|Date||March 13, 2020|
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American emergency medical technician, was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers on March 13, 2020. Three plainclothes LMPD officers executing a no-knock search warrant entered her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. Gunfire was exchanged between Taylor's boyfriend Kenneth Walker and the officers. Walker said he believed that the officers were intruders. The LMPD officers fired over twenty shots. Taylor was shot eight times and LMPD Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly was injured by gunfire. Another police officer and an LMPD lieutenant were on the scene when the warrant was executed.
The primary targets of the LMPD investigation were Jamarcus Glover and Adrian Walker, who were suspected of selling controlled substances from a drug house more than 10 miles (16 km) away. Glover had a prior relationship with Taylor. The search warrant included Taylor's residence because it was suspected that Glover received packages containing drugs at Taylor's apartment and because a car registered to Taylor had been seen parked on several occasions in front of Glover's house. No drugs were found in the apartment.
Walker was licensed to carry a firearm and fired first, injuring a law enforcement officer, whereupon police returned fire into the apartment with more than 20 rounds. According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the police by the Taylor family's attorney, the officers, who entered Taylor's home without knocking or announcing a search warrant, opened fire "with a total disregard for the value of human life."
Shortly after midnight on March 13, 2020, Louisville police entered the apartment of Breonna Taylor and Kenneth Walker using a battering ram to force open the door. The police were investigating two men they believed were selling drugs. The Taylor/Walker home was included in a signed "no-knock" search warrant, signed by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mary M. Shaw, reportedly based on representations by police that one of the men used the apartment to receive packages. The suspected drug dealer had allegedly been seen walking into Taylor's apartment one January afternoon with a USPS package before leaving and driving to a known drug house, and the warrant said a US Postal Inspector confirmed that the man had been receiving packages at the apartment. Postal Inspector Tony Gooden has said that his office had told police there were no packages of interest being received there.
Louisville police stated that they announced themselves while entering the home after knocking several times and saying they were Louisville police officers with a search warrant. Neighbors and Taylor's family dispute this, saying there was no announcement and that Walker and Taylor believed someone was breaking in, causing Walker to act in self-defense. Walker said in his police interrogation that Taylor yelled multiple times, "Who is it?" after hearing a loud bang at the door, but received no answer, and that he then armed himself. Walker, a licensed firearm carrier, shot first, striking a police officer in the leg; in response, the officers opened fire with more than 20 rounds, hitting objects in the living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, bathroom, and both bedrooms. Taylor was shot at least eight times and pronounced dead at the scene. No drugs were found in the apartment. According to anonymous sources who spoke to WAVE3 News, one of the three officers allegedly fired blindly from the exterior of the residence, through a window with closed blinds and curtains; the sources said they do not believe Taylor was struck by any of the bullets fired by the officer who was outside.
The police filed an incident report that was nearly entirely blank. The report stated that Taylor had no injuries, even though she died from gunshot wounds. It also stated that no forced entry occurred, even though the officers had used a battering ram. The police department said that technical errors led to a malformed report.
All three officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative reassignment pending the outcome of an investigation by the police department's internal Professional Integrity Unit. On May 20, 2020, the investigation's findings were given to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron to determine whether any officer should be criminally charged. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also asked the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office to review the findings. The FBI is also conducting its own independent investigation, announced by the Bureau's Louisville field office on May 21, 2020.
In early June, Fischer called for Officer Hankison to be removed from the Louisville Police Merit Board, which reviews appeals from police offices in departmental disciplinary matters. Hankison was one of five members of the board, which consists of three civilians and two police officers selected by the River City Fraternal Order of Police. On June 19, 2020, three months after Taylor's killing, Louisville Metro Police interim chief Robert Schroeder sent Hankison a letter notifying him that Schroeder had begun termination proceedings against him. The letter accused Hankison of violating departmental policies on the use of deadly force by "wantonly and blindly" firing into Taylor's apartment without determining whether any person presented "an immediate threat" or whether there were "any innocent persons present". The letter also cited past disciplinary action taken against Hankison by the department, including for reckless conduct. Hankison was formally fired four days later; he has ten days to appeal his termination to the Louisville Police Merit Board.
Walker initially faced criminal charges of first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer. The LMPD officers said they announced themselves before entering the home and were immediately met with gunfire from Walker. According to their statement, Walker discharged his firearm first, injuring an officer. Walker's lawyer said Walker thought that someone was entering the residence illegally and that Walker acted only in self-defense. The 911 calls were later released to the public, with Walker recorded telling the 911 operator, "somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend".
Judge Olu Stevens released Walker from home incarceration on May 22. Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine moved to dismiss all charges against Walker in late May. The case could be presented to a grand jury again after reviewing the results of the FBI's and the Kentucky Attorney General's Office's investigations. Wine dropped the charges because the officers never mentioned Taylor by name to the grand jury or that they shot her. Walker's close friends said that his job was to protect Taylor at any cost. Rob Eggert, an attorney representing Walker, released a statement saying, "he just wanted to resume his life". At the same time, his attorney said that he could be charged again later as more facts come out of the shooting. On June 16, Eggert filed a motion to permanently dismiss the indictment charging Walker with attempted murder and assault. The motion asked Stevens to grant Walker immunity because he was within his rights to defend himself and Taylor under Kentucky's stand-your-ground law.
