Breonna Taylor’s Boyfriend Said She Opened Fire on Cops During No-Knock Warrant Before Changing His Story
Emily Crane, Daily Mail, October 2, 2020
The fired Kentucky officer indicted on minor charges in the Breonna Taylor case told investigators that the EMT’s boyfriend initially claimed she was the one who shot at officers when they entered her apartment, grand jury testimony reveals.
About 20 hours of audio from normally secret grand jury proceedings related to the Taylor case was released for the first time on Friday – a week after a grand jury cleared three officers of homicide charges in her death.
Among the recordings is Brett Hankison’s interview with investigators in March after the 26-year-old black woman was killed when he and two other white officers opened fire in her Louisville apartment.
Hankison told investigators, in an interview heard by the grand jury, that Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had told him ‘she was the one who shot at us’. Walker later said that he was the one who opened fire.
One of Taylor’s neighbors also told investigators that police had told her that ‘some drug-dealing girl shot an officer’.
Officers had a ‘no-knock’ warrant to search Taylor’s apartment for drugs, in relation to her ex-boyfriend, the night she was killed. No drugs were ever found in her apartment.
Hankison’s account of the March 13 raid on Taylor’s apartment was contained in the hours of recordings made public on Friday by Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Cameron, a Republican and the state’s first black AG, has acknowledged that he did not recommend homicide charges for the officers involved, adding that the grand jury had the responsibility to bring additional charges if it believed they were warranted.
Hankison, who was also fired in the aftermath, was charged with wanton endangerment after his bullets entered a neighboring apartment.
The Kentucky governor, Louisville’s mayor and even a member of the grand jury itself had called for the proceedings to be released, increasing the pressure on Cameron, whom President Donald Trump has praised as a rising star in the party.
The Taylor family has won a $12 million wrongful death settlement from the city of Louisville but still asked for the evidence to be made public, questioning whether Cameron sought to shield the officers from criminal liability.
In the end, it was the judge overseeing Hanikson’s wanton endangerment case who ordered the recordings to be entered in the court file, making them public, after the grand jury’s decision not to charge the officers with Taylor’s killing angered many and set off renewed protests.
The material released on Friday does not include juror deliberations or prosecutor recommendations and statements, none of which were recorded, according to Cameron.
Among the evidence heard by the grand jury was accounts from police the night of the deadly raid. Police have said they knocked repeatedly before opening fire after the first officer inside her door was struck by a bullet.
The officers told investigators they banged on Taylor’s door and announced themselves from 30 to 90 seconds before using a battering ram to enter her apartment.
Taylor’s boyfriend maintains he did not hear officers announce themselves. Whether or not officers announced themselves has been a key issue in the case because Walker said he only fired at police because he feared they were intruders.
‘We knocked on the door, said police, waited I don’t know 10 or 15 seconds. Knocked again, said police, waited even longer,’ Louisville, Kentucky, police Lt. Shawn Hoover said in an interview recorded the day Taylor was shot.
‘So it was the third time that we were approaching, it had been like 45 seconds if not a minute,’ Hoover said.
‘And then I said, ‘Let’s go, let’s breach it’.’
Detective Myles Cosgrove, one of the three officers who fired at Taylor, told investigators that a neighbor came out during that time and yelled at Officer Hankison to leave Taylor alone.
He said the neighbor yelled ‘something about leave her alone, there was some girl there’.
Cosgrove also told investigators that officers had been told that they were approaching the house of a ‘soft target’ and that they should ‘use our maturity as investigators get into this house’.
He said that even though they had a no-knock warrant they decided to knock and announce their presence.
Cosgrove said during the time they were knocking on Taylor’s door it went from ‘gentle knocking’ to ‘forceful pounding’ as they yelled ‘police’.
Police said they used a battering ram to enter the apartment, hitting the door three times before getting inside.
Detective Michael Nobles said officers made so much noise that an upstairs neighbor came outside and had to be told to go back inside.
According to the grand jury recordings, detective Jonathan Mattingly got shot as soon as he leaned inside the apartment.
Mattingly said in testimony, some of which was previously released, that he fired four gunshots as he fell on his backside.
