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Shooting of Breonna Taylor
2020 police killing of a woman in Louisville, Kentucky
Shooting of Breonna Taylor
Location of Louisville, Kentucky, with the highlighted portion of Jefferson County representing the "balance" population of Louisville. Also shown is its location within Kentucky.
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American woman, was fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment on March 13, 2020, when white plainclothes officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) forced entry into the apartment as part of an investigation into drug dealing operations. Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was inside the apartment with her when the officers knocked on the door and then forced entry. Officers said that they announced themselves as police before forcing entry, but Walker said he did not hear any announcement, thought the officers were intruders, and fired a warning shot at them. According to officials, it hit Mattingly in the leg, and the officers fired 32 shots in return. Walker was unhurt but Taylor was hit by six bullets and died. According to police, Taylor's home was never searched.
On June 23, 2020, the LMPD fired Hankison for blindly firing through the covered patio door and window of Taylor's apartment. On September 15, the city of Louisville agreed to pay Taylor's family $12 million and reform police practices. On September 23, a state grand jury indicted Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment for endangering Taylor's neighbors with his shots. None of the officers involved in the raid has been charged in Taylor's death. Cosgrove was determined to have fired the fatal shot that killed Taylor. On October 2, 2020, recordings from the grand jury investigation into the shooting were released. Two of the jurors released a statement saying that the grand jury was not presented with homicide charges against the officers. Several jurors have also accused Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and the police of covering up what happened.
The shooting of Taylor by police officers led to numerous protests that added to those across the United States against police brutality and racism. When a grand jury did not indict the officers for her death, further civil unrest ensued.
Kenneth Walker was Taylor's boyfriend, who was present with her in the apartment at the time.
Jonathan Mattingly is an LMPD police officer who joined the department in 2000, became a sergeant in 2009, and joined the narcotics division in 2016.
Brett Hankison is a former LMPD detective. Hankison joined the department in 2003. The LMPD fired him on June 23, 2020.
Myles Cosgrove is an LMPD police officer who was transferred to the department's narcotics division in 2016.
The LMPD investigation's primary targets were Jamarcus Glover and Adrian Walker (not related to Kenneth Walker), who were suspected of selling controlled substances from a drug house approximately 10 miles (16 km) away. Glover had cohabited with Taylor and said the police had pressured him to move out of Taylor's residence for unspecified reasons. Glover and Taylor had been in an on-off relationship that started in 2016 and lasted until February 2020, when Taylor committed to Kenneth Walker.
In December 2016, Fernandez Bowman was found dead in a car rented by Taylor and used by Glover. He had been shot eight times. Glover had used Taylor's address and phone number for various purposes, including bank statements.
Jamarcus Glover's statements
In a variety of statements, Glover said that Taylor had no involvement in the drug operations, that as a favor she held money from the proceeds for him, and that she handled money for him for other purposes. In different recorded jailhouse conversations Glover said that Taylor had been handling his money and that she was holding $8,000 of it, that he had given Taylor money to pay phone bills, and that he had told his sister that another woman had been keeping the group's money.
In the recorded conversations and in an interview with The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Glover repeatedly said that Taylor was not involved in any drug operations and that police had "no business" looking for him at her residence, and denied that he had said in the recorded conversations that he kept money at her residence. Taylor was never a co-defendant in Glover's case.
LMPD obtained a "no-knock" search warrant for Taylor's apartment at 3003 Springfield Drive in Louisville. The search warrant included Taylor's residence because it was suspected that Glover received packages containing drugs there, might have been "keeping narcotics and/or proceeds from the sale of narcotics" there, and because a car registered to Taylor had been seen parked in front of Glover's house several times. Specifically, the warrant alleges that in January 2020, Glover left Taylor's apartment with an unknown package, presumed to contain drugs, and took it to a known drug apartment soon afterward. The warrant states that this event was verified "through a US Postal Inspector". In May 2020, the U.S. postal inspector in Louisville publicly announced that the collaboration with law enforcement had never actually occurred. The postal office said it was actually asked by a different agency to monitor packages going to Taylor's apartment, but after doing so, it concluded, "There's [sic] no packages of interest going there." This public revelation put the investigation and especially the warrant into question and resulted in an internal investigation.
