Oct 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Breonna Taylor grand jury audio released

People gather at Breonna Taylors makeshift memorial in Louisville, Kentucky

People gather at a makeshift memorial for Breonna Taylor in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Photo: Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

New details have emerged on the police killing of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman in Louisville, Ky., after audio from 15 hours of grand jury proceedings surrounding the case was released on Friday.

Why it matters: While grand jury proceedings are secret and their recordings rarely disclosed, a Kentucky judge ordered the state's Attorney General Daniel Cameron to publicly shared the tapes following nationwide protests in response to the case.

What the recordings say:

  • Despite obtaining a "no knock" warrant, police rapped on Taylor's apartment door and announced themselves several times in the early hours of March 13, according a recorded interview of officer Shawn Hoover on the day Taylor was killed. That tape was played for the grand jury. Another officer said they knocked for at least two minutes before barging into the apartment, per AP.
  • Yes, but: In a separate interview played for the grand jury, Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he didn't hear police announce themselves. Had they done so, “it changes the whole situation because there’s nothing for us to be scared of," Walker said, according to AP.
  • Detective Tony James told the attorney general's office on Sept. 11 that he was issued a body camera for the raid on Taylor's home, but it failed to activate. “I did it in the car, but it did not, I did not know that it did not activate," James said in the interview, which was later played for the grand jury, per the Courier Journal. "But it was rigged up and ready to go.”
  • Police also said they were fired upon when they entered Taylor's home, per the Courier Journal. “I didn’t hear anything, I just looked, he yelled, he screamed,” detective Michael Nobles said of Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, according to a recording from three days after the incident — played for the grand jury.
  • Mattingly "just looked up and said, 'I’ve been shot.' ... He went down, and I could see blood immediately, just, coming out of his leg. And then I think he took a couple more shots. He was aiming at something in the door. And he took a couple more shots inside," Nobles said, per the Courier Journal.
  • According to AP, then-officer Brett Hankison, who was later fired and charged in the case, said in a recorded police interview played for the grand jury that as soon as the door was broken down, there was complete darkness, followed by "immediate illumination from fire."
  • "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,” Hankison said. Walker had a handgun, which he fired once.
  • In a 9-11 call made by Walker about five minutes after police barged into the apartment, he said: “Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.” That call had been previously reported by the Courier Journal.

Timeline: Taylor was shot and killed by police on March 13 when the LMPD officers conducting a narcotics investigation barged into the 26-year-old's home in plain-clothes after obtaining the so-called "no-knock" warrant.

  • Police exchanged fire with Walker, who said he mistook law enforcement for intruders.
  • Protests over Taylor's death erupted in Louisville in May following the police killing of George Floyd.
  • On Sept. 23, the grand jury indicted Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment for "blindly" shooting into neighbor's apartments. Cameron said the two other officers who fired their weapons — Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — were "justified" in their actions because Walker fired his weapon first.

What they're saying: Cameron said in a statement Friday he was "confident that once the public listens to the recordings, they will see that our team presented a thorough case to the Jefferson County Grand Jury.”

  • “Our presentation followed the facts and the evidence, and the Grand Jury was given a complete picture of the events surrounding Ms. Taylor’s death on March 13th. While it is unusual for a court to require the release of the recordings from Grand Jury proceedings, we complied with the order, rather than challenging it, so that the full truth can be heard," the state attorney general said.
  • Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Taylor's family, tweeted his team would review "all footage and provide updates when available."

Worth noting: Juror deliberations and prosecutor recommendations and statements were not recorded, according to Cameron's office.

  • His office also noted that redacted material not publicly released totalled approximately three minutes and 50 seconds from the entire proceedings.

Go deeper: "Not enough": Protesters react to no murder charges in Breonna Taylor case

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