Shooting of Breonna Taylor
|Date||March 13, 2020|
|Time||c. 12:40 a.m.|
|Location||Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.|
|Charges||Wanton endangerment (3 counts)|
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, was fatally shot in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment on March 13, 2020, when a search warrant was executed by white officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD). Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was inside the apartment with her when the officers repeatedly knocked on the door and then forced entry. The officers said they announced they were police before forcing entry, but Walker said he did not hear that, thought they were intruders and fired a warning shot at them. According to officials, it hit Mattingly in the leg. The officers fired 32 shots in return. Walker was unhurt but Taylor was hit by six bullets and died.
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 a neighbor of Taylor with his shots. None of the officers involved in the raid were directly charged in Taylor's death.
Taylor's death and the non-indictment of the police officers for it led to protests across the United States.
- Breonna Taylor worked for University of Louisville Health as a full-time ER technician and was a former emergency medical technician. Her funeral was held on March 21, 2020.
- 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 was an LMPD detective. Hankison joined the department in 2003.
- Myles Cosgrove is an LMPD police officer who was transferred to the department's narcotics division in 2016.
Shortly after midnight on March 13, 2020, Louisville police entered Taylor's and Walker's apartment, using a battering ram to force open the door. The police were investigating two men they believed were selling drugs. It was originally reported that the Taylor/Walker home was included in a "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 their apartment to receive packages, but The New York Times later reported that before the raid, the order had been changed to "knock and announce", meaning that the police were required to identify themselves.
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 more than 10 miles away. Glover and Taylor had been in an on-off relationship. They began dating in 2016, according to Glover. In December 2016, Fernandez Bowman was found dead in a car rented by Taylor and used by Glover. He had been shot eight times. Taylor ended the relationship in February 2020, when she committed to Kenneth Walker, said a Taylor family attorney. 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 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. This 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. No drugs were found in Taylor's apartment after the warrant was executed.
Kenneth Walker, believing intruders were breaking into the apartment, said he fired a warning shot. According to officials, it struck Mattingly in the leg. Police then fired 32 rounds into the apartment. Mattingly, the only officer who entered the residence, fired six shots. At the same time, Cosgrove fired 16 shots from the doorway area, all 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. A wrongful death lawsuit the Taylor family's attorney filed against the police alleges that the officers, who entered Taylor's home "without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers", opened fire "with a total disregard for the value of human life", but Walker said there was knocking at the door and the police account claims the officers knocked and repeatedly announced themselves before forcing entry. The New York Times interviewed roughly a dozen neighbors and found 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. On September 23, 2020, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that an independent investigation concluded that the officers both knocked and announced their presence, which was corroborated by an independent witness who was in proximity to Taylor's apartment, apartment 4. On September 30, the witness's lawyer said that his client never said that police announced themselves loud enough, and he implied that the witness was quoted out of context or that video was deceivingly spliced. According to Vice News, the witness originally said "nobody identified themselves" when interviewed by police a week after the shooting. However, the police called him two months later, when he said he heard "This is the cops."
Taylor's family has said there was no announcement and that Walker and Taylor believed someone was breaking in, causing Walker to act in self-defense. In his police interrogation, Walker said that Taylor yelled "Who is it?" several times after hearing a loud bang at the door and received no answer, and that he then armed himself. Walker shot first, striking a police officer in the leg. In response, the officers fired more than 20 rounds, hitting objects in the living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, bathroom, and both bedrooms. Taylor was struck by six bullets and pronounced dead at the scene. No drugs were found in the apartment.
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.
Investigations and legal proceedings
Autopsy and death certificate
Taylor's death certificate notes that an autopsy was performed and a manner of death was determined. It lists her manner of death as homicide. The death certificate also notes that she received five gunshot wounds to the body. The coroner denied The Courier-Journal's 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.
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. The FBI is also conducting its own independent investigation, announced by the Bureau's Louisville field office on May 21.
