Shooting of Breonna Taylor
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American emergency medical technician, was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove 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 that 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 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."
- Breonna Taylor – an emergency medical technician working for University of Louisville Health. Her funeral was held on March 21, 2020.
- Kenneth Walker – Taylor's boyfriend, who lived with her in the apartment.
- Jonathan Mattingly – an LMPD police officer who joined the department in 2000, became a sergeant in 2009, and joined the narcotics division in 2016.
- Brett Hankison – an LMPD detective. Hankison joined the department in 2003.
- Myles Cosgrove – an LMPD police officer who transferred to the department's narcotics division in 2016.
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.
Investigations and aftermath
Inaccurate police incident reportThe police filed an incident report that stated 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.
Investigations into the three police officersAll 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.
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 ; he had ten days to appeal his termination to the Louisville Police Merit Board.
Kenneth WalkerWalker 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".
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 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.
Taylor's familyOn 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."
Release of photos of the sceneOn 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.
Changes to police department policy and firing of police chiefOn 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.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer indefinitely suspended the use of "no knock" warrants on May 29.
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.
ProtestsFor 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.
shouting out Taylor's name in remembrance for what would have been her 27th birthday.
, Germany, on June 6, 2020; demonstrators hold posters with the photos of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
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 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, Independence Day, over 100 people participated in the Youth March for Freedom in downtown Louisville. The participants stopped at historical civil rights site; speakers called for the end of racial injustice and told the story 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 Daniel 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, or "Not F**king 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 for officials to speed up and be more transparent about the investigation into Taylor’s death.
Legislative proposalsIn 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.
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.
ReactionsFor 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.
"Arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor" has become a common Internet meme akin to "Epstein didn't kill himself", which has drawn mixed reactions.
In late July 2020, American record producer JW Lucas, who is white, made controversial statements on Twitter seeming to justify Taylor's murder, which led to extremely negative reactions, including from activist Tamika Mallory, whom he later had a heated exchange with over 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 Breonna Taylor on the cover instead of the usual image Oprah Winfrey as a way to honor "her life and the life of every other Black woman whose life has been taken too soon." This was the first in its 20-year history that Oprah Winfrey will not be the cover image on her magazine.
Professional sports teams and individual athletes are honoring Taylor and calling for the end of racial injustice. Prior to the restart of 2020 NBA season the Memphis Grizzlies all wore shirts with Taylor's name along with #SayHerName as they arrived at the arena.