The defensive posturing and show of force that the Louisville Metro Police Department came out with this week in anticipation of the grand jury verdict regarding the culpability of its police in the killing of Breonna Taylor, may have indicated a recognition in them that the officially reported investigation into the incident is shady and its findings paper-thin.
New reporting from Vice has unearthed more than a few troubling inconsistencies in the police’s investigation of the shooting, inconsistencies which Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron notably omitted from his recent announcement that LMPD officers were legally justified in fatally firing on 26-year-old Taylor after entering her home on a ‘no-knock warrant’ in March.
There’s the question of whether the cops identified themselves before ramming the door open on the night Taylor was killed. Only one independent witness has affirmed the police’s claim that they did. Meanwhile, Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker has maintained that he opened fire because he believed intruders were trying to enter their apartment, and other residents in the complex have said police didn’t say who they were.
Now it turns out that the single witness who corroborated the police’s story had initially told investigators the police didn’t announce themselves.
The witness is Aarin Sarpee, who was picking up his daughter from his brother’s apartment above Taylor’s at the time of the raid. According to officers’ interviews with investigators, Sarpee got into an argument with Detective Brett Hankison as the officers were banging on Taylor’s door.
The interviews were conducted by LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit (PIU), which investigates officer-involved shootings. According to the Public Integrity Unit’s investigative file, LMPD investigators spoke to Sarpee on the phone twice in the ensuing months. On March 21, a week after the shooting, Sgt. Jason Vance asked Sarpee directly if he heard anyone identify themselves as police. Sarpee responded, “No, nobody identified themselves.”
Another PIU investigator, Sgt. Amanda Seeyle, called Sarpee back two months later, on May 15, the file shows. At that point, Sarpee said he did hear police say, “This is the cops.”
Mighty suspicious, is it not? Cameron apparently doesn’t seem to think so. Instead he was privy to this evidence and chose to deliver the message that the investigation carried out by Louisville police into Louisville police is at this point a conclusive, unimpeachable account of what actually happened.
But body cam footage from Louisville officers who were on the scene of the incident shows that from the very beginning, the LMPD’s investigation of the shooting was anything but unimpeachable.
Before the department’s investigative team arrived to the scene of the deadly shooting, the cops who were involved in the incident—Brett Hankinson, Myles Cosgrove, and Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly—were still walking around the active crime scene and even interviewing witnesses, violating department policy for officer-involved shootings.
From VICE again:
After SWAT team members clear the apartment and pronounce Taylor dead on scene, now-former LMPD detective Hankison, who fired 10 shots that night according to the department, approaches the front door to ask if someone is dead inside. Minutes later, Hankison returns and even steps inside the apartment, an active crime scene. He asks SWAT officers if they found a long gun, and whether the casings on the ground are “theirs.”
Multiple SWAT team members on the body camera footage seem to be made visibly uncomfortable by Hankison’s presence. One of them tells other officers sternly to clear him out.
Shortly thereafter, Hankison walks up to a SWAT team member standing on the sidewalk and asks if his body camera is on before the video cuts out.
The work to maintain the ‘peace’ in the face of their flimsy justification for taking a young Black woman’s life pushed the LMPD defensive into overtime this weekend. According to ABC News, 28 people were arrested in Louisville on Saturday night alone, as protests continue to blaze in the city in response to the Attorney General’s announcement that no police officers will be charged in Taylor’s killing.