Months After Louisville Police Kill Woman in Her Home, Governor Calls for Review
(NYT) - The police said officers shot and killed Breonna Taylor, 26, in a March raid after her boyfriend shot an officer in the leg.
Two months after Louisville police officers fatally shot a woman as they raided her home, Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky said on Wednesday that local, state and federal prosecutors should review the police investigation into the shooting.
Officers killed the woman, Breonna Taylor, 26, just after midnight on March 13 during a confrontation in which her boyfriend shot an officer in the leg, the Louisville police said. But only recently has nationwide attention been drawn to the case. Neither Ms. Taylor nor her boyfriend was a target of the police investigation that led to the drug raid.
Ms. Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, filed a lawsuit in late April against three officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department, accusing them of wrongfully causing her daughter’s death.
Among the lawyers representing Ms. Palmer is Benjamin Crump, who also represents the family of Ahmaud Arbery, whose February shooting death in Georgia led to murder charges against two men last week.
On Wednesday, Governor Beshear called reports about Ms. Taylor’s death “troubling” and said the public deserved to know everything about the March raid. He asked the state attorney general, the local prosecutor and the federal prosecutor assigned to the region to review the results of the Louisville police’s initial investigation “to ensure justice is done at a time when many are concerned that justice is not blind.”
The Louisville police, who declined to comment for this article, have said little about the raid since a news conference on the day it happened.
The Louisville Courier-Journal reported this week that the police had been targeting two men who they believed were selling drugs out of a house more than 10 miles from Ms. Taylor’s apartment. However, a judge had signed a warrant allowing officers to search Ms. Taylor’s home — and to enter without warning — in part because a detective said one of the men had used Ms. Taylor’s apartment to receive a package.
In the lawsuit, Ms. Palmer’s lawyers say that the man had already been apprehended before police officers entered Ms. Taylor’s home.
“They executed this innocent woman because they botched the search warrant execution,” Mr. Crump said in an interview. “They had the main person that they were trying to get in their custody, so why use a battering ram to bust her door down and then go in there and execute her?”
Mr. Crump said that while there were many differences between the cases of Mr. Arbery and Ms. Taylor, both of whom were black, they were connected by the fact that neither case immediately attracted widespread attention, despite the efforts of local activists and family members.
Ms. Palmer has said that her daughter, who worked as an emergency medical technician at local hospitals, had planned to become a nurse and buy a house, and that she had stayed out of trouble.
“I’m not sure that they understand what they took from my family,” Ms. Palmer told The Courier-Journal, referring to the police.
At a news conference hours after the raid, Chief Steve Conrad of the Louisville police said the officers involved had not been wearing body cameras. Lt. Ted Eidem, who leads the agency’s Public Integrity Unit, said the officers had announced their presence and knocked on the door before forcing entry.
A police spokeswoman told The Courier-Journal this week that the investigation into the shooting was continuing and that the police had disclosed everything they could at the original news conference.
The police have said that they returned fire after Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot an officer in the leg. He later surrendered and has been charged with the attempted murder of a police officer.
Mr. Walker’s lawyer, Rob Eggert, has said that Mr. Walker did not know that the people entering the apartment were police officers, and that he fired one shot.
Mr. Crump said that neighbors had not heard the police officers announce themselves, and that Mr. Walker thought the officers — who he said were in unmarked cars and plain clothes — were intruders. He said Mr. Walker had called 911, believing that he and Ms. Taylor, who had been in bed together, “were in significant, imminent danger.”
The lawyers for Ms. Taylor’s mother said that Mr. Walker was licensed to have a gun and that the police officers had fired at least 20 shots into the apartment and a neighboring home.
Although whether the Louisville police knocked before entering is disputed, the use of “no-knock” warrants has led to disastrous results in the past. The Houston Police Department said last year that it would largely end the practice after two civilians were killed — and four police officers were injured — in one such raid, which the police had justified based on an officer’s lie about a supposed confidential informant.