LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Descriptions of confusion and chaos were revealed Friday as roughly 15 hours of grand jury recordings offered new insight into the events surrounding the death of Breonna Taylor during a March 13 police raid on her Kentucky apartment.
The recordings are a rare window into proceedings that are typically kept secret. More is now known about what police say happened that night and what prosecutors told jurors in September, but long-standing confusion over what happened in the moments before Taylor's death remains, even with the new information.
Police interviews with Taylor’s neighbors don't put to rest concerns of whether Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, knew police were outside the apartment after midnight with a narcotics warrant to search the home.
The recordings show police reported knocking and identifying themselves for a minute or more before bursting in. At one point an officer described the situation that unfolded as an "ambush," noting that it seemed possible that Walker was laying in wait with a gun and fired immediately as soon as police crossed the threshold into the apartment.
Walker's gunshot struck Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh, severing an artery. Mattingly survived.
Walker later said he thought someone was trying to break into the apartment, although he acknowledges he may not have heard police identify themselves because of where he was in the apartment.
The recordings detail Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's presentation to the grand jury, which resulted in charges against one of three police officers who fired into Taylor's apartment. Detective Brett Hankison was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment over bullets he fired that went into a neighboring occupied apartment.
Among the startling revelations the grand jurors learned:
No master plan existed for the search other than what was written on a whiteboard, according to Detective Herman Hall, of the attorney general's office.
Another detective from the office said the warrant was executed as a "knock-and-announce." Neighbors dispute that, with all but one saying they never heard anyone shout, “Police.”
Hankison, fired in June for firing blindly into Taylor’s apartment, said in radio communications that a subject was "barricading" inside the apartment with a rifle that "looks like AR." In fact, Taylor’s boyfriend, Walker, had a Glock 9 mm handgun that he fired once, and he surrendered without incident.
Neighbor Jack Schuler said there were so many gunshots it sounded like he was at the "O.K. Corral," according to Hall.
Another neighbor, Elaine Williams, said when she opened the door to her apartment, she heard an officer say, "Reload, reload. Let's do what we got to do," Hall said in summarizing his interviews with at least 15 residents.
A woman who called 911 and lived nearby told investigators an officer on-scene told her in a recorded Facebook Live video that "some drug-dealing girl shot at the police." She asked if he was sure and he reiterated: "Some drug-dealing girl shot an officer." Taylor hadn’t shot anyone, and she had no drug history.
Cosgrove, who the FBI concluded fired the fatal shot, described a loss of senses, like he was in a "cave of complete, utter silence."
The case has since been picked apart as activists, Taylor’s family and one of the jurors called for the grand jury file to be released.
“I’m confident that once the public listens to the recordings, they will see that our team presented a thorough case to the Jefferson County grand jury,” Cameron said in a statement.
The recordings cover the grand jury's sessions Sept. 21-23 in 14 audio files, with witnesses' personal information redacted because of concerns of threats that have been made to officials and officers.
Listen to the audio of the grand jury testimony below, or click here.
Walker: 'What did I do?'
On the first day of proceedings, grand jurors were shown select videos of the scene. They saw about 30 minutes of crime scene video taken by Louisville Metro Police Department followed by a patrol officer’s body camera footage from the aftermath of the shooting.
Audio from that recording indicates it was captured as officers were giving Kenneth Walker orders to leave the apartment.
Much of it is hard to decipher in the court’s recording of the grand jury room, but officers are heard telling Walker to “Walk backwards!” and “Keep coming back!” as a dog starts barking.
Jeff Fogg, an investigator with the Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigations, identifies Hankison at one point.
“What did I do?” Walker cries out.
Moments later, officers are heard asking Walker questions: “Who was shooting at us?” “What kind of gun did she shoot?” “Did she shoot or you shoot?”
Fogg tells grand jurors they don’t have enough time to show all the video footage from March 13.
“We got time,” one woman says back.
Witness recalls hearing Walker say 'Baby breathe, baby breathe'
Herman Hall, a police detective with the Kentucky attorney general's office, said he interviewed neighbor Chelsey Napper and her boyfriend Cody Etherton at attorney Brandon Lawrence's office. Etherton told Hall that he saw Taylor's front door busted open, so he looked into her apartment but it was dark and he couldn't see anything.
He walked past the stairwell and saw the police officers and one officer saw him, and the officers were yelling at him to get back into his apartment. He did hear Walker from inside Taylor's apartment saying, "Baby breathe, baby breathe."
