Tuesday, September 29, 2020

KY: More Information on the Breonna Taylor/Kenneth Walker Case in Louisville


More information has surfaced in the Breonna Taylor/Kenneth Walker no-knock warrant service in Louisville, Kentucky, which occurred on 13 March of this year.

On the night of the shooting, the officer who was shot and wounded, Sgt. Mattingly,  who was doing the banging on the door, was recorded in a friendly interview by police.

He said he repeatedly banged on the door and yelled "Police, Come to the Door, Search Warrant".  He said this was done about 6 or 7 times. Sgt. Mattingly said it took about 45 seconds to a minute of banging and announcing before the police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team broke down the door.   

Mattingly said it seemed like an eternity, during the knocking. From his interview (on audio at wlky.com), the police did not announce their presence the first couple of banging sequences: 

We did not announce the first couple, because our intent was to give her plenty of time to come to the door because he said she was probably there alone. So we determined, pre-determined to give her plenty of time to come to the door, 

Some people would interpret that as a dubious excuse for not announcing they were police. Many people believe announcing police were at the door would result in greater speed in answering the door, not less.  

Mattingly says they arrived at the location 45 minutes early. They spent time surveilling the scene and checking out a vehicle near the apartment.

His account raises questions about the urgency of the warrant service. Why not wait another minute to break down the door in an apartment in which they did not expect any resistance?  Why do you need a SWAT team, if you do not expect resistance?

Cynics might say they rushed to break down the door before someone might answer it.

Mattingly was very likely in an adrenaline rush preparatory to breaking down the door with the SWAT team.  More from the audio interview:

6 or 7 different times, what seems like an eternity when you are at the doorway. It probably lasted between 45 seconds and a minute, banging on the door.

Adrenaline often distorts the sense of time. Time seems to stretch out when you are high on adrenaline. 

One can conduct an experiment where you knock three times and say, "Police, Search Warrant, Come to the door". 

I did this six times in moderately rapid succession, with a sense of urgency to the voice and the knocking. I timed it. It took 20 seconds. Try it yourself. It is an easy experiment to do. 

We do not know exactly how much time it took, because the police were not wearing body cameras. No digital files have been released with audio or surveillance files, which might give us precise timing.  We do not know how much overlap there was between the banging and the yelling about police, search warrant, come to the door, which would make communications harder to understand.

Giving the benefit of the doubt to Sgt. Mattingly, even 1 minute is far from a reasonable time for someone to be woken from a sound sleep, figure out someone is banging on the door, decide to respond, get dressed, and get to the door.  Try it sometime and time it. One to two minutes is a minimal time to be reasonable.  The warrant service was after midnight.

Kenneth Walker, testifying in an audio recording at the same link, says Breonna was yelling, at the top of her lungs "Who is it?" repeatedly, but they did not hear a response, just the banging. 

Sgt. Mattingly says an officer thought he heard something, about in the middle of the banging sequence, but no one came to the door right away, so they continued on with the banging and forced entry.  That would only leave 30 seconds, at most, from the time the officer heard something until the officers broke down the door.

People on both sides of the door say they were yelling, yet both sides say they could not understand any words the other side was saying.  That seems to validate both accounts.

 In a society with a robust right to arms, police breaking down doors will result in preventable tragedies.

Immediately after the shooting, Kenneth Walker called 911.  From cbsnews.com

"I don't know what happened ... somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend," Walker told the dispatcher. When asked where Taylor had been shot, Walker replied, "I don't know, she is on the ground right now. I don't know, I don't know." 

There was confusion about who shot Sgt. Mattingly, in early reports. Now we know why. 

Kenneth Walker lied to the police, immediately after being taken into custody. When asked who shot at police, Walker said Breonna did. 

In the audio testimony, Walker is asked why he lied. He says he was scared.  A jury may find that plausible. Put yourself in their shoes to determine if Walker might have reasonably lied in that situation, out of fear. 

Consider the long standing hype about the chances of anyone shooting an officer and surviving the arrest. 

