Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old emergency medical technician (EMT) who was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police on March 13 during a late-night raid on her home where her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was also sleeping.
Walker, who was arrested and charged with attempted homicide on accusations he shot one of the police officers during the raid, is being defended by attorney Rob Eggert. Eggert told local news station WDBR that Walker was acting in self-defense and said Taylor’s death was the result of “police misconduct.”
Walker has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Taylor, Who Also Worked for Two Hospitals, Wrote That She Loved Helping Others
Taylor was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on June 5, 1993, to Tamika Palmer and Trory Herrod, according to her obituary. She graduated from Western High School in 2011 and went on to study at the University of Kentucky.
Taylor became an EMT for the city of Louisville, and she also worked at two local hospitals. Taylor was a full-time ER technician for the University of Louisville Jewish Hospital and she worked as needed for Norton Healthcare.
On her Facebook page, Taylor described her love for helping others. “Working in health care is so rewarding! It makes me so happy when I know I’ve made a difference in someone else’s life!” she said.
After her death, she even received condolences from EMTs who didn’t know her, such as one left by Ohio EMT Marcus Santoli:
I only heard about Breonna this morning, we have never met nor even knew of each other, but she is considered a Sister. I am an EMT from Ohio and I can’t help but also feel this terrible loss. She clearly loved her community and had a blossoming passion to help it. She dedicated her livelihood to the preservation of her neighbors and for the intense training and extremely difficult tests it certainly was a job she was born to do. On behalf of myself and The family that is EMS, worldwide, I send you my condolences, best wishes and good health in this trying time. And as for Breonna, Thank you for your undying service to your community and this nation. It will not be forgotten.
2. Taylor Was Shot Shortly After She Was Awakened by the Raid
According to reports from the local WDRB TV station, officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Criminal Interdiction Division used a battering ram to break down the door and rushed into the house on Springfield Drive at 1 a.m., waking Taylor and her boyfriend, Walker. Walker shot at the officers, wounding one, and the three who entered fired some 22 shots back, according to Eggert, Walker’s defense attorney; Taylor was shot eight times and died.
In initial reports from the Louisville Courier Journal police describe Taylor as “a female suspect”: “A Louisville Metro Police sergeant was shot and wounded and a suspect was killed early Friday during a narcotics investigation near St. Andrews Church Road and Doss High School, according to authorities.”
According to Walker’s lawyer, Walker shot back in self-defense because he said police did not announce themselves. His lawyer wrote to the court that Walker “wishes to exonerate himself. His girlfriend was killed in a hail of police bullets while naked and he himself simply acted to try to protect himself.”
Taylor’s aunt, Bianca Austin, told local TV station WHAS-11, “This is not a woman who would sacrifice her life and her family morals and values to sell drugs on the street.”
3. Walker Is Accused of Attempted Murder
Walker, 27, was arrested and charged with attempted murder and assault after police say he shot Sgt. John Mattingly; Mattingly survived and underwent surgery for his injuries.
Walker pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer argued that he acted in self-defense because he didn’t know who was at the door.
“Had Mr. Walker known that police were outside he would have opened the door and ushered them in,” Eggert told the Courier Journal, adding that no drugs were found, the home belonged to Taylor and Walker wasn’t even the target of the police’s search warrant.
Sam Aguiar, a lawyer for Taylor’s family, told WDRB that it was a case of misidentification and that he believed officers were looking for someone else connected to a different raid.
“Something went terribly wrong,” he said. “This was clearly a botched execution of a warrant.”
Walker was being held on a $250,000 full cash bond, yet Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens released him to home incarceration, to the outrage of the police union.
4. Taylor’s Death Sparked Sadness and Outrage
Taylor’s sister, Tracy Chapman, has posted messages seeking #JusticeforBree often, and Taylor was recently featured on a Facebook page “The Misidentified 4 – Louisville.”
Taylor left behind family including siblings, and aunt and an uncle, who has since written about her death on Facebook.
Louisville metro police department… not only did u take her life but u also took the lives she would’ve saved…..she loved being there 4 ppl when we needed her ??? #JUSTICE4BREE ??? — with Breonna Taylor.
Austin, Taylor’s aunt, told the Courier Journal, “She really did not deserve to end her life so horrifically.”
According to her obituary:
Breonna Taylor was full of life and loved social gatherings with her friends and especially her family. She loved life and all it had to offer. She continued to find ways to better herself and the people around her … She leaves behind to cherish her memory a host of family and friends, some she was born into, some she inherited and some she made all on her own, but nevertheless no matter how they came they were all family in the same to her.
5. Police Say the Matter Is Being Investigated
In an email to WDRB, LMPD Chief Steve Conrad declined to discuss the “incident that resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death” due to the pending Public Integrity investigation. However, he did note that no camera footage was available for the incident, because Criminal Interdiction Division officers do not wear them.
Mattingly, Det. Myles Cosgrove and Det. Brett Hankison have all been placed on administrative leave. One of them, Cosgrove, was sued for excessive force by a man he shot in 2006 at a Speedway gas station; Cosgrove won the suit.
At a press conference held 15 hours after the shooting, Conrad said, “We are extremely fortunate that our officer John Mattingly was not more seriously injured. We have no body-worn video cameras to share with you … even without the videos, our Public Integrity Unit will conduct a complete review of this case.”
Lt. Ted Eidem of the Public Integrity Unit also spoke at the press conference and said, “Officers knocked on their door several times and announced themselves as police who were there with a search warrant. The officers gained entry through the exterior door and automatically received gunfire.”
Eidem said he was unable to answer questions about the “unresponsive female,” where she was found, if she was armed or how many shots were fired because they were still processing the scene.
Prosecutor Ebert Haegele objected to Walker’s version of the raid and said Eggert’s theories were irrelevant to whether Walker should be released awaiting trial.
“One person is dead, and one person was almost killed due to Mr. Walker’s actions,” Haegele said.
Conrad has also criticized Walker’s release, saying:
I certainly understand the need to make sure we are releasing those people who don’t pose a risk to our community from the jail, especially as we face the outbreak of COVID-19. However, it’s hard for me to see how a man accused of shooting a police officer falls into that low-risk category and I am very frustrated by Mr. Walker’s release to home incarceration.
New information reported by USA Today suggests that Taylor’s home may not have been the right house, but was instead, more than 10 miles away from “trap house” police had been investigating.