LOUISVILLE, UNITED STATES (REUTERS, AFP) - Two police officers were shot and wounded late on Wednesday (Sept 23) in Louisville, Kentucky, during protests ignited by a grand jury decision that civil rights activists decried as a miscarriage of justice in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor.
The grand jury ruled that two white policemen will not be prosecuted in connection with the death of Taylor, a Black medical worker shot in her own apartment, because their use of force during an ill-fated raid on her home was justified, but a third officer was charged with endangering her neighbours.
Daylong street protests erupted in violence after dark when two police officers on duty in the midst of the demonstrations were shot and wounded, Robert Schroeder, interim chief of the Louisvile Metropolitan Police Department, told reporters.
He said one suspect had been arrested, and that the two officers were in stable condition, one undergoing surgery, with injuries he described as non-life-threatening. He declined to give any further details.
Angry protesters were demanding justice after charges were filed against only one policeman involved in the controversial fatal shooting of Ms Taylor.
Detective Brett Hankison, who was fired in June, was charged by a grand jury with three counts of "wanton endangerment" over shots he fired into apartments adjoining Taylor's home.
But neither Hankison nor the two officers who fired the shots that killed Taylor were charged in direct connection with her death.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky, following the announcement, and Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Taylor family, condemned the grand jury decision as "outrageous and offensive."
Police in riot gear were seen making several arrests.
A state of emergency and a 9pm curfew has been declared by the mayor of the city, which has a population of 600,000, with much of downtown closed to traffic.
Some downtown business owners boarded up their shops in anticipation of unrest sparked by the grand jury decision.
Taylor, an emergency room technician, was shot dead after three plainclothes policemen turned up at her door in the middle of the night to execute a search warrant.
Taylor's boyfriend, who was in bed with her, grabbed a gun and exchanged fire with the officers. He later said he thought they were criminals.
The officers, who had not activated their body cameras as required, shot Taylor multiple times, killing her. A police sergeant was wounded.
Kentucky Attorney-General Daniel Cameron said Hankison had not fired the fatal shots and the two other officers who opened fire had done so in self-defence.
He said Hankison was charged with three counts of "wanton endangerment" over shots he fired into adjoining apartments. He could face five years in prison for each count if convicted.
"This is a tragedy," Cameron said.
"I know that not everyone will be satisfied with the charges reported today.
"Every person has an idea of what they think justice is."
Crump expressed disappointment on behalf of the family.
"This is outrageous and offensive to Breonna Taylor's memory," he said in a statement. "It's yet another example of no accountability for the genocide of persons of colour by white police officers.
"If Hankison's behaviour constituted wanton endangerment of the people in the apartments next to hers, then it should also be considered wanton endangerment of Breonna," Crump said.
"In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) condemned the grand jury charges as "not accountability and not close to justice."
"This is the manifestation of what the millions of people who have taken to the streets to protest police violence already know: Modern policing and our criminal legal system are rotten to the core," the ACLU said.
Cameron, the attorney general, also addressed reports that the police officers had executed a "no-knock" search warrant on Taylor's home, bursting in without warning.
"They did knock and announce," he said.
"That information was corroborated by another witness."
The city of Louisville settled a wrongful death suit with Taylor's family for US$12 million (S$16 million) last week.
The civil settlement reflected the public pressure and emotion surrounding her death, which came about two months before that of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Floyd's death triggered protests across the United States against racial injustice and police brutality.
Cameron appealed for calm and Louisville police chief Robert Schroeder said the authorities would not tolerate any "violence or destruction of property."
"We are prepared to meet any challenge we may face," Schroeder said, calling for demonstrators to protest "peacefully and lawfully."