The warrant was applied for by LMPD detective Joshua C. Jaynes among a total of five warrants approved the preceding day by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mary M. Shaw "within 12 minutes", and which was stamped as filed with the court clerk's office on April 2. All five warrants contain similar language involving a justification for no-knock entry that concludes with "due to the nature of how these drug traffickers operate". Christopher Slobogin, director of Vanderbilt University's Criminal Justice Program, said that unless police had a reason to suspect that Taylor's residence had surveillance cameras "a no-knock warrant would be improper." Brian Gallini, a professor at the University of Arkansas, also expressed skepticism about the warrant, writing that if it was appropriate in this particular search, "then every routine drug transaction would justify grounds for no-knock".
Detective Jaynes attested in the affidavit that,
Affiant verified through a US Postal Inspector that Jamarcus Glover has been receiving packages at 3003 Springfield Drive #4. Affiant knows through training and experience that it is not uncommon for drug traffickers to receive mail packages at different locations to avoid detection from law enforcement. Affiant believes through training and experience, that Mr. J. Glover may be keeping narcotics and/or proceeds from the sale of narcotics at 3003 Springfield Drive #4 for safe keeping.
But Sergeant Timothy Salyer, supervisor of the Shively, Kentucky, police department's Special Investigations Unit, told LMPD internal investigators in May that due to "bad blood" between the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the LMPD, inquiries related to the drug trafficking investigation had been routed through the Shively PD. In his interview with internal investigators, Jaynes said that before the raid on Taylor's apartment Mattingly told him that the Shively PD had reported that the United States Postal Service had not delivered any suspicious packages to that address. Jaynes was reassigned from his duties with the LMPD in June.
According to The New York Times, before the execution of the no-knock warrant, orders were changed to "knock and announce".
Police entry into the apartment
Shortly after midnight on March 13, 2020, Louisville police dressed in plain clothes knocked on Taylor's door before forcing entry using a battering ram. There is dispute as to whether the officers announced themselves before forcing entry.
Walker contends that Taylor asked, "Who is it?" several times after hearing a loud bang at the door. Hearing no answer, he then decided to call his mother instead of the police. After calling his mother he dialed 911 and armed himself. The police officers involved have testified that they announced themselves multiple times before using the battering ram to enter the apartment.
The New York Times interviewed roughly a dozen neighbors and alleged that only one of them, who was on the exterior staircase immediately above Taylor's apartment, heard the officers shout "Police!" once and knock at least three times, while approximately 11 other neighbors heard no knock or announcement, including one who was outside smoking a cigarette.
According to a statement by Attorney General Cameron, an independent investigation concluded that the no-knock warrant was indeed served as a knock-and-announce warrant, which was corroborated by one independent witness who was near Taylor's apartment. But on September 30, this witness's lawyer said that police announced themselves "only in passing" and implied that the witness was quoted out of context or that video was deceptively spliced. According to VICE News, the witness originally said "nobody identified themselves" when interviewed by police a week after the shooting. But when the police called him two months later, he said he heard, "This is the cops."
Shooting and aftermath
Walker said that--believing that intruders were breaking into the apartment--he fired a warning shot in self-defense. According to officials, the shot struck Mattingly in the leg, but Walker's legal team asserts that because forensic photography shows no blood in the part of the apartment where Mattingly says he was shot, because a court-sealed photograph of the single hollow-point bullet from Walker's firearm shows no blood, and because, based on consultations with pathologists, they believe that a hollow-point bullet would have done "considerably" more damage to Mattingly's thigh, the evidence suggests Mattingly was shot by police officers. A Kentucky State Police ballistics report is inconclusive, saying that "due to limited markings of comparative value", the bullet that hit Mattingly and exited his thigh was neither "identified nor eliminated as having been fired" from Walker's gun. But it was fired from a 9mm pistol like Walker's, whereas all officers were carrying 40-caliber guns.
