LOUISVILLE – A judge delayed until Friday the release of grand jury proceedings in the Breonna Taylor case, so that prosecutors can edit out witnesses’ names and personal information.
Audio recordings of the proceedings were originally supposed to be made public Wednesday, but Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office asked a Louisville court for a week’s delay to remove details such as witnesses’ addresses and phone numbers.
On Wednesday, Judge Ann Bailey Smith granted a shorter delay, giving the attorney general until noon Friday.
Cameron’s office sought the delay “in the interest of protection of witnesses, and in particular private citizens named in the recordings,” according to its legal motion.
The recordings are 20 hours long.
Taylor was shot and killed in her Louisville home by police who were executing a narcotics warrant in March. The grand jury decided this month not to charge any of the police officers involved with her death; instead, one officer was charged with shooting into a neighboring home.
That decision angered many, and protesters took to the streets in Louisville and around the country to demand accountability for her killing. Activists and Taylor’s family called for the grand jury file to be released.
One of two Louisville police officers shot during protests last week called for law enforcement, protesters and other city residents to work together to move forward.
Maj. Aubrey Gregory, who was shot in the hip, returned to light duty this week. He said fellow Officer Robinson Desroches, who was shot in the abdomen, is still “in a lot of pain” and faces a longer recovery.
Gregory said he doesn’t blame all protesters for the actions of the gunman.
“If we can’t come together to find solutions, then we’re not going anywhere,” Gregory said. “Violence has never been the answer and never will be.”
Authorities arrested Larynzo Johnson, 26, in the officer shootings, charging him with two counts of first-degree assault on a police officer and 14 counts of wanton endangerment. Johnson pleaded not guilty.
Facing questions about the grand jury this week, Cameron said he didn’t recommend homicide charges for the officers involved. Instead, he recommended one of the officers be indicted, for the wanton endangerment of Taylor’s neighbors.
Cameron, a Republican and the state’s first African American attorney general, said the other two officers who fired their guns were justified because Taylor’s boyfriend fired at them first.
Cameron said the record will show that his team “presented a thorough and complete case to the grand jury.”
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical worker, was shot five times in her Louisville apartment March 13 by officers carrying a narcotics warrant. Taylor and her boyfriend were watching a movie when police came to her door and eventually knocked it down. The warrant was related to an investigation of a drug suspect who didn’t live with her, and police found no drugs at her apartment.
Former Officer Brett Hankison, who was fired from the force for his actions during the raid, pleaded not guilty to three counts of wanton endangerment on Monday.
Officers Jonathan Mattingly, who was shot in the leg by Taylor’s boyfriend, and Myles Cosgrove, who Cameron said appeared to have fired the fatal shot at Taylor, according to ballistics tests, remain on the force.
Despite temperature checks, masks and deep-cleaning procedures going on in schools amid the coronavirus pandemic, local teachers report settling into a new normal and a relief to be back in their classrooms.
However, with local schools offering a blend of in-person and distance learning or purely online classes – and teachers working longer hours to connect with their students and adapt their lessons to both formats – this new normal comes at a cost.
Rachael Carrico, a math teacher at Bowling Green High School, reports working “triple the amount that I would normally work” – a commonality she said her colleagues share.
“I feel like I am here constantly,” Carrico said. “Just the other day, I was here until midnight.”
Carrico juggles lessons for her in-person students and creating materials for those who study exclusively online.
Even with virtual lessons facilitated through the online learning platform Edgenuity, Carrico finds herself supplementing content in her Advanced Placement Statistics course, for example. She can easily spend 12 hours a day at school and still bring work home, she said.
“That work is constantly there for us, and it does not stop,” Carrico said.
Carrico does this all while battling an endless stream of notifications and urgent messages from students seeking support, she said.
Back in mid-March, when local schools scrambled to assemble distance learning plans with just days notice, many students “fell off the map” because they lacked a strong support system at home or struggled with virtual lessons, Carrico said.
“There are so many other steps that have to happen to make the help that needs to go out to the students, you know, possible,” Carrico said.
In spite of all that, Carrico said she and her colleagues relish being in school and seeing the fruits of their efforts. It even feels normal in a sense, Carrico said, even seeing students and staff in masks.
Complying with public health guidelines hasn’t been the challenge she thought it would be, she said.
“I’m glad we’re in-person,” Carrico said. “I think that we all know that when students are in class, they’re working hard, they’re trying and they can receive the help that they need.”