Neighbor Jack Schuler said there were so many gunshots it sounded like he was at the "OK Corral."
Officer claimed 'we were ambushed'
In a recording heard by grand jurors, Louisville Metro Police Department Detective Shawn Hoover, one of the officers in the group executing the warrant at Taylor’s home, told a Public Integrity Unit investigator on March 13 that everyone in the group agreed they would knock on Taylor’s door despite having a no-knock warrant.
He said it was his understanding, from a briefing that night, that the main target of the narcotics investigation wouldn’t be in Taylor’s home and that it would be a “low-risk” warrant to serve.
“We assumed, never assume, but I assumed somebody would come and answer the door,” Hoover said. “That was our intention to give them the opportunity to, you know, one, it’s after midnight. You’re breaking down somebody’s door, and it’s dark. They’re in bed, startled. We’re trying to give them a chance to answer the door and (unintelligible) keeps us from having to tear up their property.”
Hoover said officers knocked on Taylor’s door three times, waiting 10 to 15 seconds between knocks, before deciding to bust down her door.
Officers yelled “police” on the first two knocks and “police search warrant” on the third knock, Hoover said.
After the first or second knock, he added, upstairs neighbors came into a hallway and asked what was going on.
Hoover said he believed Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, and Taylor were lying in wait for the officers.
“In my opinion, we were ambushed,” Hoover said. “They knew we were there. Hell, the neighbors knew we were there upstairs. They were coming out to see.”
AG's office: Officers 'were acting in good faith'
On Sept. 21, jurors pressed Fogg, the investigator with the attorney general’s Department of Criminal Investigations, for specifics of the warrant. He repeats what police were looking for and the people named on the warrant: Taylor, Jamarcus Glover and Adrian Walker (who is not related to Kenneth Walker).
Glover was the main target of the broader narcotics investigation that led police to Taylor’s door. He and Taylor had dated.
“Glover,” one juror asks, “was he already arrested at the time?”
“They had made contact with him earlier at a different location,” Fogg says, noting it was around the same late evening or early morning time frame.
Fogg tells jurors the warrant being served was “valid.”
“The officers that served this warrant were acting in good faith,” he says.
A prosecutor then points out where the time was stated on the warrant: 12:37 p.m.
A juror asks if the officers were aware that police had made contact with Glover before serving the warrant at Taylor’s home.
“Yes, I believe they were, yes,” Fogg says.
Officers say they didn't conduct a 'no-knock' warrant or search apartment
A law enforcement officer says police did not end up searching Taylor’s apartment on the day she was shot and killed by police who had arrived with a search warrant.
Detective Hall, of the attorney general's office, tells the grand jury on its final day that no drugs were found in Taylor's apartment, which was known. Responding to questions from the grand jury, he also says there was no master plan for the search other than what was written on a white board.
A judge had approved a "no-knock" warrant for her apartment, which authorized law enforcement to enter the private premise without announcing their presence. Such warrants are issued when a judge agrees that announcing law enforcement’s presence may allow suspects to destroy potential evidence or endanger police safety.
During the testimony, a recording of police officer Hoover was played for the grand jury from an interview recorded March 13. In it, he says officers knocked on Taylor's door several times and announced their presence.
“We knocked on the door, said police, waited, I don’t know, 10 or 15 seconds. Knocked again, said police, waited even longer,” Hoover says.
“So it was the third time that we were approaching, it had been like 45 seconds if not a minute,” Hoover says. “And then I said, `Let’s go, let’s breach it.’”
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Testimony reveals how Louisville officer was shot
A recording of Detective Michael Nobles’ interview with the Public Integrity Unit investigation on March 16, three days after the shooting, was played to the grand jury at around 3:45 p.m. on Sept. 21.
In it, Nobles says he was assigned to the warrant for Taylor’s apartment and he and the other officers met behind a church in the area until they were told SWAT was in the area. Once they got word they were, he says, they all drove separately to Taylor’s apartment.
He stood to the right of the apartment door and was assigned the task of ramming the door in should no one answer. He says he knocked several times and announced they were the police. A neighbor came out to see what was going on, he says, and another officer told them to go back inside.
“It was a good, I would say, more than two minutes of me knocking on the door saying police. And I could hear somebody inside in the door. I could hear her. And we knew who the target was. ... We were told that it shouldn’t be a problem.
“It was supposed to be her and her kid, maybe even her and a small child there. So that’s why we decided to knock. It was a no-knock warrant, but we wanted to give her time. ... You could hear movement but there was no answer so (Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly) and I decided, let’s go ahead and hit it.”