‘As soon as the shot was fired I could feel the heat in my leg. So I just returned fire. Got four rounds off,’ said Mattingly, who later fired two more shots before retreating because of his wound.
Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, who fired 16 rounds, hit Taylor a combined six times.
Hankison, the officer charged with wanton endangerment, fired 10 times from outside.
Hankison told investigators that moments after the door was broken down he saw darkness and then ‘immediate illumination from fire’.
He said he believed the gunfire came from an AR-15 rifle. He could be heard on radio calls saying one of his fellow officers had just been shot with an ‘AR’. Police later discovered that the weapon was a 9mm handgun.
‘What I saw at the time was a figure in a shooting stance and it looked as if he was holding, he or she was holding, an AR-15 or a long gun, a rifle,’ he said.
He said he thought that even though he was wearing his protective vest ‘there is no way we can challenge this guy with an assault rifle’.
Hoover said he believed Walker and Taylor were lying in wait for the officers.
‘We were, in my opinion, we were ambushed,’ Hoover said. ‘They knew we were there. I mean, hell, the neighbors knew we were there.’
Walker has repeatedly said he didn’t know the men who burst into the home were police.
‘We didn’t know who it was,’ Walker said in his own police interview shortly after the shooting. ‘If we knew who it was, that would have never happened.’
He told police that he and Taylor had just fallen asleep when they heard banging on the door.
Walker told investigators conducting an internal police review that Taylor asked once who was there and they heard no response. Walker told police he grabbed his gun, which he said was legally registered, and that Taylor was ‘yelling at the top of her lungs, and I am too at this point. No answer. No response. No nothing.’
Walker said when they got out of bed and were walking toward the door, ‘the door like comes like off the hinges.’
He said that’s when he ‘let off one shot’ but still couldn’t see who was there.
He said after he fired his gun ‘all of a sudden there’s a whole lot of shots’.
‘Next thing I know, she’s on the ground and the door’s busted open and I hear a bunch of yelling and just panicking.
‘And she’s right here bleeding. And nobody’s coming, and I’m just confused and scared.’
About five minutes after the gunfire erupted and Taylor was shot, her boyfriend dialed 911.
According to audio of the call played for the grand jury, Walker told a dispatcher: ‘Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.’
Walker seemed confused when police interviewed him later. He said he didn’t know why police would knock on Taylor’s door.
He told investigators that, minutes after the shooting, after he opened fire at police and officers fatally shot Taylor, ‘One officer told me I was going to jail for the rest of my life.’
Speaking to internal investigators a few hours later, he said he wasn’t sure which officer said that to him.
Walker went on to say that an officer ‘asked me, ‘Were you hit by any bullets?’ I said no. He said, ‘That´s unfortunate.’ Exact words.’
One law enforcement officer testified that police ultimately never executed the warrant to search Taylor’s apartment.
‘Were drugs money or paraphernalia recovered from apartment 4? … The answer to that is no,’ the officer said on the recording.
‘They didn’t go forward with executing the initial search warrant that they had for Breonna Taylor’s apartment.’
Cameron, whose office led the investigation into police actions in the Taylor shooting, did not object to the file’s release. But on Wednesday, his office asked for a week’s extension to edit out personal information from the material. The judge gave him two days.
The proceedings released to the public do not contain Cameron’s recommendations about what, if any, charges the jury should file against the officers who conducted the drug raid.
Cameron said neither the prosecutors’ recommendations nor the jury’s deliberations were recorded ‘as they are not evidence’. He said not recording them was ‘customary’.
Police used a narcotics warrant to enter Taylor’s Louisville apartment on March 13. The 26-year-old emergency medical worker, was shot five times.
Cameron said two officers who fired their guns, hitting Taylor, were justified because Taylor’s boyfriend had shot at them first. The boyfriend has said he thought someone was breaking in.
The grand jury did charge fired Officer Brett Hankison with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into a neighboring apartment. No one was hit.
He has pleaded not guilty. Cameron said there was no conclusive evidence that any of Hankison’s shots hit Taylor.
The audio recording of the jury proceedings were being added to Hankison’s public court file.