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. Bullets also entered the above apartment of a black family, but no counts were filed. Neither Hankison nor the two other officers involved in the raid were indicted for Taylor's death. Conviction could include a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine for each count. Cameron said the FBI investigation was still ongoing. The Louisville Courier Journal raised questions about whether the grand jury was allowed to decide if charges should have been pressed against Mattingly and Cosgrove or if prosecutors decided that the officers acted in self-defense without submitting the issue to the grand jury. Attorneys for Hankison and Walker requested the release of the grand jury transcript and related evidence. On September 28, a judge ordered the release of the grand jury proceedings' recording after an anonymous juror filed a motion requesting it be made public.
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".
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 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, with the City of Louisville agreeing to pay Taylor's mother $12 million and institute policing changes requiring more oversight by top commanders, and making mandatory safeguards that were only "common practice" up to the time of the raid.
Photographic and video evidence
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.
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.
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.
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 in federal drug investigations and provide incentives to states to enact a similar prohibition.
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.
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.
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 Kentucky 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 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.
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, 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 previously 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.
On July 4, over 100 people participated in the Youth March for Freedom in downtown Louisville. The participants stopped at historical civil rights sites, and speakers called for the end of racial injustice and told the stories of the people affiliated with the sites.
On July 14, the national social justice organization Until Freedom organized a march of over 100 people to the house of Kentucky attorney general Cameron, where protesters occupied his lawn, demanding charges against the officers involved in the killing. Police officers and a police helicopter were present as 87 protesters, including Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills and The Real Housewives of Atlanta star Porsha Williams, were arrested and removed from the lawn.
As of mid-July 2020, there have been about 50 days of protests. According to LMPD, 435 protesters have been arrested.
On July 24, protesters marched into the NuLu area of Louisville, blocked the 600 block of E. Market Street with metal barricades and set up long metal tables for an impromptu block party to highlight demands for NuLU business owners, including hiring a more proportionate number of black workers. Police cleared the street and arrested 76 protesters who refused to leave.
On July 25, 300 members of the Atlanta-based black militia NFAC (Not Fucking Around Coalition) marched in Louisville to Metro Hall with the street lined with local protesters. John "Grandmaster Jay" Johnson, founder of the NFAC, gave a speech calling on officials to speed up and be more transparent about the investigation into Taylor’s death.
As of August 10, LMPD had arrested 500 protesters over 75 days of protests.
On September 23, the night after the grand jury verdict was announced, protesters gathered in the Jefferson Square Park area of Louisville as well as many other cities in the United States, including Los Angeles, Dallas, Minneapolis, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Portland. The previous day, a state of emergency had been declared in Louisville in anticipation of the verdict announcement. In Louisville, two LMPD officers were shot during the protest and one suspect was kept in custody. Also in Louisville, two reporters from the right-wing website The Daily Caller were arrested and charged with breaking curfew and unlawful assembly. In Buffalo, a pickup truck was driven through a crowd of protesters, striking and injuring one. In Seattle, a police officer rode a bicycle over a man's head. In Denver, one person was detained for driving into a protester. No injuries were reported.
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 JW 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 didn't know who Lucas was and wasn't 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. Twenty-six billboards–one for every year of Taylor's life–were put up around Louisville by Until Freedom and O magazine. 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 that killed Breonna Taylor." The governing body, the FIA, considered investigating Hamilton for violating the protocols for political messaging, but decided no investigation was necessary.
- Berwyn Heights, Maryland mayor's residence drug raid
- Jose Guerena shooting
- Killing of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal
- Shooting of Atatiana Jefferson
- George Floyd protests
- 2020 United States racial unrest
- Lists of killings by law enforcement officers in the United States
- Breonna Taylor
- Jon Mattingly
- 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.
- One by Breonna Taylor's family against the three officers involved in the raid. Ultimately, the lawsuit ended in settlement where the family got $12 million.
- One by Chelsey Napper
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Sgt. Jon Mattingly, who has been with LMPD since 2000, also was struck by gunfire. He's expected to survive.
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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.
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- Media related to Death of Breonna Taylor at Wikimedia Commons