Several Warren County Public Schools teachers interviewed by the Daily News said they’re in a similar spot.
“We’re all kind of just trying to keep our heads above water,” said Mallory Hyman, who teaches math at Warren East Middle School. “I would say most teachers are probably working longer and harder right now than they probably ever have.”
Hyman and Amber Byrns, also a math teacher at Warren East Middle School, are teaching through the school’s hybrid in-person and online format – while also offering additional support for purely online students.
“It’s just hard when they’re not right in front of you,” Hyman said. “When they’re at home, there’s usually delayed feedback.”
With their students learning either in part or entirely at home during the school week, adapting math lessons has been a big challenge, Hyman said.
“You do have to overexplain yourself. You have to make sure those details are super precise and specific so they know exactly where to find something,” Hyman said.
Still, the pandemic and months of being out of school have renewed her students’ interest in learning, Hyman said. “When they’re in the building, they are super engaged,” she said.
A recent decision by the district to keep Fridays as virtual learning days for all students – meaning two days of in-person instruction each school week – has been crucial for teachers to plan lessons and connect with students, Hyman said.
The Bowling Green Independent School District, by comparison, has set Fridays as alternating in-person instruction days for students attending school on its hybrid A/B schedule.
“I don’t know what we would have done if we didn’t have these Fridays,” said Hyman, who uses that time to plan lessons for the following week of in-person and online instruction.
Byrns said she spends those days meeting with students. “I honestly work harder on Friday than I do on any other day,” she said.
Byrns spends those days hosting Google Meets and jumps from meeting to meeting to tutor or support students.
“I’m reaching out to those students who are falling behind and having to meet with me,” she said.
“I feel like I’m juggling a lot of things and task-switching constantly,” said Amelia Watkins, who teaches science and social studies at Cumberland Trace Elementary School.
Despite the challenges, Watkins said her students have proven to be resilient and “very eager” to learn. During their first Google Meet together, her students petitioned for a dance party, she said. Still, she reports taking extra effort to connect with students, some of whom may not have English-speaking parents.
“We are doing the absolute best that we can,” Watkins said.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.
GLASGOW – Representatives of at least three civic groups that regularly use the Lera B. Mitchell Clubhouse on South Green Street were invited to Monday’s Glasgow City Council meeting to discuss the clubhouse’s future.
The city of Glasgow serves as trustee of the clubhouse. As trustee, it pays $80,000 a year for its upkeep, but the city wants to relinquish that duty.
“The city attorney has gone through and done a lot of research and found that if we can find a nonprofit group that’s willing to continue the use of that with all the civic groups that use it now, and then add some other very good programs … the city would be willing to go to court and be removed as the trustee,” Mayor Harold Armstrong said.
City Attorney Danny Basil provided some background on the building, which was once owned by J.H. Mitchell.
In his will, Mitchell asked that $65,000 from his estate be used to purchase the building as a meeting space for the Daughters of the American Revolution, Glasgow Garden Club and the organization now known as the Glasgow Musicale, plus a few other organizations.
“This was done with the Farmers’ Bank as trustee, and Farmers’ Bank served as trustee from about 1962 up until 1978,” Basil said. “In 1978, the trusteeship was transferred from New Farmers’ National Bank to the city of Glasgow.”
The city has continued as trustee, allowing the same civic groups and organizations to use the building. The city would like that to continue, Basil said.
Bridge Kentucky, a nonprofit organization, is interested in becoming the clubhouse trustee and to keep it functioning as in the past.
A handout distributed during the meeting said Bridge Kentucky strives to reduce poverty and financial instability by assisting at-risk families. Its services range from financial assistance to mentoring.
Some city council members had questions about Bridge Kentucky.
Councilwoman Marna Kirkpatrick wanted to know whether, if Bridge Kentucky became the clubhouse’s new trustee but then dissolved, the ownership would revert to the city.
If that happened, the mayor said, another trustee would be appointed.
Councilman Patrick Gaunce, a Bridge Kentucky board member, said that if the organization dissolved, he would vote for the trusteeship to revert to the city.
In addition to Gaunce, others on Bridge Kentucky’s board are Matthew Boston, administrative director of the organization; Mallie Boston, director of the Boys and Girls Club of Glasgow-Barren County; and Shelly Thomas, director of the youth service center at Barren County High School.
Councilman Terry Bunnell asked if Bridge Kentucky leases any property, and Gaunce replied it leases two warehouses and uses those spaces for the storage of “clothing and goods – sofas and chairs.”
