Louisville police officers were looking for a suspect at the wrong home when they shot and killed Breonna Taylor, according to a lawsuit.
May 12, 2020, 6:51 PM EDT / Updated May 13, 2020, 1:39 PM EDT
By Minyvonne Burke
A woman was shot and killed in her Louisville, Kentucky, home by police executing a "botched" search warrant who forced their way in, surprising the woman and her boyfriend who thought the officers were burglars, her family says in a lawsuit. The lawsuit — filed by the family of the woman, Breonna Taylor, an EMT worker — says she and her boyfriend thought they were being burglarized and he fired at the officers in self-defense. The lawsuit accuses the three officers of "blindly firing" more than 20 shots into the apartment. After the March 13 incident, the Louisville Metro Police Department said the officers had knocked on the door several times and “announced their presence as police who were there with a search warrant.” After forcing their way in, they “were immediately met by gunfire,” Lt. Ted Eidem said at a news conference. Breonna Taylor was a qualified EMT. Family photo via NBC12Taylor's death gained national attention this week after the family hired attorney Ben Crump, who is also representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery, the black man in Georgia who was killed on Feb. 23 after being pursued and shot by two white men. The two men are charged with murder and aggravated assault. Taylor, 26, was shot eight times by police. Kenneth Walker, 27, was arrested and charged with assault and attempted murder on a police officer. An attorney for Walker could not immediately be reached. Crump called Taylor's death a "senseless killing." "We stand with the family of this young woman in demanding answers from the Louisville Police Department," he said in a statement Monday on Twitter. The attorney called out the police department for not providing "any answers regarding the facts and circumstances of how this tragedy occurred." "Breonna Taylor was sleeping while black in the sanctity of our own home," Crump said at a Wednesday press conference, adding, "we cannot continue to allow them to unnecessarily and justifiably kill our black women and escape any accountability."
Records show that the police investigation was centered around a "trap house" more than 10 miles from Taylor's apartment, and that a judge had approved a "no-knock" search warrant, meaning officers did not have to identify themselves, according to The Courier-Journal. The lawsuit states that Taylor and her boyfriend, Walker, were asleep in their bedroom when police in plainclothes and unmarked vehicles arrived at the house looking for a suspect who lived in a different part of the city and was already in police custody. The three officers entered Taylor's home "without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers," the suit states. The lawsuit says Taylor and Walker woke up and thought criminals were breaking in. Walker called 911 and police said he opened fire and shot an officer.
The defendants then proceeded to spray gunfire into the residence with a total disregard for the value of human life," the lawsuit alleges. "Shots were blindly fired by the officers all throughout Breonna's home." The suit states that Walker had a license to carry and kept firearms in the home, and that Taylor was unarmed. Taylor and Walker had no criminal history or drug convictions. No drugs were found in the apartment. Her address was listed on the search warrant based on police's belief that a drug suspect had used her home to receive mail, keep drugs or stash money. The warrant also states that a car registered to Taylor was seen parked on several occasions in front of a "drug house" known to the suspect. Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, filed the lawsuit in April in Jefferson Circuit Court alleging wrongful death, excessive force and gross negligence. Crump said during an interview on MSNBC that Taylor was "completely innocent" and went on to say that "black women's lives matter too." The attorney also called for the charges against Walker to be immediately dropped. A police spokesperson had no comment this week because the investigation was still ongoing. The officers, identified as Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, were reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said on Twitter Tuesday, "As always, my priority is that the truth comes out, and for justice to follow the path of truth." Sam Aguiar, another lawyer for the family, said at a news conference Wednesday that he hopes the exposure Taylor's case is getting leads to a change at the police department. "The truth will be uncovered," he said.
Demanding answers from the police
Taylor's family is calling on lawyer Benjamin Crump, a Tallahassee, Florida-based attorney who has become known for his involvement in high-profile cases of black Americans killed in controversial shootings, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice.
Crump also is representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was shot and killed by two white men in Georgia in late February. The case has drawn national attention after a video of Arbery's death surfaced online last week.