In grand jury testimony made public on Friday, a law enforcement officer said police in Kentucky did not end up searching Breonna Taylor’s apartment on the day she was shot and killed by police who had arrived with a search warrant.
Police were carrying a narcotics warrant for Taylor’s Louisville apartment on 13 March. In a botched raid, they shot her after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at them on the assumption that they were intruders.
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical worker, was in bed when the police arrived. The killing of another Black American at the hands of white police officers prompted protests in downtown Louisville every day for months, which still continue, and also became part of the national and international reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter movement.
There were renewed protests in Louisville last month after a grand jury, acting on evidence presented by the Kentucky attorney general’s office, declined to issue any charges directly in relation to Taylor’s killing.
In a confusing mountain of evidence released on Friday after a court order, one officer said no drugs, money or paraphernalia were found at the home – but also that it was not searched.
And the officers were carrying out a so-called “no-knock” warrant, but an officer also told the grand jury that they knocked on Taylor’s door several times and announced their presence.
Hours of secret grand jury proceedings were made public, a rare release of such material.
Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel 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.
Cameron, a Republican and the state’s first African American attorney general, has acknowledged that he did not recommend homicide charges for the officers involved.
Police used a narcotics warrant to enter Taylor’s Louisville apartment on 13 March and shot her after Taylor’s boyfriend fired at them.
The investigation that led to the warrant, however, related to an ex-boyfriend of Taylor’s.
The three officers opened fire with dozens of shots and Taylor was hit at least five times.
Walker told police that he and Taylor had just fallen asleep when they heard banging on the door the night of 13 March.
He 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”, and he and Taylor dropped to the ground. He told investigators “they’re just shooting, but we’re both on the ground and all the shots stop”, and that Taylor was “right there on the ground, bleeding”.
After he opened fire at police and officers fatally shot Taylor, Walker told investigators: “One officer told me I was going to jail for the rest of my life,” according to the interview that was played for the grand jury, as part of the proceedings that were publicly released Friday.
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.” In the audio recording of the grand jury session, someone in the room is heard saying: “That’s not appropriate.”
Cameron said two officers who fired their guns, hitting Taylor, were justified because Walker had shot at them first. Walker has said he thought someone was breaking in.
The grand jury, a panel of ordinary citizens who gather behind closed doors to hear evidence and decide on charges, if any, in certain criminal investigations, did charge officer Brett Hankison, who has been fired by the department, with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting wildly, resulting in bullets entering a neighboring apartment.
He has pleaded not guilty. Cameron said there was no conclusive evidence that any of Hankison’s shots hit Taylor.
The release comes a day after the first woman to lead the Louisiana Metro police department, Yvette Gentry, was sworn in as the department’s interim chief and first Black woman to hold that position.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said it will conduct its own review of the grand jury audio recordings.