On March 13 in Louisville, Ky., 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was shot to death in what appeared to be a botched police raid as officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department attempted to execute a search warrant at the home of a suspected drug dealer.
Now, WDRB.com reports that the union representing LMPD officers is criticizing a Kentucky judge for releasing from jail Kenneth Walker, the suspect who officers claim initiated the shootout that caused Taylor’s death and put a cop in the hospital.
Walker, 27, was charged with attempted murder of a police officer after he shot Sgt. John Mattingly in the leg as police were serving a search warrant during a narcotics investigation at an apartment on Springfield Drive at 1 a.m. on March 13, police have said.
A female suspect was shot and killed after three LMPD officers returned fire, Chief Steve Conrad has said.
On Thursday, Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens lowered Walker’s bond from $250,000 cash to home incarceration.
Walker’s attorney Rob Eggert tells a different story regarding the shooting.
Defense attorney Rob Eggert said police burst in Taylor’s home without announcing their presence and fired at least 22 times, with bullets going into neighboring apartments, and “it was incredible that Mrs. Taylor was the only one killed.”
“Had Breonna Taylor been killed by anyone except police, the person or persons responsible for her death would have been charged with a homicide,” Eggert said in a court document, also alleging Walker is a “victim of police misconduct.”
According to Eggert, there were no drugs found in the home and Walker was not the target of the search warrant.
Taylor’s family also paints a different picture, characterizing both Taylor and Walker, who are black (I don’t think I need to explain why that’s relevant), as innocent and telling reporters they were far from criminals.
“These are two good kids,” said Bianca Austin, Taylor’s aunt. “This is incompetent police work. My niece lost her life over this.” She added, “These two were not drug dealers. It just don’t make sense to us at all.”
According to WHAS 11, Austin told reporters that Taylor, a certified EMT, would never risk sullying her or her family’s good name by being involved in dealing drugs.
“She was already an accomplished and certified EMT for the City of Louisville and currently worked for UofL as a medical tech. This is not a woman who would sacrifice her life and her family morals and values to sell drugs on the street.”
The family also said Walker is a registered gun owner and that he shot in self-defense unaware that he was shooting at police.
Sam Aguiar, an attorney representing Taylor’s family, said officers were looking for someone else entirely and that suspect had already been arrested in a separate raid before the shooting occurred.
“Something went terribly wrong,” Aguiar said. “This was clearly a botched execution of a warrant.”
Officers (as per usual) maintain that they did nothing wrong. They claim they repeatedly knocked at the door and announced themselves as officers—something we will all have to take their word for since they weren’t wearing body cameras because they were members of the department’s Criminal Interdiction division and, for reasons unexplained, officers in that division don’t wear body-cams.
A neighbor of the house where the shooting occurred said in an affidavit that she heard the gunshots and Walker calling for help, but that she never heard anyone announce themselves as police.
Of course, all of these red flags flying in every direction of this case does nothing to dissuade officers from lamenting and publicly condemning Walker’s release.
Chief Conrad wouldn’t speak on the “incident that resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death” because there is still an ongoing investigation, but he had plenty to say to WDRB about Walker being let out of lock-up.
“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,” Conrad wrote in an email. “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.”
River City FOP president Ryan Nichols took to Facebook on Friday to express his own outrage at Walker’s release and to criticize the judge directly.
“Not only is he a threat to the men and women of law enforcement, but he also poses a significant danger to the community we protect! Home incarceration was not designed for the most violent offenders! I call on the public to condemn the actions of Judge Olu Stevens.”
In officer-involved shootings, cops are nearly always given the benefit of the doubt. In this case, we have two “suspects” with no known history of dealing drugs, defense attorneys saying no drugs were found, a neighbor saying they heard Walker calling for help but no officers identifying themselves and no body-cam footage to prove otherwise.
And, in the end, we have Breonna Taylor who didn’t live to tell her side of the story.