When news of the novel coronavirus emerged, Breonna Taylor’s mother became concerned. Her 26-year-old daughter was an emergency room technician who worked at two hospitals around Louisville, Ky.
“I was telling her, ‘Breonna, you are in the ER, so you need to be careful,’” Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer tells PEOPLE. “‘Make sure you wash your hands because that’s where the people are going to come to first.’ And she was like, ‘Mama. I’m going to be okay. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.’”
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Palmer says Breonna’s focus was on helping others.
“She was like, ‘Well, if I get it, it’s meant to be, because I’ve got to go to work and I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to help, and do my part.’”
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Tragically, Taylor’s life was cut short by gunfire from police.
On March 13, at around 12:30 a.m., Taylor was killed at her home by police officers who were investigating a drug dealer.
Although the dealer didn’t live there (and had, in fact, just been arrested at a different location), officers alleged that he had once picked up a package at Taylor’s residence. The officers had secured a “no knock” search warrant, allowing them to enter without warning.
“There was a loud banging, then the door flies off the hinges,” says attorney Lonita Baker, who is representing Palmer in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the police officers.
Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who was with her at the time, said he thought it was a break-in. Walker shot his gun, hitting one of the officers in the thigh. The police fired back more than 20 shots, hitting Taylor at least eight times, killing her.
Walker was arrested and charged with attempted murder of a police officer, but those charges were dropped on May 22, after the FBI opened an investigation into the case.
A demonstrator holds a sign with the image of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville police, during a June 3 protest over the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd.
JASON CONNOLLY/Getty Images
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The three officers — Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove — were placed on administrative reassignment. None have been criminally charged.
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Palmer says her daughter always wanted to help others. Her calling started at a young age when she helped her grandmother, who had diabetes.
“Even as a kid, I remember she would askCan I stick your finger?,’” says Palmer. “You know, being a diabetic, you’ve got to prick your finger to test your blood sugar.”
Later, Taylor helped adults with disabilities and then drove people around who needed rides to appointments and grocery stores. She later became a certified EMT and drove an ambulance before becoming an emergency room technician at two local hospitals.
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“She was all about helping people,” her cousin Preonia Flakes tells PEOPLE. “She was all about being there for those who couldn’t really be there for themselves, or being there for those who might not have people to be there for them.”
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Palmer says her daughter’s ultimate goal was to become a neo-natal nurse. She planned to take classes in the fall.
“She likes babies. She would sayI like babies, I don’t like kids,’” Palmer recounted her daughter joking. “She would sayIf I get in there, I’ll have them when they’re at their best. I’ll help them right there when they’re at their best.’”