Breonna Taylor is killed by police in botched raid

Shortly after midnight on March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical technician, is shot and killed by police in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment after officers busted through her door with a battering ram .

Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, both of whom had no criminal records, had been asleep in bed. Walker, who later stated he feared an intruder had broken in, used his legally owned gun to fire one shot, which wounded Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg. Mattingly and officers Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison, all white and in plainclothes, returned fire, blindly shooting 32 times in the dark, striking Taylor six times.

According to The New York Times, Louisville police had received a court-approved no-knock warrant to search the apartment for signs of drug trafficking while investigating Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover. Those orders were changed to “knock and announce” before the raid, the newspaper reports. The police involved stated they complied with the warrant, but Walker said he heard no such announcement.

“Somebody kicked in the door, shot my girlfriend,” Walker told a dispatcher in a call to 911.

The three officers were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Walker was arrested for attempted murder of a police officer, a charge that was dropped May 22, as the FBI, Department of Justice and Kentucky attorney general began their own investigations, according to the Times. No drugs were found in the apartment.

Following an internal investigation, Hankison was fired by the Louisville Metro Police Department June 23 for violating procedure and was indicted by a grand jury on September 23 on three counts of wanton endangerment, as bullets he fired entered a neighboring apartment with people inside. He pleaded not guilty. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron told the grand jury that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in returning fire. No charges were brought against either man.

Following Taylor’s death and subsequent national protests, including a viral social media campaign with the hashtag #SayHerName and outcries from celebrities, civil rights activists and political leaders, no-knock warrants were banned in Louisville in an ordinance known as “Breonna’s Law.” The city also agreed to pay her family a historic $12 million in a wrongful-death lawsuit settlement. 

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Broadway goes dark due to COVID-19 pandemic

On March 12, 2020, after New York state and city leaders placed coronavirus-related restrictions on gatherings of more than 500 people, the Broadway theater district announces it will go dark for an unprecedented 32 days. The longest shutdown for the artistic mainstay in its history, the closure would end up being extended to the end of May 2021, potentially adding up to billions in tourism losses.

High risk factors for theaters, according to The New York Times, included a typically older audience, often rife with tourists, along with cramped seating and an inability to practice social distancing in those spaces.

“There’s no such thing as social distancing for actors—our jobs sometimes require that we go to work and kiss our colleagues eight times a week,” actress Kate Shindle, president of the Actors’ Equity Association labor union told the newspaper. “Although nobody wanted to close the theaters, at the same time people were starting to be scared to work, and with good reason.”

Thirty-one productions were showing on Broadway when the ban took effect, and a handful, including Disney’s musical version of Frozen and Tina Fey’s Mean Girls, were closed permanently due to the closure.

Previously, the longest the district was dark was 25 days in 1975 during a musicians’ strike. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, Broadway was shuttered for two business days. 

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President Trump addresses the nation on COVID-19; announces travel ban

In a primetime Oval Office address, President Donald Trump announces a 30-day travel ban on foreign travel to the U.S. from most European countries as COVID-19 cases surge across the globe.

Trump’s TV address came the same day the World Health Organization officially declared the disease a pandemic. U.K. travelers were not included in the restrictions, nor were American citizens or their immediate family members or legal permanent U.S. residents.

A week later, the State Department issued an advisory that U.S. citizens avoid all international travel because of the pandemic and that those abroad should return home immediately.

As of late February 2021, there were more than 28 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and more than 500,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control

READ MORE: Pandemics That Changed History 

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Ahmaud Arbery is murdered while out jogging

Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, is shot dead by a white father and son while out for a jog in a suburb of Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020. 

On May 7, following the release of a video of the killing that spurred national attention from the media, civil rights groups, lawmakers, celebrities and, eventually, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested on charges of murder and aggravated assault. William Bray, who filmed the shooting on his phone, was also arrested and charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

In June, the three men were indicted by a grand jury on all nine counts, including malice murder, four counts felony murder, two counts aggregated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Arbery, a former high school football player, reportedly jogged around the neighborhoods of Brunswick frequently, according to The New York Times. Gregory McMichael, a retired police officer and investigator for the local district attorney’s office, told police he saw Arbery running that day, and thought he looked like a suspect in a series of local break-ins. The father and son hopped in their white pickup truck, armed with a .357 Magnum and a shotgun, and pursued Arbery. Bryan also gave chase, the newspaper reports, and filmed the video that shows a struggle between Arbery and Travis McMichael, who fired three shots.

