The Untold Story of Breonna Taylor
This is yet more evidence that no-knock raids should be banned. They are useful only for the war on drugs. Libertarians deplore the war on drugs and there are many who agree with that. If Ms Taylor became known as a victim of the war on drugs, her death could have some benefit.
The police involved are certainly not to blame. If someone shoots at them, they are entitled to shoot back. It's the insane rules under which they operate that are to blame. If they knocked in a normal civil way, a perp may have time to flush his stash down the toilet but where is the tragedy in that? It is surely a much lesser tragedy than the death at police hands of an innocent person
People should be demonstrating about the death of Ms Taylor but they should be blaming police rules, not the police themselves
Breonna Taylor had just done four overnight shifts at the hospital where she worked as an emergency room technician. To let off some steam, she and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, planned a date night: dinner at a steakhouse, followed by a movie in bed.
Usually, they headed to his apartment, where he lived alone and she had left a toothbrush and a flat iron. But that night, they went to the small unit she shared with her younger sister, who was away on a trip.
It was dark when the couple pulled into the parking lot, then closed the door to Apartment 4 behind them.
This was the year of big plans for the 26- year-old: Her home was brimming with the Post-it notes and envelopes on which she wrote her goals. She had just bought a new car. Next on the list: buying her own home. And trying to have a baby with Mr. Walker. They had already chosen a name.
She fell asleep next to him just after midnight on March 13, the movie still playing.
“The last thing she said was, ‘Turn off the TV,’” he said in an interview.
From the parking lot, undercover officers surveilling Ms. Taylor’s apartment before a drug raid saw only the blue glow of the television.
When they punched in the door with a battering ram, Mr. Walker, fearing an intruder, reached for his gun and let off one shot, wounding an officer. He and another officer returned fire, while a third began blindly shooting through Ms. Taylor’s window and patio door. Bullets ripped through nearly every room in her apartment, then into two adjoining ones. They sliced through a soap dish, a chair and a table and shattered a sliding-glass door.
Ms. Taylor, struck five times, bled out on the floor.
Breonna Taylor has since become an icon, her silhouette a symbol of police violence and racial injustice. Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris spoke her name during their speeches at the Democratic convention.
Oprah Winfrey ceded the cover of her magazine for the first time to feature the young Black woman, and paid for billboards with her image across Louisville.
Beyoncé called for the three white officers who opened fire to be criminally charged.
N.B.A. stars including LeBron James devoted postgame interviews to keeping her name in the news.
Even as she tried to move on, an ex-boyfriend’s run-ins with the law entangled her, leading to what her family’s lawyer called ‘catastrophic failures’ by the police that ended in a deadly raid.
In Louisville, demonstrators have led nightly protests downtown, where most government buildings and many businesses are now boarded up. As outrage mounted, the city fired one of the officers, pushed out the police chief and passed “Breonna’s Law,” banning “no-knock” warrants, which allow the police to burst into people’s homes without warning. Protesters say that is not enough.
Nearly six months after Ms. Taylor’s killing, the story of what happened that night — and what came before and after — remains largely untold. Unlike the death of George Floyd, which was captured on video as a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck, Ms. Taylor’s final moments remain in shadow because no such footage exists.
But a clearer picture of Ms. Taylor’s death and life, of the person behind the cause, emerged from dozens of interviews with public officials and people who knew her, as well as a review of over 1,500 pages of police records, including evidence logs, transcripts of jailhouse recordings and surveillance photos. The Louisville Metro Police Department, citing pending investigations, declined to make anyone available for interviews.
The daughter of a teenage mother and a man who has been incarcerated since she was a child, Ms. Taylor attended college, trained as an E.M.T. and hoped to become a nurse. But along the way, she developed a yearslong relationship with a twice-convicted drug dealer whose trail led the police to her door that fateful night.
Sloppy surveillance outside her apartment in the hours before the raid failed to detect that Mr. Walker was there, so the officers expected to find an unarmed woman alone. A failure to follow their own rules of engagement and a lack of routine safeguards, like stationing an ambulance outside, compounded the risks that night.
While the department had gotten court approval for a “no-knock” entry to search for evidence of drugs or cash from drug trafficking, the orders were changed before the raid to “knock and announce,” meaning that the police had to identify themselves.
The officers have said that they did; Mr. Walker says he did not hear anything. In interviews with nearly a dozen neighbors, only one person said he heard the officers shout “Police!” a single time.
Sam Aguiar, a lawyer representing Ms. Taylor’s family, blames “catastrophic failures” by the police department for the young woman’s death. “Breonna Taylor,” he said, “gets shot in her own home, with her boyfriend doing what’s as American as apple pie, in defending himself and his woman.” Ms. Taylor had been focused on her future with Mr. Walker. But her history with 30-year-old Jamarcus Glover, an on-again off-again boyfriend who had spent years in prison, was hard to escape, even after she cut ties with him a month before the raid.
When the officers rammed the door of the apartment, Mr. Walker later explained, he fired his gun because he feared it was her ex-boyfriend forcing his way in.
Although Ms. Taylor had no criminal record and was never the target of an inquiry, Mr. Glover’s frequent run-ins with the police entangled her. She had been interviewed in a murder inquiry, and paid or arranged bail for him and his associates.
When Mr. Glover called from jail after an earlier arrest in January, she told him that his brushes with the law worried her, according to a recording; each said “I love you” before hanging up. A GPS tracker the police placed on his car later showed him making regular trips to her apartment complex, and surveillance photos showed her outside a drug house.
In a series of calls hours after her death, as Mr. Glover tried to make bail, he told another woman that he had left about $14,000 with Ms. Taylor. “Bre been having all my money,” he claimed. The same afternoon, he also told an associate he had left money at Ms. Taylor’s home.
Mr. Aguiar, the lawyer for her family, said that no drugs or cash were found at her apartment after the raid. Thomas B. Wine, the Jefferson County prosecutor, countered that the search was called off once the shooting occurred.
With three investigations underway, including a federal civil rights inquiry, a full public accounting of the botched raid is not yet possible. A city on the defensive has withheld some of the most basic information about the case, roiling public anger.
Still, as journalists in recent days have reported about Ms. Taylor’s ties to the drug dealer, city officials have made a point of not excusing the outcome of the raid. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement: “Breonna Taylor’s death was a tragedy. Period.” Christopher 2X, a longtime community organizer whom Ms. Taylor’s family turned to after her death, said her relationship with Mr. Glover had to be acknowledged. “You can’t just look away from it and act like it’s not there,” he said. “My hope is courageous people will say: ‘There it is — it’s what it is — but was this shooting justified? She should be alive today.’”