Saturday, June 13, 2020

Breonna Taylor Shooting: Another No-Knock Raid Legitimately Resisted by Armed Force

Image a screenshot from, cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten

On March 13, 2020, at about 1 a.m., in Louisville, Kentucky, five police officers, at least three who were in plain clothes, without body cameras, executed a no-knock raid, with a warrant naming Breonna Taylor.

The warrant had the right address and person.  The officers were not wearing body cameras, because they were narcotics officers, and were exempt by policy.
No body-camera footage is available because officers in the Criminal Interdiction Division who conducted the search warrant do not wear cameras, police chief Steve Conrad previously said.

The police started breaking down the door. They claim they announced themselves. Breonna's boyfriend Kenneth Walker had a concealed carry permit and was armed. Walker says he heard the banging on the door.  It is not the same thing as hearing police announce themselves.   Neighbors say they did not hear the police announce themselves.  Kenneth Walker fired at the intruders breaking down the door at 1 a.m. He wounded one officer.

The three narcotics officers, in plain clothes, fired back, about 22 rounds, missing Kenneth Walker, but hitting Breonna eight times, killing her. The two other officers who were there did not fire. Kenneth Walker immediately called 911, believing a home invasion was occurring.

How were Breonna and Kenneth supposed to know it was police breaking down their door, and not a gang of criminals? Neither of them had criminal records. Many criminals claim to be police. Mere verbal claims of being police should not be sufficient identification.  A Louisville councilwoman, asked: How would a person know to comply? From
Councilwoman Green, who described the case as a "damn shame," asked how someone would know to comply if police burst in during the middle of the night.
The warrant claimed surveillance of the address showed a former boyfriend of Breonna, had visited the apartment several times, and retrieved packages. The warrant claimed this was sufficient probable cause to search the house for drugs, guns, money, and any sort of records which could be associated with drug trafficking.  Breonna had no criminal record. She was an emergency responder herself, and had a good record at her job.

Jamarcus Glover, Breonna's former boyfriend, and a suspected drug dealer, was arrested hours and miles away, before the raid on Breonna's apartment.

This raid seems an abuse of the no-knock warrant concept. Using the information in the warrant, anyone could be subject to police breaking down the door in the middle of the night, just from knowing someone with a criminal record.  The three officers who fired were placed on administrative reassignment
The three Louisville Metro Police officers who fired their guns that night — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and officers Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove — have been placed on administrative reassignment while the department's Professional Integrity Unit investigates what happened.

At least two other police officers, a lieutenant and an officer, were on the scene as a part of executing the warrant that night. However, LMPD officials named only the three who used their guns.

Wide use of no-knock warrants is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Anyone breaking into an American home in the middle of the night can reasonably expect to be met with gunfire.  It should take extreme circumstances to justify a no-knock warrant. This raid was not justified by extreme circumstance. The warrant reads like boilerplate, looking for drugs, money, guns, and records. Except for the drugs, all the rest are things in more than half of American homes. I am not sure about the drugs.

Warrants are meant to protect the police as well as the suspects. If a warrant is legitimately presented, the residents of the house/apartment will know the police have a legitimate reason for their search. In our technological age, the subjects should be able to confirm the warrant by telephone.

The excuse of "destruction of evidence" for no-knock raids should be severely curtailed. The amount of drugs that can be flushed down a toilet in five minutes does not justify the extreme risks involved in no knock raids.

In January, the criminal abuse of no-knock warrants resulted in the death of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, an innocent couple in Houston. Breonna's death confirms the deadly danger of no-knock raids.

The officers have a duty to protect the public. How was the firing of 22 rounds, none of which hit Kenneth, justified? Breonna was killed. She was not firing. Some  bullets ended up in other apartments.

The Houston warrant was based on false testimony.  The Louisville warrant is being investigated. The warrant claims a postal inspector verified the delivery of suspicious packages.  No one has found a postal inspector who is willing to state they made any such verification.  From
A day before the raid, a detective asked a judge to approve the warrant in part because he claimed a postal inspector verified that Glover was using Taylor's home to receive parcels, the affidavit says.