The video, released on May 5, 2020 by a lawyer for Arbery’s family, sparked outrage that no arrests had been made more than two months after the killing. The McMichaels claimed self defense and the first two prosecutors in the case recused themselves.

The shooting happened shortly before the deaths of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor by police during a failed no-knock raid in Louisville, Kentucky. All these incidents sparked widespread protests against police violence and racial injustice in the United States and around the globe. 

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World Health Organization officially names novel coronavirus disease COVID-19

A few months after the first known case was detected in Wuhan, China, and approximately three weeks after the first U.S. case was reported, on February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially named the illness that would go on to cause a pandemic “coronavirus disease 2019,” shortened to the acronym COVID-19.

Often referred to as the “Wuhan virus” in its very early stages, and also “nCoV-2019,” WHO guidelines state that names for new infectious diseases may not include geographic locations, animals, individuals or groups of people and must be pronounceable. CO stands for corona, VI is for virus, D is for disease and 2019 represents the year it was first discovered.

“Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing announcing the name. “It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.”

Since its onset, COVID-19 rapidly spread to every continent. By February 2021, it resulted in more than 105 million global cases and 2.3 million deaths, including more than 455,000 deaths in the U.S. alone. 

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First confirmed case of COVID-19 found in U.S.

Following a rapid spread from its origin in Wuhan, China, the first U.S. case of the 2019 novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, is confirmed in a man from Washington state. 

The virus, which would spark a pandemic, was first reported in China on December 31, 2019. Halfway across the world, on January 19, a man who had returned home to Snohomish County, Washington near Seattle on January 15, after traveling to Wuhan, checked into an urgent care clinic after seeing reports about the outbreak.

Experiencing a cough, fever, nausea and vomiting, the Centers for Disease Control announced on January 21 that the 35-year-old had tested positive for COVID-19. He was hospitalized, where his condition grew worse and he developed pneumonia. His symptoms abated 10 days later.

In the following months, the Seattle area became the epicenter of an early U.S. outbreak. 39 residents of Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, died from complications from the virus in one four-week span.

According to the CDC, 14 U.S. coronavirus cases were noted by public health agencies between January 21 and February 23, 2020; all patients had traveled to China. The first non-travel case was confirmed in California on February 26, and the first U.S. death was reported on February 29.

As the virus quickly marched across the country, businesses, schools and social gatherings were largely shut down, while, by May, unemployment rates reached their highest levels since the Great Depression.

Spreading to almost every country, more than 83 million have contracted the virus worldwide, and 1.8 million have died from it. The first U.S. vaccinations for COVID-19 were administered on December 14, 2020, with the rollout falling well short of expectations. As of mid-January 2021, 24.1 million cases and 400,000 deaths had been reported in the United States alone. 

READ MORE: Pandemics That Changed History 

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Off-duty police officer mistakenly enters neighbor’s apartment and shoots its owner to death

Year
2018
Month Day
September 06

On September 6, 2018 an off-duty Dallas police officer fatally shoots an unarmed Black man in the victim’s own apartment. 

Returning to her apartment complex in Dallas, Texas, police officer Amber Guyger entered the apartment of Botham Jean, believing it to be her own. The apartment door was ajar, she later testified, and when she entered she found a man inside. She fired her weapon, killing him.

Guyger was not arrested until three days later and was originally charged with manslaughter, rousing the anger of the public. She was eventually charged with murder. 

Guyger claimed that exhaustion after a 13-hour shift caused her to mistakenly climb an extra flight of stairs and enter the wrong apartment, where she became frightened when she saw the silhouette of what she believed to be a burglar in what she believed to be her home. She also claimed that told him to raise his hands and that he began to move toward her before she shot him in the chest. 

Prosecutors, however, argued that Guyger could hardly have confused a different door with a different doormat on a different level of the complex for her own, that Jean’s behavior—he was sitting on the couch eating ice cream—bore no resemblance to that of a burglar, and that Guyger broke police protocol by entering the apartment and firing her gun rather than calling for backup from the nearby police station.

Despite the judge’s decision to allow the jury to consider the “castle doctrine,” a Texas statute that justifies deadly force in defense of one’s home, the jury found Guyger guilty of murder, a charge she appealed. Guyger was the first Dallas police officer to be convicted of murder since 1973. 