A defense attorney told me the chance of a suspect, who wounded a police officer, surviving an arrest, is nil.  He said he was amazed that Walker survived the arrest.

I have not found at what point the lie was detected or Walker admitted to it.

Kenneth Walker said he thought the home invasion might be by Breonna's former boyfriend, who is accused of drug dealing, and who was arrested the same night, a little before the warrant service at Breonna's apartment resulted in the killing and wounding. 

Home invasions by former boyfriends are a fairly common occurrence. They often involve a lot of banging on doors and yelling. Here is one from Oklahoma:

The woman told detectives she was at the home with her current boyfriend when they heard loud banging on the back door.

She grabbed a pistol and shot the intruder after he forced his way inside the residence, Butterfield said.

While some shots were fired from outside the apartment to the inside, with shots going through the door and window,  all the shots which hit Breonna were fired from just inside the apartment, according to the police. From wave3.com:

Sources told WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters that one of the officers, Brett Hankison, had fired multiple shots into the apartment blindly from the outside. Those statements corroborate that claim from Taylor’s attorneys.

LMPD confirmed three officers -- Jon Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove and Hankison -- fired their weapons that night. Mattingly was struck in the leg and returned fire. He has recovered. Cosgrove fired his weapon inside the apartment. All three officers were placed on adminstrative reassignment.

The sources said they do not believe Taylor was struck by any of the bullets fired by Hankison from outside.

The link at wave3.com has good pictures of the bullet holes through the door and window of the apartment. 

There are recorded conversations from jail phone calls (they are routinely recorded) between Breonna and her former boyfriend, in January of 2020, where they discuss her bailing him out, and some transactions, likely involving illegal drugs. This shows the legitimacy of a warrant to search her house. It is far from a legitimate reason for a no-knock warrant. 

It appears the no-knock warrant was part of several no-knock warrants designed to hit several places the same night. The warrants do not appear to be have been closely coordinated.  If the purpose was to prevent one location from warning other locations, communications between various warrant serving teams have not surfaced.

Serving warrants in the dead of night is a bad idea, in general. A defense attorney told me it has become, essentially, a terror tactic.  

Consider the early morning raids used to intimidate President Trump supporters, by the Muller investigation.  

To sum up points of fact recently revealed, over which early reporting was ambivalent or wrong: 

  • The warrant for Breonna's apartment was legitimately issued, according to the policies in effect, at the time.
  • The police had evidence of Breonna's involvement with her accused drug dealer former boyfriend (two months before the raid) than only the information about her accepting parcels at her residence, for him.
  • The shots which killed Breonna were not fired through the door or window. 
  • The shot fired by Kenneth Walker, which wounded Sgt. Mattingly, was not fired through the door.
  • Breonna was in the hallway with Walker, when the shots inside were exchanged. She was not in her bed.
  • Kenneth Walker initially lied to police about who fired at police, immediately after the shooting, when he was in police custody. 
  • The police's claim they announced themselves is likely true. It does not mean anyone in the apartment understood they were police when they broke down the door.

These clarifications tend to exonerate the police officers, because they followed existing policy, and they had a legal warrant.

They show the wisdom of reforms limiting no-knock warrants, requiring body cameras, holding police accountable for firing shots promiscuously, and for more effective announcement of police presence. 

They show allowing "announce and knock" warrants, without stipulating meaningful time to allow residents to respond, just changes the name of no-knock raids. 


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

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Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, anyone can yell Police. On the otherhand a brief delay can allow evidence to be flushed.

Anonymous said...

Soooo...the answer is to let everyone simply get away with everything? Mind you, I'm NOT saying that the way they went about the firing squad was in any way proper- especially the part where the criteria as to when their shooting should stop apparently had nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not the kill squad was still taking any fire from occupants of the dwelling- their actions seem to point in the direction of No Intent to Arrest. Why that one trigger happy yahoo was shooting into the apartment next door defies logic. Seems that training went right down the tubes. Seems like discipline followed immediately after. For a planned action, there seemed to be no sound planning. This problem started long before those cops showed up at that door.