Black woman shot and killed after Kentucky police entered her home as she slept, family says

Minyvonne Burke

A black woman was asleep in her Louisville, Kentucky, home when three police officers forced their way inside, "blindly fired" and killed her, according to a lawsuit filed by the woman's family.

Breonna Taylor, an EMT worker, died on March 13 after officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department executed a search warrant at the wrong home, the suit states.

Police at the time said the officers knocked on the door several times and “announced their presence as police who were there with a search warrant.” The officers forced their way in through the door and “were immediately met by gunfire,” Lt. Ted Eidem said at a March 13 press conference.

Taylor's death gained national attention this week after the family hired attorney Ben Crump, who is also representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery, the black man in Georgia who died on Feb. 23 after being pursued and shot by two white men.

Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael were arrested last week and charged with murder and aggravated assault in the Arbery case.

Crump called Taylor's death a "senseless killing."

"We stand with the family of this young woman in demanding answers from the Louisville Police Department," he said in a statement Monday on Twitter.

The attorney called out the police department for not taking responsibility and not providing "any answers regarding the facts and circumstances of how this tragedy occurred."

Crump joins Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker in representing the family.

The lawsuit states that Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were asleep in the bedroom when police in plain clothes and unmarked vehicles arrived at the house around 12:30 a.m.

The officers were looking for a suspect who lived in a different part of the city and was already in police custody after he was arrested earlier.

The three officers entered Taylor's home "without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers," the suit states.

The lawsuit says Taylor and Walker woke up and thought criminals were breaking in. Walker called 911 and, according to The Courier-Journal, police said he opened fire and shot an officer.

"The defendants then proceeded to spray gunfire into the residence with a total disregard for the value of human life," the lawsuit alleges. "Shots were blindly fired by the officers all throughout Breonna's home."

The suit states that Walker had a license to carry and kept firearms in the home for protection.

Taylor, 26, was shot eight times and died. Walker, 27, was arrested. According to jail records he's been charged with assault and attempted murder on a police officer. An attorney for Walker could not immediately be reached.

"Breonna had posed no threat to the officers and did nothing to deserve to die at their hands," the suit says, adding that she was unarmed.

"Neither of the two had any criminal history for drugs or violence," it states. No drugs were found in the home.

The gunfire from the officers struck objects in the living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, bathroom and both bedrooms, according to the lawsuit.

"The officers failed to use any sound reasonable judgment whatsoever when firing more than 25 blind shots into multiple homes and causing the wrongful death of Breonna," according to the suit.

Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, filed the lawsuit in April in Jefferson Circuit Court alleging wrongful death, excessive force and gross negligence.

A spokesperson for the Louisville Metro Police Department said, "Due to an ongoing internal investigation into this situation, we are not able to comment at this time."

The officers were identified by the police department at the March 13 press conference as Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove. All three were placed on administrative reassignment pending the outcome of an investigation.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement Tuesday that he was monitoring the case and talked to the police department's chief to ensure a thorough investigation.

"As always, my priority is that the truth comes out, and for justice to follow the path of truth," he said in a statement posted on Twitter. "The Breonna Taylor case is currently under investigation. Therefore, expansive comments are not appropriate until all the facts are fully known."