Breonna Taylor Death: Grand Jury Tapes Released
In a rare disclosure, recordings from the grand jury investigation into the Breonna Taylor police shooting case have been released.
Some 15 hours of audio were made public on October 2, following a lawsuit.
The recent decision not to charge any officers for Breonna Taylor’s killing on March 13 renewed outcry over racial inequities.
Unrest gripped Breonna Taylor’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky for days afterward.
With roughly 15 hours of audio released, not all the details have yet been reviewed.
However, early reviews of the tapes reveal testimony from at least two Louisville police officers who said that they knocked several times and announced themselves as police before entering Breonna Taylor’s apartment.
“We knocked on the door, said ‘police’, waited I don’t know 10 or 15 seconds. Knocked again, said ‘police’, waited even longer,” said Louisville police lieutenant Shawn Hoover in an interview recorded on the day Breonna Taylor was shot, later played for the grand jury.
“So it was the third time that we were approaching, it had been like 45 seconds if not a minute,” Shawn Hoover said.
“And then I said, ‘Let’s go, let’s breach it.'”
The officers were so loud, one testified, that a neighbor came outside saying something like “Leave that girl alone,” Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly said.
Whether or not the officers announced themselves before entering has been questioned by Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, and a number of her neighbors.
Kenneth Walker, who fired at police, said he did so in self-defense, believing the officers to be intruders.
In a police interview played for the grand jury, Kenneth Walker said that they had not heard police identify themselves before they entered her apartment. If they had, “it changes the whole situation because there was nothing for us to be scared of,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
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Officer Myles Cosgrove – who the FBI said fired the shot that killed Breonna Taylor – described a chaotic scene to investigators, in which he was “overwhelmed with bright flashes and darkness”, and seemed confused by the precise order of events.
“I just sense that I’ve fired,” he said in a recording, according to the New York Times.
“It’s like a surreal thing. If you told me I didn’t do something at that time, I’d believe you. If you told me I did so something, I’d probably believe you, too.”
When police entered the apartment, they encountered a figure who looked as if he or she was holding some type of long gun, said officer Brett Hankinson in a recorded police interview.
Brett Hankinson has since been charged with wanton endangerment for firing shots into an adjoining apartment.
However, Kenneth Walker was holding a handgun, not a long gun.
He told investigators he was “scared to death” when he heard banging on the apartment door, the New York Times said. He said he fired one shot from his gun before he could see who was at the door.
“All of a sudden there’s a whole lot of shots,” he said.
“Next thing I know, she’s [Breonna’s] on the ground… And she’s right here bleeding. And nobody’s coming and I’m just confused and scared.”
Grand jury deliberations and prosecutor recommendations were not recorded, and so were not included in the released material.
The death of Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical worker, during a police raid in March has been a high-profile case, prompting protests against police misconduct and racial inequality.
Breonna Taylor was shot dead at age 26 when officers Brett Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove stormed her Louisville home. They were executing a search warrant as part of a drugs investigation.
Last week, Brett Hankison was charged with wanton endangerment, but no-one was charged in connection with Ms Taylor’s death.
The decision not to charge any officer with murder or manslaughter has led to repeated Black Lives Matter protests in Louisville and elsewhere.
It also prompted questions over the handling of the case by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, with critics calling for greater transparency.