LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Her name has echoed in streets across the U.S. and around the world, becoming a rallying cry for justice.
It's on protest signs and graffiti tags, on WNBA jerseys and LeBron's shoes.
Her face is pictured on a giant Maryland mural that may be visible from space and on the cover of Oprah Winfrey's "O, The Oprah Magazine."
She's watching Louisville from murals across the city, surrounded by flowers in the heart of Jefferson Square Park and will soon look down on passersby from 26 area billboards – one for each year she was alive.
Breonna Taylor has become a hashtag, a meme and a powerful symbol that Black lives matter, embraced by politicians, celebrities, athletes and thousands upon thousands of protesters.
70 days of protest: Breonna Taylor's death has created a much larger movement in Louisville
In the nearly five months since Taylor, 26, was fatally shot by three white Louisville Metro Police officers in her apartment, the pressure has mounted from those demanding that those officers be fired, arrested and convicted.
"Today I use my platform to demand justice for this essential person, this woman, daughter, sister and friend," Grammy-winning singer John Legend wrote in a guest editorial published June 5.
"Today is Opening Day, which means it's a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor," MLB's Tampa Bay Rays tweeted July 24.
The question is: Will that pressure be enough to get them the results they demand?
Separate investigations by the FBI and Kentucky's attorney general have lagged on for more than two months, since LMPD's internal probe was shared with outside agencies, with no time frame or deadline in sight.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who will decide whether to file criminal charges against the officers, finds himself walking a political tightrope, balancing his position as Kentucky's first Black attorney general with his political ambitions and ties to his mentor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Cameron told The Courier Journal he won't bow to pressure – no matter who applies it. His responsibility, he said, is to the truth.
"What I hope people have seen through this investigation is that we won’t be swayed by any particular opinion," said Cameron, elected in November 2019. "Our responsibility and duty is to the facts, is to fairness and is to justice."
And he said he, along with a team of career prosecutors and investigators, plan to "make sure that no stone is left unturned."
Police seldom convicted in fatal shootings
Nationally, successful prosecutions of police officers who kill people are rare.
The Washington Post found that police shoot and kill about 1,000 people each year. Those records show that since 2015, police in Kentucky have fatally shot at least 97 people.
But across the U.S. since 2005, 115 police officers have been arrested for murder or manslaughter for on-duty shootings, according to professor Philip Stinson, a leading researcher in police crime at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. And only 42 have been convicted.
Just one of those arrests and convictions was in Kentucky – in 2017, Laurel County constable Bobby Joe Smith was convicted at trial of reckless homicide after he fatally shot Brandon Stanley at a convenience store while trying to serve a warrant.
None of that has deterred national supporters and local organizers determined to see charges filed against the Louisville officers who fired their weapons at Taylor's apartment – Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and detective Myles Cosgrove and former detective Brett Hankison.
Hankison was fired in June, but Mattingly and Cosgrove remain on administrative reassignment pending the outcome of the investigations.
A change.org petition demanding their arrests has more than 10.6 million signatures – the website's second-largest petition ever.
Local and state officials have been inundated with hundreds of thousands of emails, calls and letters. And protests in Louisville now in their 10th week show no signs of slowing, despite more than 500 arrests.
"There's definitely a push to say that Black men are often the target of police brutality, but we have to remember that Black women are suffering, as well," said Laura Moyer, a University of Louisville political science professor.
"There is a real hunger to have those names and those women be remembered."
Breonna Taylor as a rallying cry
Before millions began saying her name, Breonna Taylor was yet another Black American killed by police.
On March 13, shortly before 1 a.m., Louisville police were serving a "no-knock" search warrant at Taylor's apartment as part of a larger narcotics investigation targeting her former boyfriend.
The warrant meant LMPD officers did not have to identify themselves before they entered the apartment, although officers say they did. Neighbors and Taylor's attorneys dispute that.
When the officers used a battering ram to break down the door, Taylor's current boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a shot, later saying he thought intruders were breaking in. Three officers returned fire, shooting more than 20 rounds that struck Taylor five times, according to her death certificate.
The 26-year-old medical worker died in her apartment hallway.
Her slaying was largely overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic that consumed Americans' attention as it shut down the nation.
In mid-May, that abruptly changed.
Shaun King, an activist with more than a million social media followers, posted about Taylor's death May 10. The next morning, Florida-based attorney Ben Crump announced he had joined the team of attorneys representing Taylor's family.
Crump tells all his clients that while only prosecutors can bring charges, civil lawsuits can still expose the truth. He promised Taylor's mother that her daughter's death would not be "swept under the rug."
"I believe wholeheartedly we have delivered on that promise," Crump said.
Coupled with the jarring deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and George Floyd in Minneapolis, Taylor's case helped ignite a political and social firestorm that began to "catch us, grip us and stay with us," Moyer said.
On June 5, what would have been Taylor's 27th birthday, that national attention surged.
Superstar Beyoncé posted an artist's rendering of Taylor on Instagram, directing her more than 150 million followers to a petition that called for the arrest and conviction of the officers involved in Taylor's death.
