LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For up to six minutes after she was shot by police officers during a drug raid, Breonna Taylor, an emergency room technician, lay dying in her apartment but received no medical aid, her family claims in a new court filing.
The document also contends that the post-midnight raid on March 13 was motivated by the mayor’s desire to clear a block in one of Louisville’s most blighted neighborhoods for redevelopment. The court papers amend an earlier lawsuit against the three officers who fired into Taylor’s apartment while executing a search warrant, seeking evidence against an ex-boyfriend who was a convicted drug dealer.
City officials called the claims a “gross mischaracterization,” while the coroner who performed the autopsy said the young woman’s injuries would have been lethal even with intervention. “Even if it had happened outside of an ER, we couldn’t have saved her,” said the coroner, Dr. Barbara Weakley-Jones.
The 31-page complaint filed Sunday presents a new narrative of the events leading up to the raid, which it describes as “wanton” and “reckless,” and attempts to fill in the details of how the 26-year-old Black woman died at the hands of white officers.
The episode set off public outrage and led to weeks of sometimes violent protests in this city, Kentucky’s largest, where many businesses are boarded up and others display posters of Taylor’s now ubiquitous silhouette, demanding justice. Her killing prompted the firing of one of the officers and spurred ongoing investigations by local and state officials, as well as by the FBI. It also caused the city to ban so-called no-knock warrants, which allow the police to forcibly enter people’s homes without warning.
Taylor died after Louisville police officers, executing such a warrant, used a battering ram to enter her apartment.
In Taylor’s case, the police did first knock — one of the few facts that both the family and officials agree on — but what remains in dispute is whether the officers also identified themselves. The lawsuit maintains that they did not, so Taylor’s companion, Kenneth Walker, frightened of the unknown intruders, grabbed his handgun and shot at them, striking one officer in the leg.
They responded with a torrent of gunfire, which ripped through Taylor’s body, the walls of the apartment and into a neighboring unit. Her death certificate, reviewed by The New York Times, showed she had been struck by five bullets.
“In the six minutes that elapsed from the time Breonna was shot, to the time she died, we have no evidence suggesting that any officer made entry in an attempt to check and assist her,” Sam Aguiar, the family’s lawyer, said in an interview. “She suffered."
State officials reject that claim, saying the police worked as fast as they could, retreating to tend to the injured officer, Jon Mattingly, then calling for Walker to come out. Only after he was in handcuffs could they go back in, the officials said.
The shooting had taken place in near darkness, and officials say they didn’t know initially that Taylor was injured.
“Why didn’t they go in to help her? They just got shot. Why rush back in and get someone else shot?” said Tom Wine, the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s attorney.
The gunfire began at 12:42 a.m., according to the first of several 911 calls by neighbors. The death certificate lists Taylor’s time of death as “approximately 12:48.”
According to a detailed log kept by emergency personnel, the injured officer was loaded into an ambulance and left the property at 12:53 a.m., and Walker exited the apartment with his hands up a minute later. That is the earliest moment, officials said, that paramedics could have entered the apartment.
Weakley-Jones, the coroner, said the recorded time of death was “an estimate” — even “a flip of the coin.” And the injuries to critical organs were so severe, she said, that Taylor had little to no chance of survival, and was likely to have died in “less than a minute.” When asked why the time of death cited was six minutes after the start of the shooting instead of one, she said that her deputy who filled out the death certificate was not trained in reading autopsy reports. Her office has declined to make the report public.
In the complaint and in a subsequent interview, Aguiar, the lawyer, laid out a series of alleged violations that he said precipitated the young woman’s death. The police, the lawsuit claimed, relied on stale intelligence. The search warrant for Taylor’s home said the drug dealer, Jamarcus Glover, was visiting her and listed her apartment as his home address, but that was based on surveillance from January and computer database information from February.
The narcotics unit executing the search warrant also mistook her Dodge Charger, parked outside her apartment at the time of the raid, for that of a drug dealer they were hunting, which was the same make and model, according to the complaint.
And, the lawyer said, there were numerous violations of established police protocols, including that no ambulance was on site on standby at the time of the raid.
The Louisville Metro Police Department confirmed that officers typically request an ambulance before executing no-knock and other high-risk warrants. “It is common practice,” said Jessie Halladay, a spokeswoman, who added that she could not comment on the specifics of the case because of the ongoing investigation.
The emergency log indicates that an ambulance was sent to Taylor’s home at 11:12 p.m. on March 12. But for reasons that are not clear, it left at 11:39 p.m., the complaint says. At 12:44, after shots were fired, the log was updated with the following notation: “PD NEEDS EMS NOW.”
And officials say that they didn’t even know that Taylor was wounded until later. Phone logs show that Walker called 911 at 12:47 a.m.
“Is she alert and able to talk to you?” the operator asked him. “No,” he responded, and then he cried out: “Oh my God. Oh my God.”
It is not clear which gunshot wounds were fatal.
“We have concerns about where the five bullets came from, who fired and where they originated,” said Aguiar, the lawyer for the family. “We have reason to believe that at least one of the shots that struck her came from outside her house.”
That is where Officer Brett Hankinson, the only one of three officers to be terminated, is believed to have been standing. His termination letter from the department’s chief said he “displayed extreme indifference to human life” by “wantonly and blindly” firing 10 shots from the street into a patio door and window with an obstructed view.
The lawsuit also alleges that the police targeted Glover, because of political pressure from the mayor’s office, which had launched a multimillion-dollar redevelopment project.
Glover, whose alleged activities prompted the search warrant for Taylor’s home and four other premises that night, was suspected of occupying and using a row of abandoned houses elsewhere in the city to stash and sell drugs, right in the center of an area that was being cleared out for rebuilding, according to the complaint.
“People needed to be removed and homes needed to be vacated so that a high-dollar, legacy-creating real estate development could move forward,” the court filing said.
City officials rejected that assertion. “Outrageous allegations without foundation,” said Jean Porter, a spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Fischer.
The officials pointed out that the project, which began six years ago, was no secret and was funded with the help of three federal grants of more than $30 million.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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