15.04.2024

New bodycam video raises questions in Breonna Taylor case

Hours of body camera footage, plus videotaped interviews with the officers involved and other newly disclosed materials, when combined with previously released information raise new doubts about nearly each aspect of the official version of the case: whether police announced themselves, who shot first, the role of Ms Taylor’s boyfriend, whether the crime scene was properly secured, how independent the resulting investigation was, and what jurors were told during the grand jury process. VICE and WDRB first reported the new findings.

The role of Kenneth Walker

One of the most striking moments in the footage comes as police arrest Kenneth Walker, Ms Taylor’s boyfriend, who is pictured barefoot and weeping in distress.

“She asked 10 times, ‘who’s at the door?’» Mr Walker says about the raid, in which officers suspected Ms Taylor’s ex-boyfriend of storing drugs at the apartment. (None were found.) “We don’t even know who it was.”

At one point former officer Brett Hankison, who was fired by the Louisville Metro Police Department and charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing blindly into the neighbouring apartments, can be heard threatening Mr Walker with life in prison.

“You’re going to f***ing prison, that’s what going on,” Mr Hankison says.  “For the rest of your f***ing life.”

“It was her,” Mr Walker says when asked who shot at officers, including Louisville police Sgt Jonathan Mattingly, who got struck in the thigh. “She was scared.”

Did police properly announce themselves?

The new materials also further complicate one of the most important questions in the case: did police properly announce themselves before kicking off the raid and busting down Ms Taylor’s door?

“Y’all was banging at the door, and she said, ‘Who is it?’ and y’all just started shooting,” Mr Walker says as he’s being handcuffed.

“No, we yelled three times, ‘Police search warrant,’” a nearby officer responds.

This builds on previous questions over whether proper notice was provided. More than a dozen neighbours told VICE they didn’t hear police announce themselves, and the investigative materials published in their documentary include tape of an interview with one of the prosecution’s key witnesses, who initially said police did not announce themselves, but later said they did. The witness’s lawyers later said his words had been misconstrued, and that police had identified themselves to him, not to Ms Taylor.

Body camera footage of the raid itself has not been released.

Was the crime scene properly secured?

The VICE investigation also notes that normal LMPD procedure was not followed when officer Hankison remained at the crime scene after the incident; officers normally must be escorted away after critical incidents.

The videos, some of which were previously made public, also capture officer Hankison walking into the apartment crime scene, as a SWAT officer warns that he’s accidentally walking over various bullet casings. Later, ballistics evidence captured at the scene couldn’t conclusively determine whose bullets hit Ms Taylor, and whether it was her boyfriend’s bullet that struck Sgt Mattingly.

Was the investigation independent?

The materials from Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron’s investigation into the shooting also raise questions over how independent their fact-finding was. According to VICE, Mr Cameron’s office only appears to have directly questioned two of the seven key officers involved, and much of their investigation relied on facts gathered from the LMPD itself.

«The full story and absolute truth of how this matter was handled from beginning to end is now an issue of great public interest and has become a large part of the discussion of public trust throughout the country,” the individual said in the filing.

The Attorney General’s recommendations to the jury on how and what to charge the officers in question with have still not been made public.

What now?

In the face of mounting questions, Ms Taylor’s family, alongside demonstrators across the country, are calling for a new trial.

“There seems to be two justice systems in America: one for Black America, and one for white America, and this has been emphasised by this grand jury proceeding into the killing of Breonna Taylor,” attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Ms Taylor’s family, said following the jury decision. On Saturday, he released an open letter on Twitter that said Attorney General Cameron was “biased throughout the process and intentionally deprived justice for Breonna and her family.»

“This is the Ben Crump model,” he said. “He goes into a city, creates a narrative, cherry picks facts to establish, to prove that narrative, creates chaos in a community, misrepresents the facts, and then he leaves with his money and then asks the community to pick up the pieces.”

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