He hit the door handle on the first swing with the battering ram and on the second hit, he said, the door partially opened, but it was still connected to the fame. The third hit knocked it completely off the frame, he said, adding that his momentum took him inside the apartment, where it was pitch black.
He quickly backed out of the way.
“I didn’t hear anything, I just looked, (Mattingly) yelled, he screamed,” Nobles says. “He just looked up and said, ‘I’ve been shot.’ He was like, ‘I’ve been shot’ or something. He went down, and I could see blood immediately, just, coming out of his leg. And then I think he took a couple more shots. He was aiming at something in the door. And he took a couple more shots inside.”
Nobles says he turned around and tried to run and didn’t know who was shooting, but couldn’t make it out. When there was a break in the shooting, he said he ran to the parking lot. He was with Mattingly in the parking lot and tied a tourniquet around his leg.
Mattingly was shot in the thigh and later required surgery.
Neighbor shares details about what happened after the shooting
In a clip from the grand jury’s second day of presentation, a detective with the Office of the attorney general’s Department of Criminal Investigations describes an interview he conducted with Summer Dickerson, who was living near Taylor’s apartment at the time of the shooting.
Dickerson, he says, heard the shooting and called 911. After she hung up with the dispatcher, she recognized an officer on the scene and asked what happened. “Some drug-dealing girl shot at the police,” the officer responded, according to the detective, who says the interaction was captured on Dickerson’s Facebook Live broadcast.
Dickerson asks if he’s sure. He confirms and repeats: “Some drug-dealing girl shot an officer.”
Cameron responds to grand jury proceedings
Roughly an hour after the release of the grand jury recordings, Cameron, Kentucky's Republican attorney general, released a statement saying the redacted portions of the 20 hours totaled 3 minutes and 50 seconds. "Juror deliberations and prosecutor recommendations and statements were not recorded, as they are not evidence," he said.
“I’m confident that once the public listens to the recordings, they will see that our team presented a thorough case to the Jefferson County Grand Jury," Cameron said. "Our presentation followed the facts and the evidence, and the Grand Jury was given a complete picture of the events surrounding Ms. Taylor’s death on March 13th. While it is unusual for a court to require the release of the recordings from Grand Jury proceedings, we complied with the order, rather than challenging it, so that the full truth can be heard.”
Cameron said Mattingly and Cosgrove acted in self-defense after Walker, fired at them first.
Why are the grand jury recordings being released?
In the week since the indictments against Hankison were announced, several groups including members of Breonna Taylor's family and their attorneys have called for evidence and grand jury materials to be released to the public.
The release of the recordings comes after a grand juror filed a court motion Monday — in a very unusual move — calling for the release and permission to speak freely about what charges and defendants were not considered. The juror's attorney said Cameron used them as a "shield" and that what he said — and what the jury was told — "don't fit together."
Jefferson Circuit Judge Ann Bailey Smith ordered "the recording of the grand jury proceedings shall be filed in the court file by noon of Wednesday this week." She later extended the deadline to Friday at noon at Cameron's request.
In a statement late Monday, Cameron said he would comply with the judge's orders, despite misgivings. "The grand jury is meant to be a secretive body," he said. "It’s apparent that the public interest in this case isn’t going to allow that to happen."
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Why is Cameron's investigation under scrutiny?
Cameron at first said the grand jury agreed with the self-defense determination. Cameron's spokeswoman acknowledged Monday night that prosecutors had never recommended charges to the grand jury against Mattingly and Cosgrove.
Questions also have arisen about the search warrant that led police to Taylor's door after a leaked investigative report showed Louisville police were told by a detective in Shively, a suburb of Louisville, that no packages from Jamarcus Glover, the main target of the narcotics investigation, were being delivered to her home. A judge said Thursday she was concerned that the detective may have lied to obtain the warrant.
Cameron, however, has said his investigation focused on the "events that took place in Ms. Taylor's apartment," not the warrant process.
"The scope of our investigation did not include the attainment of that warrant by LMPD's criminal interdiction division. Federal law enforcement partners are conducting that investigation," he said at a press conference last Wednesday.
Contributing: Billy Kobin, Sarah Ladd, Matt Mencarini, Jonathan Bullington, Matt Glowicki and Andrew Wolfson, Louisville Courier Journal; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Breonna Taylor case: Grand jury recordings of decision released