It is "possible" that Louisville police asked a mail inspector from another jurisdiction of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for help, Gooden said, but he said his office almost surely would have been notified of an outside agent's involvement.
On 21 May, 2020, the FBI announced it was launching an investigation. 
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The FBI is launching its own investigation into the fatal police shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor following a rising chorus of calls for an independent inquiry.

"The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough and impartial manner," the FBI Louisville Field Office said in a statement. "As this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time.
No illegal drugs were found at Breonna's apartment. Kenneth's pistol was completely legal.

On 26 May, 2020, the charges against Kenneth Walker were dismissed, without prejudice, which means the charges could be filed again, with new evidence.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Friday, Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine asked a judge to dismiss the case against Kenneth Walker. Walker, boyfriend of Breonna Taylor, was charged with attempted murder of a police officer after he started shooting at officers executing a no-knock search warrant at Taylor's apartment.

WHAS11 has learned the charges have been dismissed. According to a court document [Commonwealth of Kentucky vs Kenneth Walker III] dated May 26, 2020, a judge dismissed the indictment without prejudice.
Some police were outraged. Act like a criminal gang, and Americans will treat you as a criminal gang. From
“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!” River City FOP president Ryan Nichols wrote in a Facebook Post Friday. “Home incarceration was not designed for the most violent offenders!” “I call on the public to condemn the actions of Judge Olu Stevens.”
When you are serving a warrant, appear at a reasonable time, knock on the door, wear uniforms, be ready to present a warrant. If no one answers after three or four minutes, then you may break down the door. No knock raids in the middle of he night are closer to police terrorism than due process of law.

It often takes three or four minutes to answer the door. People can be changing a baby, in the bathroom, taking items from an oven, making love. You have to allow reasonable time to answer the door.  Don't expect people in the middle of the night to awaken, figure out what is going on, and answer the door, in the 20 seconds it takes to knock it down.  Don't assume yelling "Police" is a reasonable way to assure people that you are legitimate police. It isn't.

The tragic death of Breonna Taylor could have been prevented if no-knock raids were restricted to the tiny number of times they are needed.

It appears the Louisville Police are instituting reforms, such as requiring the Chief of Police to sign off on every no-knock warrant.  The policy exempting narcotics officers from wearing body cameras on raids has been changed.

Those reforms are a good start.

Use of body cam footage of use of force by officers would be required by law, to be released to the public, by a bill in the Kentucky legislature.  From
Kentucky House Bill 373 would make it so that cities do not have to release all body camera footage from first responders to the public. But footage of certain types of incidents, including use of force by police, is required to be made available to the public.
The Lousiville City Council is considering eliminating no-knock warrants.  From
At least one council member, Barbara Sexton Smith, called Wednesday for police to prohibit the no-knock warrants and is drafting an ordinance to do just that. The chair of the public safety committee, Jessica Green, is also collaborating on that effort.

"Several of us do have an appetite to draft an ordinance to either do away with no-knock warrants in their entirety or to drastically restrict them," Green told WDRB News.
No knock raids put everyone at risk. Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas in Houston were white. Breonna was black. The Constitution and the law should be colorblind.

Following the limits on government power placed in the Constitution, is the way to allow all to exist in freedom under the law. It is called "ordered liberty". We need to return to it.

©2020 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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ScienceABC123 said...

"No-knock raids" are intended to violent. They are typically done in the early morning hours to maximize the confusion of those being raided. Pulled from their sleep in such manner people may say something incriminating before they are fully awake.

Anonymous said...

It used to be that a warrant was not served until the person named in the warrant had an opportunity to read the warrant and object if any thing was incorrect. No knock warrants cant be constitutional for a number of reasons. The police have no authority to destroy property to enter it. that requires a separate legal action. there must be a hearing. The government is required to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt without your help they can not force your cooperation. If they serve the warrant properly and cant find what they are looking for in plain sight they need another hearing to get permission to open desk drawers or look through closed closets. Warrants must be very specific. badly written warrants can be refuse service. I have done it.