Police then fired 32 rounds into the apartment during two "flurries" or waves of shots separated by one minute and eight seconds. Mattingly, the only officer who entered the residence, fired six shots. At the same time, Cosgrove fired 16 shots from the doorway area in a matter of seconds. Hankison fired 10 times from outside through a sliding glass door and bedroom window, both of which were covered by blinds or curtains. The officers' shots hit objects in the living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, bathroom, and both bedrooms.
Taylor was struck by five or six bullets in the hallway and pronounced dead at the scene. Cosgrove fired the shot that killed her. Walker was uninjured.
According to police grand-jury testimony, the warrant was never executed and Taylor's apartment was not searched for drugs or money after the shooting. More than a month after the shooting, Glover was offered a plea deal if he would testify that Taylor was part of his drug dealing operations. Prosecutors said that that offer was in a draft of the deal but later removed. Glover rejected the deal.
On November 19, 2020, Adrian Walker was fatally shot. The Louisville police stated that they had no suspects in the killing.
Autopsy and death certificate
An autopsy was conducted on Taylor, and her cause of death was determined to be homicide. The death certificate also notes that she received five gunshot wounds to the body. The coroner denied The Courier-Journals request for a copy of the autopsy. The newspaper was appealing to the attorney general's office as of July 17, 2020.
Investigations into the three police officers
The police filed an incident report that claimed that Taylor had no injuries and that no forced entry occurred. The police department said that technical errors led to a nearly entirely blank malformed report.
Local and state investigation
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 Daniel Cameron, Attorney General of Kentucky, 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.
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, 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 (June 23); he had ten days (until July 3) to appeal his termination to the Louisville Police Merit Board. That appeal was delayed until the criminal investigation is finished.
On September 23, 2020, a state grand jury indicted Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment for endangering a neighboring white family of three when shots he fired penetrated their apartment. Conviction could include a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine for each count. Bullets also entered the upstairs apartment of a black family but no charges were filed. Neither Hankison nor the two other officers involved in the raid were indicted for Taylor's death.
The Louisville Courier Journal raised questions about whether the grand jury had been allowed to decide whether charges should be pressed against Mattingly and Cosgrove or whether prosecutors decided that the officers acted in self-defense without submitting the issue to the grand jury. Hankison's and Walker's attorneys requested the release of the grand jury transcript and related evidence. On September 28, a grand juror filed a court motion stating that Cameron had mischaracterized the grand-jury proceedings and was "using grand jurors as a shield to deflect accountability and responsibility" for charging decisions. A judge ordered the release of the grand jury proceedings' recording; Cameron's office and Hankison's attorney opposed the ruling. A day later, Cameron said that he did not recommend murder charges to the grand jury, but maintained that he presented "a thorough and complete case". While recordings of testimony and some other parts of the proceedings were released, the juror deliberations and prosecutor recommendations were not released and according the state attorney general's office were never recorded.
On October 22, a second grand juror criticized Cameron, how the grand jury was operated, and how Cameron presented the grand jury's conclusion. The juror agreed with the first juror's statement, including that members of the grand jury wanted to consider other charges against the officers, including homicide charges. But "the panel was steered away from considering homicide charges and left in the dark about self-defense laws during deliberations." These statements contradict Cameron's claims that the grand jury "agreed" the officers who shot Taylor were justified in returning fire after Taylor's boyfriend shot at them. The first grand juror said the panel "didn't agree that certain actions were justified".
One of the anonymous jurors said that the police "covered it up. That's what the evidence that I saw. And I felt like there should have been lots more charges on them."