On May 15, Taylor's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. It states that Taylor and Walker were sleeping in their bedroom before the incident happened, and that the police officers were in unmarked vehicles. None of the officers were wearing body cameras, as all three were plainclothes narcotics officers. Taylor and Walker thought their home had been broken into by criminals and that "they were in significant, imminent danger." The lawsuit alleges that "the officers then entered Breonna's home without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers. The Defendants then proceeded to spray gunfire into the residence with a total disregard for the value of human life."
On May 14, photos were released to the public in The Courier-Journal by Sam Aguiar, an attorney representing Taylor's family. The photos show bullet damage in their apartment and the apartment next door.
On May 21, Police Chief Steve Conrad announced his retirement after intense local and national criticism for the department's handling of the case, to be effective June 30. Conrad was fired on June 1 after the fatal shooting of black business owner David McAtee.
The LMPD has also announced on June 10 that it will require all sworn officers to wear body cameras, and will change how it carries out search warrants.
For months after the shooting, there were demands from Taylor's family, some members of the local community, and protesters worldwide that the officers involved in the shooting be fired and criminally charged. Multiple protesters, including friends and family of Taylor, protested outside Mayor Fischer's office on May 26, 2020, and demanded the three officers be arrested and charged with murder.
On May 28, 500 to 600 demonstrators marched in Downtown Louisville, chanting, "No justice, no peace, prosecute police!" and "Breonna, Breonna, Breonna!" The protests continued into the early morning of May 29, when seven people were shot; one was in critical condition. At the same time, Taylor's sister, Juniyah Palmer, posted on her Facebook page, "At this point y'all are no longer doing this for my sister! You guys are just vandalizing stuff for NO reason, I had a friend ask people why they are there most didn't even know the 'protest' was for my sister." These protests and demonstrations were part of the nationwide reaction to the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man who was killed in police custody on May 25, 2020.
On May 27, one Louisville police sergeant said that "The comment section is full of 'All cops need to die' and 'Kill pigs' and things like that" and that several days earlier, while responding to a 911 call near Taylor's apartment, multiple people threw pieces of concrete at police officers (who were uninjured) and then ran away.
On June 27, 2020, Steven Lopez was arrested after firing shots on the crowd of protestors gathered at Louisville's Jefferson Square Park, killing one and injuring another. Lopez had previous taken part in the Breonna Taylor protests before the incident took place as well, but later got into arguments with other Jefferson Park protestors which resulted in at least three reported physical confrontations. Lopez was also among a group of 17 Louisville protestors who had been arrested on June 17 for inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, harassment and possession of drug paraphernalia.
In June 2020, Democrats in Congress introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a broad bill containing measures to combat misconduct, excessive force, and racial bias in policing. The bill would prohibit the issuance of no-knock warrants (like the kind used in the raid that resulted in Taylor's killing) in federal drug investigations and provide incentives to states to enact a similar prohibition.
Kentucky's Senator Rand Paul introduced the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, which would prohibit federal law enforcement from carrying out a warrant "until after the officer provides notice of his or her authority and purpose." It would also apply to state and local law enforcement that receive funding from the Justice Department.
On June 10 the Louisville city council voted unanimously to ban no-knock search warrants. The law is called Breonna's Law and requires all officers who serve warrants to wear body cameras and have them turned on from at least five minutes before the warrant is served to at least five minutes after it is served.
For weeks after Taylor's death, there was very little public reaction or response from government officials. The LMPD has not provided many details about the shooting or answers to questions about the case. On May 13, 2020, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear responded to reports about Taylor's death and said the public deserved to know everything about the March raid. Beshear requested that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and local and federal prosecutors review the Louisville police's initial investigation "to ensure justice is done at a time when many are concerned that justice is not blind." On May 14, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and LMPD Chief Steve Conrad announced they had asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney to review the local findings of the Public Integrity Unit's investigation when it is completed. Commentators such as Arwa Mahdawi and Professor Brittney Cooper suggested Taylor's killing would likely not have received so much attention if not for the George Floyd protests, as black women are often neglected. Mahdawi related this to the #SayHerName campaign and Malcolm X's statement "The most disrespected person in America is the black woman," and called for further protest until justice for Taylor is secured.
Sgt. Jon Mattingly, who has been with LMPD since 2000, also was struck by gunfire. He's expected to survive.
Her address was listed on the search warrant based on police's belief that Glover had used her apartment to receive mail, keep drugs or stash money. The warrant also stated that a car registered to Taylor had been seen parked on several occasions in front of a "drug house" known to Glover.