Breonna Taylor Was Killed by Police in Her Home in March. The Officers Have Yet to Be Arrested

breonna taylor
Katie Connor

Update, 7/11: Per NBC, new audio from interviews with police and Breonna Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, has been released. In the interview, Walker is heard reocunting the night of March 13 and the events that led to his girlfriend's murder.

"It's a loud boom at the door. First thing she said was, 'Who is it?' No response," he said.

"We both get up, start putting on clothes, another knock at the door. She's like, 'Who is it?' Loud, at the top of her lungs. No response," Walker, 27, said. "I grab my gun, which is legal, like I'm licensed to carry, everything. I've never even fired my gun outside of a range. I'm scared to death." He added that Taylor yelled "at the top of her lungs" again to ask who was there. "No response, no anything." He said Taylor put on clothes to answer the door, but then it came "off the hinges."

He continued: "I just let off one shot. Like, I still can't see who it is or anything. So now the door's, like, flying open," he continued. "I let off one shot, and then all of a sudden there's a whole lot of shots and we like we both just dropped to the ground."

In an interview with Sgt. Jon Mattingly, who broke down Taylor's door with officers Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison, Mattingly said: "The first banging on the door, [we] did not announce," he said. "I think after that we did. ... After that, each one of them said, 'Police, come the door. Search warrant. Police, search warrant.'"

In his interview, Walker said he did not hear this: "All can hear is a knock at the door," he said. "Even if somebody was saying something on the other side, you probably couldn't hear them. But as loud as we were screaming to say who it is, I know whoever will be on the other side of the door could hear us."

Update, 6/20: On Friday, Louisville mayor, Greg Fischer, confirmed that Brett Hankison, one of the three officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor, would be fired from the Louisville Metro Police.

The department's interim police chief, Robert Schroeder, wrote a pretermination letter to Hankison on Friday.

"I find your conduct a shock to the conscience," Schroeder wrote. "I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion. The result of your action seriously impedes the Department's goal of providing the citizens of our city with the most professional law enforcement agency possible. I cannot tolerate this type of conduct by any member of the Louisville Metro Police Department. Your conduct demands your termination." Schroeder also added in his letter that Hankison had been disciplined for reckless conduct in early 2019.

The pretermination letter will be followed by a pretermination hearing, expected to take place next week, per The Courier-Journal.

Original post, June 12:

June 5 would have been Breonna Taylor's 27th birthday. Nearly a week later, Louisville Metro Council unanimously voted to pass "Breonna's Law," which bans the type of no-knock warrants used the night she died. Taylor was shot and killed by police in her own home on March 13, but the officers involved in her death have yet to be arrested or fired. Now, people are demanding justice for her death.

Taylor, who worked as an emergency medical technician, was in her Kentucky apartment with her boyfriend when police attempted what has now been referred to as a “botched” search warrant execution. Her family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit and hired Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney who is also representing the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. More than two months after Arbery’s death, the two white men who have been accused of shooting him were finally arrested, and the four officers involved with Floyd's death have been arrested and charged.

“They’re killing our sisters just like they’re killing our brothers, but for whatever reason, we have not given our sisters the same attention that we have given to Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Stephon Clark, Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald,” Crump told The Washington Post. "Breonna’s name should be known by everybody in America who said those other names, because she was in her own home, doing absolutely nothing wrong.” He continued, “If you ran for Ahmaud, you need to stand for Bre.”

Below, what you need to know about Taylor’s case and how you can help right now.

What happened on March 13th?

In the early morning, police officers came to Taylor’s apartment where she was asleep with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker. According to the Associated Press, police had a warrant to search Taylor’s apartment as part of a drug investigation, though the family’s lawsuit states the suspect in the investigation had already been detained at the time of the search. Police believed one of the suspects was using Taylor’s apartment to “receive mail, keep drugs, or stash money earned from the sale of drugs,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The suit states Taylor and Walker believed the plainclothes police were breaking into the apartment since they entered “without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers.” A judge had signed a “no-knock” provision for the police, meaning they were able to go into Taylor’s apartment without identifying themselves, though police claim they did identify themselves. Walker called 911 and shot at a police officer in what he says was self-defense. Police then fired into the apartment, hitting Taylor eight times. The suit says Taylor was unarmed and Walker had a license to carry.

Walker’s attorney wrote in a motion, "While police may claim to have identified themselves, they did not. Mr. Walker and Ms. Taylor again heard a large bang on the door. Again, when they inquired there was no response that there was police outside. At this point, the door suddenly explodes. Counsel believes that police hit the door with a battering ram.” The lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family also states that neighbors have confirmed the police did not knock or identify themselves before entering.

One officer was shot in the leg, and Walker was arrested and charged with assault and attempted murder of a police officer. Prosecutors have since dismissed the charges.

The Associated Press reports that no drugs were found in the apartment, and Taylor and Walker had no prior criminal history or drug convictions.

What is Breonna's Law?