Councilman Freddie Norris said Bridge Kentucky helps the homeless.
Gaunce said there won’t be an emergency homeless shelter at the clubhouse should Bridge Kentucky become trustee.
He said Boston ran the Room in the Inn, a homeless shelter, for Bridge Kentucky in 2019. The shelter closed after it failed to get the support it needed.
“Our mission now is to mentor. We’ve got about 80 to 100 volunteers and we want to take each person and mentor a family because the resources are here in our community. It’s just people don’t understand how to fill the forms out. They don’t know where to go. They don’t have child care,” Gaunce said.
If Bridge Kentucky became trustee, it would strive to work with other civic groups using the space, he said.
In addition to the various civic groups, there are bridge clubs and a group of senior citizens that use the clubhouse. The mayor stressed that regardless of what happens, the senior citizens will have a place to continue their activities, such as playing pool. It is likely the senior citizens will likely be relocated to the city’s parks and recreation department on Liberty Street, he said.
Frances Bastien, a DAR member, noted that “Mr. Mitchell left it to the DAR and three other organizations.”
One of the DAR’s members took care of the clubhouse until the task became too much, and the organizations made an agreement with the bank to become clubhouse trustee, she said.
“When the bank decided that they no longer want to do this, they made an agreement with the city, who at that time was looking for a building for the senior citizens,” Bastien said.
She said the DAR should have some say in what happens to the building.
The mayor said everyone has a voice on the issue and that’s why representatives of the civic clubs were invited to the meeting.
The initial agreement said all organizations using the building would contribute to the upkeep and expenses of the building, he said.
“But nobody ever has but the city,” the mayor said.
Bastien said the bank contributed to the upkeep, as well as the DAR, until it was unable to do so.
A copy of the deed showing the city as trustee was the only one Basil could find. He asked those with the DAR if they had a copy showing the DAR as one of the owners.
June Jackson, regent of the DAR, explained ownership of the clubhouse is through the trust.
She asked for time to consult with someone to advise the DAR on its decision.
“We want to be sure that when this is done that everyone knows what is going to be done there and what our rights are and that we will be protected,” Jackson said.
Armstrong reiterated the issue was placed on the meeting agenda only for discussion and that Monday night was the first time the city council had heard a plan regarding the clubhouse.
“We don’t want to lose the Lera B. Mitchell Clubhouse, but we don’t want to overlook any possibility that might work just as well for you all and as well for another party involved, and help the city. If not, we will look at another avenue. We just need to talk. We need to start the discussion,” Armstrong said.
An ethics complaint against Mayor Bruce Wilkerson has been filed regarding his endorsement of mayoral candidate Todd Alcott at a press event held at City Hall.
On Sept. 1, Wilkerson invited local media to City Hall before a city commission meeting, where he announced in the city commission chambers that he was dropping his reelection bid for health reasons. He then endorsed candidate Todd Alcott, who was at City Hall to receive the endorsement.
Wilkerson told the Daily News on Wednesday that he believes he did not violate city ethics laws because City Hall is open to the public.
A copy of the anonymous complaint was sent to the Daily News.
City Clerk Ashley Jackson confirmed to the Daily News on Wednesday that the city has received the ethics complaint and it is being forwarded to the ethics board for consideration at a future meeting. She said such complaints are not public record until acted upon by the ethics board.
The ethics complaint said that “while the Mayor has every right to endorse whomever he likes, he does not have the right to use city property or city resources to do so. He also does not have the right to utilize the Commission Chambers or the Bowling Green city seals as a backdrop for political purposes.”
The complaint further alleges “Wilkerson and Alcott violated 25-9-1 of the city code of ethics which states that ‘No city-owned or city-supported property, vehicle, equipment, labor or service, will be used by a public official or employee ... in his or her private use.’ Wilkerson’s endorsement is a private affair and constitutes an ethics violation when done under the guise of official city business.”
Wilkerson said he deliberately held the event in the commission chambers because it is used for a variety of events and is open to the public – “that’s why I didn’t do it in my office,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s a violation ... we will let the ethics board look at it.”
Alcott is the only mayoral candidate who will be on the November ballot, but two write-in candidates, Chris Page and Tom Morris, are also running for the seat Wilkerson has held since 2011.
– Follow Managing Editor Wes Swietek on Twitter @WesSwietek or visit bgdaily news.com.