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5-day long Russo-Georgian War begins

Year
2008
Month Day
August 08

On August 8, 2008, a long-simmering conflict between Russia and Georgia boiled over into a shooting war between the small Caucasian nation and the superpower of which it was once a part. The brief Russo-Georgian War was the most violent episode in a conflict that began more than a decade before.

Georgia declared independence from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as the latter was breaking up in 1991. A short time later, pro-Russian separatists took control of two regions composing a combined 20 percent of Georgia’s territory, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. A stalemate ensued. In 2008, American President George W. Bush announced his support for Georgia’s and Ukraine’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a move that Russia viewed as tantamount to putting a hostile military on its borders. Relations between Russia and Georgia had already been tense, with the aggressive Vladimir Putin in power in Russia and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili declaring his intent to bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back under Georgian control.

After accusations of aggression from both sides throughout the spring and summer, South Ossetian troops violated the ceasefire by shelling Georgian villages on August 1. Sporadic fighting and shelling ensued over the coming days, until Saakashvili declared a ceasefire on August 7. Just before midnight, seeing that the separatists would not, in fact, cease firing, Georgia’s military launched an attack on Tskhinvali in South Ossetia. Russian troops had already entered South Ossetia—illegally—and responded quickly to the Georgian attack. As Georgian troops seized Tskhinvali, the fighting spilled over into Abkhazia. The initial Georgian advance was repulsed, however, and within a few days Russia seized most of the disputed territory and was advancing into Georgia proper. The two sides agreed to a ceasefire in the early hours of August 13.

In the aftermath of the war, Russia formally recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Russia subsequently occupied them, in violation of the ceasefire. Russia conducted a similar maneuver in Ukraine in 2014, annexing the Crimean Peninsula and backing separatists in the west of the country. The Russo-Georgian War displaced an estimated 192,000 people, many of whom fled ethnic cleansing of Georgians in the separatist territories.

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Eric Garner dies in NYPD chokehold

Year
2014
Month Day
July 17

On July 17, 2014, two New York Police Department officers confront Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African American father of six, for illegally selling cigarettes. Garner dies after losing consciousness as a police officer locks him in an illegal chokehold, and within hours, a video of the incident begins to spark outrage across the country.

Garner was known as a “neighborhood peacemaker” in his Staten Island community, and was also well-known to the police for selling cigarettes illegally near the ferry terminal on Staten Island. 

Officers Daniel Pantaleo and Justin D’Amico, called to the scene because of a fight that Garner reportedly broke up, exchanged words with Garner about his cigarettes before Pantaleo reached around Garner’s neck and put him in a chokehold, despite such a maneuver being against NYPD rules

Pinned to the ground by the officers, Garner repeatedly told them, “I can’t breathe.” Eventually, he lost consciousness. He was pronounced dead at a hospital roughly an hour later, and the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide by suffocation.

Footage of the incident quickly went viral. There were protests in the days following Garner’s death, but it was a grand jury’s decision not to indict Pantaleo on December 3 that sparked large demonstrations in New York City and elsewhere across the country. 

Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. The police officer whose chokehold led to Garner’s death in 2014 was fired from the Police Department in 2019 and stripped of his pension benefits.

The following year, when New York State repealed its ban on publicizing police disciplinary records, it was revealed that Pantaleo had been investigated for misconduct seven times in the five years before Garner’s death.

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Construction on Global Seed Vault begins

Year
2006
Month Day
June 15

On June 15, 2006, on the remote island of Spitsbergen halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the prime ministers of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland lay the ceremonial first stone of the Global Seed Vault. The vault, which now has the capacity to hold 2.25 billion seeds, is intended to “provide insurance against both incremental and catastrophic loss of crop diversity.”

Managed jointly by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (the Crop Trust), the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen), and the Norwegian government, the Seed Vault grew out of several different efforts to preserve specimens of the world’s plants. Its location, deep within a high mountain on an island covered by permafrost, is ideal for cold storage and will protect the seeds even in the event of a major rise in sea levels. The enormous vault, where seeds can be stored in such a way that they remain viable for decades or even centuries, opened in 2008.

According to the Crop Trust, the seed vault is meant to preserve crop diversity and contribute to the global struggle to end hunger. As rising temperatures and other aspects of climate change threaten the Earth’s plants, there is risk of not only losing species but also becoming overly reliant on those that remain, making humanity more vulnerable and increasing food insecurity. Scientists also strive to create newer, more resilient varieties of crops that already exist, and the seed bank functions as a reserve from which they can draw for experimental purposes. 

READ MORE: Climate Change History

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