In early June, the Louisville Metro Council's Public Safety Committee approved a new ordinance called "Breonna's Law" that would make it so "no-knock" warrants could only be sought if there's "imminent threat of harm or death" and would also be limited to "offenses including murder, hostage-taking, kidnapping, terrorism, human trafficking and sexual trafficking," according to the Courier-Journal.

On June 11, all 26 members of the Metro Council voted to pass the ban, which prohibits any search warrant that doesn't require police to verbally announce themselves and their purpose at the property. The law also states that any Louisville Metro Police Department or Metro law enforcement must knock and wait a minimum of 15 seconds for a response. While the law will still need to be passed by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer he tweeted on Thursday, "I plan to sign Breonna's Law as soon as it hits my desk."

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Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer said after the passage, "I'm just going to say that Breonna, that's all she wanted to do was save lives. So with this law, she'll get to continue to do that," per NBC News.

What is outlined in the Louisville PD incident report related to Breonna's death?

Nearly three months after Taylor's death, the Louisville Police Department released a four-page incident report from March 13. You can read the report here, although there isn't much to see—and what's there runs contrary to what we know about the night Taylor was killed by police.

The report details the location (with partially redacted address), age (with redacted birth date), and full name of the victim. (The Louisville Courier-Journal notes that both Taylor's address and date of birth have been "widely reported" already.) Charges are listed as "death investigation — LMBD involved." Names of the three officers who fatally shot Taylor and still have yet to be charged are listed as Sgt. Jon Mattingly, 47; Myles Cosgrove, 42; and Brett Hankison, 44. (Ages reported via the Courier-Journal.) Hankison is also undergoing a sexual assault investigation after allegations by at least two women.

But what's more concerning are the rows of information left blank and two major inaccuracies regarding the night Taylor was killed. The department's report lists Taylor's injuries as "none," even though she was shot at least eight times by the three officers. The "no" box is checked under "forced entry," even though police are believed to have used a battering ram to break through Taylor's door.

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According to the Courier-Journal, the Louisville police department blamed discrepancies on the reporting program. A statement from the department said, "Inaccuracies in the report are unacceptable to us, and we are taking immediate steps to correct the report and to ensure the accuracy of incident reports going forward." Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer issued a statement on Wednesday night that said, in part, "It’s issues like this that erode public confidence in LMPD’s ability to do its job, and that’s why I’ve ordered an external top-to-bottom review of the department. I am sorry for the additional pain to the Taylor family and our community."

What do we know about the case?

The Courier-Journal is suing LMPD for the release of its investigative file of the shooting. However, many of the details surrounding Taylor's death have already been made public.

Taylor’s family has filed a lawsuit accusing the officers of wrongful death, excessive force, and gross negligence, according to The Washington Post. The officers have yet to be charged, though police opened an internal investigation and placed the officers involved on administrative leave.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced at the time that "no-knock" warrants have been temporarily suspended. Previously, he had announced officers would now be required to get a sign-off from the chief of police "or a designee," plus a judge for this kind of warrant. Fischer has also said a new police chief will be named, body cameras will now be required when executing a search warrant, and there will be a new civilian review board for "police disciplinary matters," according to the New York Times.

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Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear also said the local prosecutor, state attorney general, and federal prosecutor assigned to the region should review the results of the police investigation. He called reports about Taylor’s death “troubling,” according to the Times. The FBI is also now investigating the shooting.

What has Taylor’s family said?

In an interview with the Washington Post, Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer said she first found out something was wrong when she got a call from Walker, who said he thought someone was trying to break into the apartment. He then said, “I think they shot Breonna.”

“I want justice for her,” Palmer said. “I want them to say her name. There’s no reason Breonna should be dead at all.”

Palmer also told the Courier-Journal that Taylor was working on plans for her future: "She had a whole plan on becoming a nurse and buying a house and then starting a family. Breonna had her head on straight, and she was a very decent person."

Taylor’s sister Ju’Niyah Palmer has posted photos on social media using the hashtag #JusticeForBre. “I’m just getting awareness for my sister, for people to know who she is, what her name is,” she said. “It is literally just as equal. There’s no difference.”

How to help

Writer Cate Young started the #BirthdayForBreonna campaign, compiling a list of action items people can do to commemorate Taylor's life. Young told Refinery29, "Very often when we have these moments where these stories [of police violence] bubble up, it's usually because several cases happen in a short proximity of time, and when women are involved their names get erased. I was watching it happen in real-time and it was frustrating for me as a Black woman and an immigrant, because I'm intimately familiar with the fact that we are walked by and ignored. It was frustrating because her life mattered, too, and I wanted to make sure that we were acknowledging that she deserves justice just as much."

Here, just some of the ways you can help:

  • Sign this petition asking for the officers involved to be arrested and charged and for Congress to pass legislation that federally bans “no-knock” warrants.
  • Donate to the GoFundMe for Taylor's family.
  • Send an email to the Kentucky Attorney General and Governor using the link provided here.
  • Send a birthday card or letter to the Kentucky Attorney General and Louisville Mayor. You can find their mailing addresses here.
  • Flood social media with the hashtags #SayHerName and #BirthdayForBreonna.
  • Donate to the Louisville Community Bail Fund here to support protestors on the ground.

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