth, justice and accountability. Her legacy will not be forgotten… Please keep saying her name. Please keep demanding justice and accountability, but let’s do it the right way, without hurting each other.”
Protesters this week have demanded justice for Taylor, an EMT who was shot at least eight times in March when three officers entered her Kentucky apartment by force to serve a search warrant in a narcotics investigation. The department said the officers announced themselves and returned gunfire from her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker.
Walker was charged with attempted murder of a police officer and first-degree assault, but prosecutors filed a motion last week to drop the charges. In a wrongful death lawsuit, Taylor’s mother said the officers didn’t knock at all.
Beshear called Louisville “a special place” also marred by “a hundred years of slavery, of Jim Crow.” Thursday night’s protest started out “very peaceful” and “compliant” before “some other folks” hours into the demonstration appeared to instigate the violence.
Asked about the hanging of an effigy of him outside the state Capitol over the weekend, Beshear said: “I’m not going to be afraid. I’m not going to let these folks bully me or bully the state of Kentucky.”
In a tweet later Friday, Beshear wrote, “My heart aches for Louisville & our country. Breonna Taylor’s family & the public deserve the truth. We should honor Breonna’s legacy as an EMT & the pursuit of the truth should not be marred by violence.”
But the protests turned violent overnight as fury in Minneapolis over the death this week of an unarmed black man in police custody also took a dangerous turn, with marchers setting a police precinct on fire. Large crowds gathered in both places, even as experts warned people to continue to avoid big gatherings to stall the spread of the coronavirus.
“Understandably, emotions are high,” Fischer said on Facebook. “As Breonna’s mother says, let’s be peaceful as we work toward truth and justice.”
Two police officers were taken to a hospital with chest pain spurred by the events, Chavous said. One was treated and released, the other hospitalized overnight.
Chavous said police did not return fire when the shooting began but used tear gas to reach victims and offer medical aid.
She said property damage included civilian and government vehicles, shattered windows, and bricks and gunfire unleashed on buildings, including the courthouse and police headquarters. One arrest was made for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse.
“The fight for justice cannot be won with guns and vandalism,” Fischer told reporters Friday.
On Thursday, one of Walker’s attorneys released audio of the 911 call placed by Walker after Taylor was shot.
In the call, Walker tells the 911 operator, “Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend,” and that Taylor was unresponsive on the ground.
“This call is one of the hardest things I’ve ever listened to,” attorney Sam Aguiar said in a statement Thursday. “Kenneth Walker is a great man. He stayed by Breonna’s side. He lost the love of his life and then went to jail after doing everything right. He had no idea who had broken into the home and fired shots. My heart is bleeding for him and his family.”
The FBI has opened an investigation into the incident, and the Louisville Metro Police Department said it would require sworn officers to wear body cameras.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Mirna Alsharif, Veronica Stracqualursi, Amir Vera, Rebekah Riess, Lechelle Benken and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.