Breonna Taylor, a Kentucky EMT worker fatally shot in her home in March, died as a result of a politically-driven police operation “to clear out” a Louisville street to make way for a multi-million gentrification plan, a lawsuit filed by the 26-year-old’s family states.
Taylor, who worked for two local hospitals, and her boyfriend were asleep in their apartment on March 13 when three officers executed a “no-knock” search warrant looking for a suspected drug dealer who lived in a different part of town. Taylor was shot eight times, spurring an FBI investigation and unleashing a wave of protests alongside the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.
“Breonna’s home should never have had police there in the first place,” an amended lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family in Jefferson Circuit Court Sunday states. “When the layers are peeled back, the origin of Breonna’s home being raided by police starts with a political need to clear out a street for a large real estate development project and finishes with a newly formed, rogue police unit violating all levels of policy, protocol, and policing standards.”
“Breonna’s death was the culmination of radical political and police conduct,” the lawsuit adds.
The amended lawsuit, which was originally filed in May against the three Louisville officers who entered Taylor’s home, further alleges that a police unit—dubbed Place-Based Investigations—“deliberately misled” narcotics detectives to target a home on Elliott Avenue, leading the cops to believe they were targeting “Louisville’s largest violent crime and drug rings.”
In reality, the unit was allegedly on “a crusade to target people and homes” in the area to speed up the city’s development project across town from where Taylor lived.
“Connecting the dots, it’s clear that these officers should never have been at Breonna Taylor’s home in the first place, and that they invaded the residence with no probable cause,” Ben Crump, who is representing Taylor’s family, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “The officers who robbed Breonna of her life...exhibited outrageous, reckless, willful, wanton, and unlawful conduct.”
Over the last few years, purchases had been made along Elliot Avenue and the surrounding west Louisville neighborhood by a local housing corporation, the lawsuit states. Several homes had been demolished to make way for a development that would “bring in modern, futuristic-looking homes, a cafe, an amphitheater, a state-of-the-art fitness center and more.”
Some lingering homes on Elliot Avenue—miles from Taylor’s Springfield Drive home—were seen as the “primary remaining obstacle,” the lawsuit states. So the Louisville Police Department formed a “dedicated squad” to push residents out, the suit claims. To the public, the squad was presented as a way to “address systemically violent locations” and disrupt “crime place networks.”
The lawsuit alleges police launched a huge narcotics investigation into Jamarcus Glover, an ex-boyfriend of Taylor with whom she maintained a “passive” friendship, because he lived on Elliot Avenue. Five search warrants were granted, including one for Taylor’s apartment, and more than 60 officers were assigned. LMPD Deputy Chief LaVita Chavous was even on the scene to coordinate.
In the affidavit for the “no-knock” search warrant for Taylor’s apartment, authorities stated that Glover went to her home in January and left with a “suspected USPS package” before going to a “known drug house.”
The affidavit also stated that a car registered to Taylor was seen in front of the “drug house” on Elliot Avenue on several occasions, which was about 10 miles from Taylor’s apartment.
Internal records first obtained by The Courier-Journal showed that authorities believed Glover was using her home to receive mail, keep drugs, or stash money.
But, in reality, neither Taylor nor her boyfriend had “any criminal history for drugs of violence,” or any drugs at the apartment, the lawsuit states.
“The affidavit was written with blatant lies and misrepresentations in order to try and meet the probable cause standard for a search warrant of Breonna’s home,” the lawsuit states, noting that the authorities were getting pressure from commanding staff “to eliminate any possibility that they would strike out” on finding Glover and another associate again.
Regardless of Taylor’s involvement, the lawsuit argues that Glover and the other occupants of the Elliot Avenue home “were not anywhere close to Louisville’s versions of Pablo Escobar or Scarface. And they were not violent criminals. They were simply a setback to a large real estate development deal and thus the issue needed to be cleaned up.”
The entire operation was part of a last-ditch real-estate effort by the Louisville mayor’s office “to leave an economic legacy in west Louisville” after several failed projects, the lawsuit alleges.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher’s office denied the allegations laid out in the amended lawsuit, calling the claims “outrageous” and “without foundation or supporting facts.”
Authorities initially claimed that, despite being granted a “no-knock” warrant, officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove “knocked on the door several times and announced their presence” when they arrived at Taylor’s home around 1 a.m. on March 13. They then “forced entry into the exterior door and were immediately met with gunfire,” authorities said.
However, the lawsuit alleges that not only did the plainclothes officers enter the home “without announcing themselves,” they approached in unmarked cars “which kept them from being detected by neighbors.”
Taylor and her boyfriend, 27-year-old Kenneth Walker, were startled awake by the officers and both began to ask “who is it?” to several loud knocks at the door, the lawsuit alleges. Believing their apartment was being burglarized, Walker grabbed his legally owned firearm. The couple walked out to the hallway terrified as they heard “loud bangs sounds” and the front door began to come off its hinges.
“Breonna and Kenny become scared. It’s late,” the lawsuit states. “There’s no good or safe reason for people to be at the home at this hour. There’s no good or safe reason for those knocking to not say who they are.”
In an attempt to get the suspected intruders to leave, Walker fired one warning shot toward the ground in self-defense, the lawsuit states. The shot prompted officers to return fire with at least a dozen shots—eight of which hit Taylor.
According to the lawsuit, Taylor “was not killed immediately” from the gunfire, but “lived for another five to six minutes before ultimately succumbing to her injuries on the floor of her home.”
Meanwhile, officers across town who initially couldn’t find Glover at the Elliott Avenue residence had located him at around 11:40 p.m. Nevertheless, they still moved forward with the search warrant at Taylor’s home.
“LMPD’s decision to reassemble a team to hit [Taylor’s home in] Springfield, despite having already apprehended JG, was unreasonable, sloppy, unlawful, and without probable cause,” the lawsuit alleges, claiming the three officers involved “jumped at the change to do so anyways.”
The officers involved were initially reassigned pending the outcome of an investigation. In May, Kentucky prosecutors dismissed all charges against Walker, who had been charged with assault and attempted murder of a police officer.
One month later, Hankison was fired from the police department for his role in the raid, days after an internal memo indicated the officers could not be suspended because there was no “indisputable evidence” of what happened.
The Louisville Metro Police Department did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher’s office said the allegations raised in the lawsuit were “insulting to the neighborhood members of the Vision Russell initiative and all the people involved in the years of work being done to revitalize the neighborhoods of west Louisville.”