Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old unarmed 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.[discuss] 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. On October 2, 2020, recordings from the grand jury investigation into the shooting were released.
The shooting of Taylor by white police officers led to 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 was an 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 away. 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. In various recorded jailhouse conversations in January 2020, Glover said that Taylor had been handling his money. However, in phone calls made after Taylor's death, Glover has also repeatedly claimed that she was not involved in any drug operations, and he has made conflicting statements about having left money with her. In a jail phone call made after the raid by one of Glover's co-defendants, he said "the money is in [Taylor's] name".
LMPD obtained a "no-knock" search warrant for Taylor's apartment at 3003 Springfield Drive #4, Louisville, Kentucky. 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 wrote with skepticism about the warrant, saying that if the warrant had been 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.
However, 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 own 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, prior to 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, and—having heard no answer—that he then 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 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.
According to a statement by Attorney General Daniel 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 nearby Taylor's apartment. However, 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 says 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. However, the bullet that struck Mattingly 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 was pronounced dead at the scene. 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.
Investigations and legal proceedings
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-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.
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; however, no counts were filed. Neither Hankison nor the two other officers involved in the raid were indicted for Taylor's death. Cameron initially said at the news conference that he had walked the grand jury through "every homicide offense, and also presented all of the information that was available."
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. Attorneys for Hankison and Walker 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. 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". The juror deliberations and prosecutor recommendations were not released, and according the state attorney general's office, were never recorded.
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."
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 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 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.
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, 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, KY
For weeks after Taylor's death, there was very little public reaction or response from government officials, and the LMPD had 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 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."
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.
Protesters in Indianapolis shouting out Taylor's name in remembrance for what would have been her 27th birthday.
A protest against racism in Berlin, 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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
^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.
^Burke, Minyvonne (May 13, 2020). "Breonna Taylor police shooting: What we know about the Kentucky woman's death". NBC News. Archived from the original on May 30, 2020. Retrieved May 31, 2020. 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.
^ abSearch Warrant(PDF) (Affidavit), Jefferson County, Kentucky: Reason (magazine) (published June 21, 2020), March 12, 2020, 20-1371, archived(PDF) from the original on October 3, 2020, retrieved October 9, 2020