Dozens of other celebrities posted birthday tributes, including presidential candidate Joe Biden, filmmaker Ava Duvernay and actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
On Instagram, the hashtag #BreonnaTaylor has had more than 709,000 posts on Instagram, and #justiceforBreonnaTaylor accounted for more than 616,000.
Sherri Williams, an assistant professor at American University, said that celebrity attention allowed them to "break through a crowded media cycle."
"Pop culture has a way of reaching people in ways that traditional news doesn't," said Williams, who researches and teaches about how Black women are represented in media and in popular culture.
The visibility of Taylor's case in sports, pop culture, traditional media and social media is a "needed and necessary shift" from traditional erasure of Black women, she said.
"It isn't like Breonna is the first and it isn't like Sandra Bland is the first," said Williams. "Really, the problem is, in this country, we're just really not paying attention to the ways in which Black women are not only victims of police violence but victims of violence in general."
With that celebrity attention has come an onslaught of calls and emails to public officials in Kentucky.
Louisville Metro Council member Bill Hollander, D-9th District, said he received "many thousands" of messages in his email inbox and that his voicemail still fills up multiple times per day. The predominant message: Fire and charge the officers in Taylor's death.
Gov. Andy Beshear has received more than 13,200 emails, 5,200 voice messages and 2,000 cards and letters regarding Taylor's case, spokesman Sebastian Kitchen said.
Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine, too, received more than 2 million messages about Taylor and David McAtee, another Black Louisvillian killed in a shooting by law enforcement, according to his automated email response.
Wine has recused himself from Taylor's case, instead asking Cameron's office to take over.
Cameron, too, has been deluged with missives. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuhn said the office has received about 621,000 calls, emails and letters about Taylor's case, including one from Beyoncé.
That's the goal, Crump said – making sure they couldn't forget about Taylor.
"Now, whether they do something or not, that's going to be on them, and they have to live with themselves," he said. "But nobody can say we didn't know that we had probable cause to charge on Breonna Taylor's case."
What will the pressure mean for Breonna Taylor's case?
Whether that continued pressure can bring results remains an open question.
Louisville organizers say they're going to continue to push for demands and protest because it's the only way to make their voices heard.
Career prosecutors argue that the facts will dictate whether criminal charges should be filed.
All that rests on the shoulders of Cameron, the 34-year-old Louisville resident.
Observers say he is in a precarious position.
The state attorney general's office is often a political stepping stone to governor or Congress – and the Taylor case clearly is in the national spotlight.
"This could clearly be a political firestorm that … could mean the difference between what (Cameron's) future is in Kentucky politics and what it could have been," said Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at the University of Louisville.
Cameron is a political protegee of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and has been endorsed by President Donald Trump, who both have condemned the protests as violent and unlawful.
So far, it doesn't appear that national attention is pressuring Cameron to speed up the investigation, Clayton said.
Moyer said she expects attention on the case to prompt Cameron to announce his decision in a carefully crafted statement, handling it perhaps in a "more delicate way" than he otherwise might.
"Cameron is in a very – I think for him – tough position," Moyer said. "He is well aware that people will be really upset if he decides that his office doesn't see the basis for prosecuting this."
Trey Grayson, a former Republican secretary of state said Cameron is likely considering his political future, but he can't let it influence his decision.
"He's aware of all this, and I think he'll be careful to do the right thing for the right reasons, and if it happens to benefit his political career, so be it," said Grayson, who worked closely with Cameron at the Louisville law firm Frost Brown Todd before Cameron was elected attorney general.
"Make the correct decision at the end of the day," Grayson said. "The best politics is to do a good job as attorney general."
Former Kentucky attorneys general Jack Conway and Chris Gorman both said the office is full of dedicated, career civil servants who are only interested in going where the facts lead them. Cameron has previously said his Office of Special Prosecutions and Department of Criminal Investigations are handling the investigation.
"During the four years that I was there, I never overrode a prosecutor on what they were doing," Gorman said. "There was no political interference whatsoever, and I've got the utmost confidence that Daniel would run the office the same way."
Conway said whatever decision Cameron makes, he knows he will have to defend it not only in the heat of the moment but for all of history.
"The way to do that is to take a little time and … make sure the facts and the law guide him to a decision that's supported by the law," Conway said.
Activists vow to continue to 'apply that pressure'
In the meantime, activists say they will continue to turn up the heat on officials over Taylor's case.
Tyra Walker, a Jefferson County Public Schools teacher, said she and others have gathered in Jefferson Square Park for months to "apply that pressure, and continue to be in their face."
Walker, who is also a co-chair of the Louisville-based Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, a decades-old group dedicated to racial justice, acknowledges that the decisions on officer charges may not work out in the protesters' favor and that groups are bracing for the outcome.
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Still, she said, "you don't get something done just by not saying and doing anything."
"Am I tired? Are we tired? Yes," Walker said. "But we're motivated by the changes that will be made. That are going to be made."
Crump, the Florida-based attorney, told Taylor's family he couldn't control what happens in the criminal justice system, but he could make sure the truth is known.
He's optimistic there's probable cause to charge the officers. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen.
"They have the evidence there," he said. "Now, we can't ever take our foot off the gas.
"We can't ever, for one second, lose focus."
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Breonna Taylor is a national rallying cry. Will the cops get charged?