Police files released Wednesday show contacts between Breonna Taylor and a man she dated previously who was suspected of drug dealing, but raise new questions about what led narcotics investigators to the raid of her home that resulted in her death in a burst of police gunfire.
Lt. Dale Massey, a member of the Louisville Metro Police Department SWAT team that arrived on the scene, described the execution of the warrant as an “egregious act.” He told investigators he and other SWAT members felt that after seeing what had occurred and through their interactions with another police officer that “something really bad happened.”
Massey’s comments were included in extensive testimony and other evidence that shed light on the internal Louisville police review of Taylor's death. Protesters in Louisville and elsewhere around the country have demanded accountability for her killing.
The police files contain conflicting information about when the contacts ended between Taylor and her ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover.
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In a recorded jailhouse conversation on the day she died, Glover said he and Taylor had not “been around each other in over two months.”
“I ain’t got nothing going on with Bre no more,” he told a woman whose name was redacted from the report.
Other evidence suggests Taylor and Glover were together in the same vehicle a month before her March 13 death.
On Feb. 13, the evidence shows, a pole camera showed Glover driving a car registered to Taylor. He pulled up in front of a residence and went inside. A few minutes later, Taylor got out of the passenger side of the car, looked around for a few seconds and then got back in the vehicle. Glover soon left the home, got back in the car and drove off.
Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville emergency medical technician studying to become a nurse, was shot multiple times after being roused from sleep by police at her door. The warrant was approved as part of a narcotics investigation. No drugs were found at her home.
The case has fueled nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. When police came through the door using a battering ram, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired once.
Taylor family attorney Sam Aguiar said the release of the files was “long overdue."
“We think the public is going to understand even more so why we’re so frustrated with how this investigation went down and why there was no criminal accountability,” he said by phone.
As for the investigative accounts regarding Taylor and Glover, he said: “You don’t see anything in these files that denotes any sort of connection between the two of them for the vast majority of February and March. So it still begs the question, what made them decide ... to go hit this (Taylor's) house."
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said it was important to release the police investigation files as quickly as possible, after making “necessary redactions." Much of the information in the files was included in records from the grand jury proceedings released last week, he said.
“I urge all to be sensitive that these files contain information and images that are traumatic and painful,” Fischer said in a release.
The files included investigative letters, interview transcripts, officers’ body camera videos, audio and video files of interviews, crime scene unit reports and search warrants.
Some items were redacted, blurred or withheld for privacy or legal reasons. Photos and videos of Taylor were “blurred out of respect,” police said. Audio of personal conversations that officers had while their body cameras were activated were redacted. Those conversations “had nothing to do with the scene or case,” police said.
Details of the chaos and confusion during the raid that resulted in Taylor's death were revealed in 15 hours of audio recordings released recently. They contained testimony and recorded interviews presented last month to the Kentucky grand jury that decided not to charge any Louisville police officers in Taylor's killing.
Taylor’s name came up in a drug case at least in part because she had posted bail a few times from 2017 to January 2020 for Glover and another defendant, Darreal Forest, in amounts that went as high as $5,000, according to police files released Wednesday.
Officer Brett Hankison, who has since been fired, was the only officer indicted by the grand jury, which charged him with wanton endangerment for shooting into another home with people inside. He has pleaded not guilty.
On Wednesday evening, Taylor's killing figured into a sharp campaign debate exchange between President Donald Trump's vice president, Mike Pence, and Kamala Harris, Democrat nominee Joe Biden's running mate. Harris condemned the killings of Taylor, and also George Floyd in Minnesota, and spoke about protests against racial injustice in policing that followed, which Trump has portrayed as “riots” as he called for law-and-order.
“We are never going to condone violence but we must always fight for the values that we hold dear,” Harris said in the nationally televised debate. She said she did not believe justice was done in the Taylor case. And she said a Biden-Harris administration would ban chokeholds, declaring Floyd would be alive today if there were such a ban.
Pence said his heart breaks for Taylor’s family but he trusts in the U.S. justice system. He called it “remarkable” that Harris, as a former attorney general and prosecutor, would question the grand jury’s decision in the case not to charge an officer in that killing.
Pence also said there was no excuse for what happened to Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs who died after a white police officer pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for several minutes. But he added there was no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed Floyd’s death.
Also late Wednesday, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed a motion in a local court asking it to dismiss a request by an anonymous grand juror to speak publicly about the panel's deliberations in the Taylor case. Cameron issued a statement expressing “concerns with a grand juror seeking to make anonymous and unlimited disclosures about the grand jury proceedings" which he called secretive by firm legal precedent in order to protect the safety of all involved.
Associated Press Writers Alanna Durkin Richer and Maryclaire Dale contributed to this report.
Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.