As was announced earlier this week, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron turned over 15 hours of recordings yesterday from the grand jury hearing the Breonna Taylor shooting case. I didn’t have time to sit through the whole thing, so I’m grateful for the work of reporters from the Associated Press and other outlets who slogged through all of it looking for relevant information. Much of it was apparently the typical, pro forma questions and answers you would expect from such an investigation confirming a lot of what we’d already heard, but there were a few nuggets in there suggesting that the accounts offered by the police involved in the raid were mostly accurate.
The police officer who fatally shot Breonna Taylor described seeing only “shadowy mass” and said he didn’t recall firing the 16 bullets later matched to his gun. As she lay bleeding, Taylor’s boyfriend called his mother before dialing 911.
And neighbors roused by the gunfire at Taylor’s apartment after midnight on March 13 only added to conflicting testimony about whether police serving a narcotics warrant announced themselves before using a battering ram to break down her door.
Details of the chaos and confusion during the raid that resulted in the 26-year-old Black woman’s death were revealed in 15 hours of audio recordings released Friday. They contained testimony and recorded interviews presented last month to the Kentucky grand jury that decided not to charge any Louisville police officers for killing Taylor.
As mentioned above, there were some conflicting bits of testimony given during the investigation so we likely won’t have a 100% definitive answer that will fully satisfy either side in this debate, but a couple of details stand out. The testimony of Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, along with a few of their neighbors are of particular interest and seem to support the official account of what happened.
The issue with the greatest significance is precisely what happened in the moments leading up to the police battering the door open and the seconds that followed when the shooting took place. The police say that despite having a no-knock warrant, they decided to knock anyway, announcing who they were and giving the occupants somewhere between 45 seconds and two minutes to answer prior to breaking in the door. Walker asserts that he never heard them identify themselves as police officers, leading to his belief that criminal intruders were breaking into the apartment and his decision to fire his legally-owned handgun, striking detective Jonathan Mattingly in the leg.
While testifying to the grand jury, Walker revealed that he and Taylor were in bed when the police arrived, not in the living room. This fact seems critical for a couple of reasons. First of all, when saying that he didn’t hear the police announce their arrival, Walker admits that it might have been because he was “too far away.” (In the bedroom.) But while he may not have heard the announcement, he clearly heard the knocking because he and Taylor had enough time to get out of bed, with Walker grabbing his handgun before they came out of the bedroom into the hallway. That’s where they were standing when the door was broken open. The accounts given by both Walker and the police agree on that point.
This eliminates the idea that the police simply smashed the door open unannounced. They had to have been knocking for a fair bit of time for all those actions to transpire. Further, at least one neighbor on the next floor testified that the knocking was loud enough to cause him to come outside to see what the commotion was before the door was broken in.
Unfortunately, the testimony of several neighbors seemed to be in conflict when it comes to the question of whether the police announced themselves. Two said they never even heard the knocking. One claimed to have heard the knocking, but not the announcement of the identity of the police. Yet another gave three differing accounts, twice saying he heard the police announce themselves, and once saying he did not. It’s worth noting that the raid took place late in the evening in the middle of March. The weather was cool and most of the residents probably had their windows closed. Hearing anything said out on the balcony might have been problematic.
I suppose we have to ask ourselves how likely it is that multiple trained law enforcement officers would stand there knocking on a door for a minute or more without informing the residents that the police had arrived. All of this paints a picture supporting the police officers’ testimony as to how this played out. No one disputes what happened after the door opened. Walker fired first, striking detective Mattingly and the police returned fire at what one described as “a shadowy mass” in the hallway, missing Walker but killing Taylor.
The recordings also confirm that Attorney General Cameron never asked the jury to consider murder or homicide charges in the death of Breonna Taylor. This seems to be a sticking point for many protesters and activists. But given all of the testimony describing what actually happened, why would anyone offer the jury that option? It remains a case that the prosecutors seemed destined to lose if they attempted to charge the cops in Taylor’s death.
Barring any further, startling evidence turning up, this sounds like it wraps up the case. That’s not to say that it will satisfy all of the protesters and rioters around the country who continue to insist that Taylor was “murdered” by the police, but it really seems as if the courts have done all they could do.
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