The FBI is conducting its own independent investigation, announced by its Louisville field office on May 21. After the state grand jury charges were announced, the FBI stated, "FBI Louisville continues its federal investigation into all aspects of the death of Breonna Taylor. This work will continue beyond the state charges announced today."
Photographic and video evidence
On May 14, 2020, 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 her apartment and the apartment next door.
The Louisville police claimed that none of the officers were wearing body cameras, as all three were plainclothes narcotics officers. On September 4, several news sources, including The Courier-Journal, reported that photographs of police officers taken late that day showed that at least one wore a body camera. In the later photographs, one of the officers who fired his weapon, Myles Cosgrove, was wearing a mount for a body camera; another detective who was present wore a body camera, although it is not known whether it was active.
On May 20, 2020, the occupants of a neighboring apartment filed a lawsuit against Hankison, Cosgrove, and Mattingly. The occupants were a pregnant woman, her child and a man. The lawsuit alleged that the officers fired blindly into their apartment and nearly hit the man's head, shattered a sliding glass door, and hit objects in three rooms and a hallway.
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. A 911 call later released to the public provided a recording of Walker telling the 911 operator, "somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend".
Walker was later released from jail due to coronavirus concerns, which drew criticism from Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Steve Conrad.
Judge Olu Stevens released Walker from home incarceration on May 22. Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine then 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 wanted the charges dropped 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. On May 26, 2020, Judge Olu Stevens granted Wine's motion to drop all charges against Walker. 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.
In September 2020, Walker filed a suit against the Louisville Metro Police Department accusing it of misconduct and claiming he did not fire the bullet that injured Mattingly. His lawyer, Steve Romines, has raised claims that Walker fired only one bullet and that the recovered round had no blood on it.
On May 15, Taylor's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the estate of Breonna Taylor against the officers and the city of Louisville. It states that Taylor and Walker were sleeping in the bedroom before the incident happened, and that the police officers were in unmarked vehicles. The lawsuit states that Taylor and Walker thought the apartment 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."
The lawsuit was resolved in mid-September 2020. The Louisville Metro Government (LMG) agreed to pay Taylor's estate $12 million, "one of the highest settlement amounts ever paid in America for the wrongful death of a Black woman by police", according to family attorney Benjamin Crump. The officers and the LMG admitted no liability nor wrongdoing and were absolved of any medical expenses related to Taylor's death and the settlement prevents Taylor's family from suing the city. The city agreed to initiate a housing credits program for police officers to live in the Louisville Metro area, a fundamental community policing measure, institute policing changes requiring more oversight by top commanders, and make mandatory safeguards that were only "common practice" before the raid.
Mattingly was one of three officers who took part in the raid that killed Taylor, and the officer allegedly wounded by Walker. In October 2020, Mattingly's lawyer announced that he was filing a countersuit against Walker for his injury. He alleged that the gunshot wound caused severe damage and that Mattingly was "entitled to, and should, use the legal process to seek a remedy for the injury that Walker caused." The lawsuit details that Mattingly underwent five hours of surgery because the shot severed his femoral artery, and alleges battery, assault and emotional distress. The suit also claims that Walker's response to the officers raid via a no-knock warrant was "outrageous, intolerable and offends all accepted standards of decency or morality".
Policy and administrative changes
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 announced in May that it would require all sworn officers to wear body cameras, and will change how it carries out search warrants. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer indefinitely suspended the use of no-knock warrants on May 29.
On January 6, 2021, the LMPD fired Cosgrove, who shot and killed Taylor, and Jaynes, who obtained the warrant for the raid.
In June, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) 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.
Breonna Taylor Memorial in Jefferson Square in Louisville, Kentucky
In a September 2020 personal email Mattingly sent his colleagues, he blamed the city's mayor and police chief for failing the department "for their own gain and to cover their asses", faulted senior staff and the FBI for being unwilling "to hold the line", and urged his colleagues, "Do what you need to do to go home you [sic] your family." Mattingly gave an interview in October to ABC News and The Louisville Courier Journal in which he reiterated his accusations that city officials had not come to his and the other officers' defense in the incident's aftermath. In the interview he highlighted the tragedy of the shooting but claimed that it was unlike the death of George Floyd, saying, "This is not us going, hunting somebody down. This is not kneeling on a neck. It's nothing like that. [...] She didn't deserve to die. She didn't do anything to deserve a death sentence."
