What happened on the night of her death?

What happened on the night of her death?

Regular vigils have been held in Kentucky for Ms Taylor
Regular vigils have been held in Kentucky for Ms Taylor

The killing of unarmed black woman Breonna Taylor – who was shot in her Louisville home by US police in March – has resonated around the world, with protesters demanding that the public “say her name” so she is not forgotten.

Her family sued the Kentucky city for the death in May and reached a $12m (£9.4m) settlement. But they, alongside activists, have demanded criminal charges for the three officers who fired the shots.

On Wednesday, one officer – Brett Hankison – was charged, not with Ms Taylor’s death but with “wanton endangerment” for firing into a neighbour’s apartment. Two other officers who were involved have not been charged.

Ben Crump, lawyer from the Taylor family, said the fact that no charges had been brought in direct relation to the killing was “outrageous and offensive”.

Breonna Taylor, 26, was a decorated emergency medical technician
Breonna Taylor, 26, was a decorated emergency medical technician

What happened to Breonna Taylor?

Ms Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was at home in bed in Louisville on 13 March, when police officers entered her apartment shortly after midnight, her family says.

The Louisville Metro Police Department narcotics officers raided her home, using a battering ram to take her front door off its hinges. No drugs were found on her property and Ms Taylor had no criminal record.

Police were acting on a controversial type of search warrant – known as a “no-knock” warrant – that allows police to enter the home without warning. Police claim they knocked and announced themselves before entering, but Ms Taylor’s family and a neighbour have disputed this.

At the time, Ms Taylor was in bed with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker, a licensed gun owner, according to her family. Hearing the commotion, Mr Walker believed people were trying to break into the apartment, he later told police, and fired one shot of his pistol.

Officials say Mr Walker’s bullet struck a police officer, Jonathan Mattingly, in the leg – an injury for which he later required surgery.

Mr Mattingly and two other officers, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, returned fire and shot more than 20 rounds. Mr Walker wasn’t wounded but Ms Taylor was hit multiple times and died in the hallway of her apartment, lawyers for her family said.

A graphic showing Breonna Taylor's apartment block in Louisville and the order of events during the shooting
A graphic showing Breonna Taylor’s apartment block in Louisville and the order of events during the shooting

A timeline of the shooting

  1. Walker fires one bullet, hitting Mattingly in the leg moments after police take down the flat door with a battering ram

  2. Mattingly returns fire, shooting six times at Walker and Taylor, who is standing beside him in her hallway

  3. Cosgrove fires 16 shots from the doorway of Taylor’s home

  4. Taylor is struck six times in a matter of seconds

  5. Hankinson fires 10 shots through a patio door and window. His bullets enter the nextdoor flat

The subsequent police report contained numerous errors, including listing Ms Taylor’s injuries as “none” and saying no force was used to enter, when a battering ram had been used.

Mr Walker was initially charged with attempted murder and assault of a police officer, but the case against him was dropped in May amid national scrutiny of the case.

Why were police there?

The search warrant obtained by police included Ms Taylor’s name and address. Authorities believed her ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, was involved in a drug ring and had used her apartment to hide narcotics.

Neither she nor her current boyfriend, Mr Walker, had a history of drug offences, and no narcotics were found at the scene. Mr Walker was not named on the arrest warrant.

An attorney for Ms Taylor’s family said she had dated Mr Glover two years earlier, and the pair had maintained a “passive friendship”.

Billboards around Louisville call for the three officers to be arrested
Billboards around Louisville call for the three officers to be arrested

Mr Glover was arrested for drug possession on the same night of Breonna Taylor’s death. He has said that prosecutors pressed him to name Ms Taylor as a “co-defendant” in the case against him.

According to the Louisville Courier Journal newspaper, in obtaining the search warrant, police had said that Mr Glover had listed Ms Taylor’s address as his own on certain documents and also been seen collecting a package from the property.

In May, Louisville postal inspector Tony Gooden said that another government agency had been asked in January to investigate whether Ms Taylor’s home had been receiving suspicious mail. Mr Gooden did not name the agency but said it had found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Mr Glover also told the Courier Journal that he had sent packages of clothes and shoes to Ms Taylor’s apartment because he feared they would be stolen from his own home.

What are ‘no-knock’ search warrants?

No-knock warrants allow police to enter a residence unannounced. They are often used in drug raids to prevent suspects from flushing evidence down the toilet. But they have long been controversial, with critics saying they can have a traumatic effect on unsuspecting suspects or innocent bystanders.

Only Florida and Oregon ban no-knock warrants state-wide, but after Ms Taylor’s death other states and cities have begun working on similar legislation.

Louisville’s city council banned them as a direct result of the case, calling the action “Breonna’s law”.

In June, the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives voted to ban no-knock warrants for federal police nationwide, but the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to take up the bill.

What has changed since her death?

Police officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of “wanton endangerment” for firing into a neighbour’s apartment.

Under Kentucky law, someone is guilty of wanton endangerment if they commit an act that shows “an extreme indifference to the value of human life”.

The other two officers who fired their weapons that night, Mr Mattingly and Mr Cosgrove, have been re-assigned to administrative duties.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said on Wednesday that the two officers had been “justified to protect themselves and the justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges”.

As part of the financial settlement won by Ms Taylor’s family, a series of police reforms has been rolled out in Louisville. One change is that all search warrants must now be approved by a senior officer.

It is a felony that can come with a five-year sentence for each count.

The officers who entered Ms Taylor’s apartment were not wearing body cameras, and the Louisville Metro Police Department has now made it compulsory for all officers to wear them.

The city’s police chief was also fired in June after it was discovered that officers had failed to turn on their cameras before the fatal shooting of an African-American restaurant owner, David McAtee.

The subsequent interim police chief is retiring. Yvette Gentry, who takes over on 1 October, will be the department’s first black female police chief.

How big has the campaign become?

Ms Taylor’s name circulated widely during the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality, which erupted in May after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

Many felt her death had been overlooked and deserved more attention.

Since then, more and more Americans have called for justice in her memory.

At the Democratic National Convention in August, both former First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris mentioned her. Presidential candidate Joe Biden has said the officers should be criminally charged.

Major league sports athletes have worn her name on their helmets, jerseys and shoes, and chat show host Oprah Winfrey commissioned billboards in Louisville to call for the police who killed her to be arrested.

US athletes have been wearing Breonna Taylor's name on their uniforms
US athletes have been wearing Breonna Taylor’s name on their uniforms
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