Politicians and public officials
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 Attorney General 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 FBI and the United States Attorney to review the local findings of the Public Integrity Unit's investigation when it is completed.
For weeks after Taylor's death, her family, members of the community, and protesters around the world requested that officers involved be dehired and criminally charged. Many, including Taylor's family and friends, protested outside Mayor Fisher's office.
Celebrities and public figures
Commentators such as Arwa Mahdawi and 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.
"Arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor" has become a common Internet meme. It has been criticized for trivializing the incident by being akin to the meme "Epstein didn't kill himself". In late July 2020, American record producer J. W. Lucas, who is white, made controversial statements on Twitter that seemed to justify Taylor's murder, which received extremely negative reactions, including from activist Tamika Mallory, with whom he later had a heated exchange on Instagram Live. Rapper Jack Harlow, whose single "Whats Poppin" Lucas produced, publicly denounced Lucas, saying that he did not know who Lucas was and was not aware of his involvement in the song.
The September 2020 edition of O magazine featured Taylor on the cover instead of the usual image of Oprah Winfrey as a way to honor "her life and the life of every other black woman whose life has been taken too soon". It was the first issue in the magazine's 20-year history that did not have Winfrey's image on its cover. Until Freedom and O magazine put up 26 billboards--one for every year of Taylor's life--around Louisville. Winfrey released a video five months after Taylor's death calling for the arrest of the officers involved.
Professional sports teams and individual athletes have honored Taylor and called for the end of racial injustice. Before the 2019-20 NBA season restarted, the Memphis Grizzlies wore shirts with Taylor's name and "#SayHerName" as they arrived at the arena. At the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton wore a T-shirt on the podium with the words "Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor." The governing body, the FIA, considered investigating Hamilton for violating the protocols for political messaging, but decided no investigation was necessary.
The September 2020 edition of Vanity Fair featured a painting of Taylor by Amy Sherald on the cover. The issue included an interview with Taylor's mother by author Ta-Nehisi Coates. In September 2020, George Clooney issued a statement in which he said that he was "ashamed" by the decision to charge Hankison with wanton endangerment rather than with Taylor's death.
On December 26, 2020, a ceramic bust of Taylor that was installed near City Hall in downtown Oakland, California, was smashed, apparently with a baseball bat. The statue stood on a pedestal bearing the words, "Say Her Name, Breonna Taylor".
^Kenneth Walker was initially charged with attempted murder of a police officer and first-degree assault. These charges have since been dropped. The remaining charged individual(s) is noted below.
^Breonna Taylor's family, on behalf of the estate of Breonna Taylor, filed a lawsuit on May 15, 2020 against the three officers involved in the raid and the Louisville Metro Government (LMG). Ultimately, the lawsuit ended in a settlement in which the estate was awarded $12 million--"one of the highest settlement amounts ever paid in America for the wrongful death of a Black woman by police" according to family attorney Benjamin Crump, quoted in the city's press release on the settlement--the officers and the Louisville Metro Government admitted no liability nor wrongdoing and were absolved of any medical expenses related to Taylor's death, and the city agreed to the family's demands to establish a housing credit program for police officers to be able to live in the community they serve and protect, a fundamental community policing measure, as well as a wide array of other reforms.
^Kenneth Walker filed a lawsuit against the LMPD and City of Louisville in September 2020 invoking Kentucky's stand-your-ground law to ask the court for immunity from prosecution regarding his use of a firearm during the event and seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages for assault and battery by the police, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and negligence.
^A lawsuit was also filed by Chelsey Napper and Cody Etherton who were in the neighboring apartment.