Report: officers shouldn’t have fired in Breonna Taylor raid

Published 5:47 am Saturday, May 8, 2021

Louisville police documents in the deadly Breonna Taylor raid reveal internal disagreements about whether officers were justified in using deadly force, according to a newspaper report.

In a review of the fatal shooting from December, a Louisville police investigator wrote in a report that officers serving the narcotics warrant shouldn’t have returned fire when Taylor’s boyfriend shot at them, because it put others in danger.

Sgt. Andrew Meyer of the department’s Professional Standards Unit wrote that finding in a preliminary report on Dec. 4, but he was ultimately overruled by police leadership, The Courier Journal reported.

The officers at Taylor’s apartment had an “obligation” to only use deadly force against the person who was presenting a deadly threat, which was Taylor’s boyfriend, Meyer wrote. Meyer said they could not safely do that because of the layout of the hallway in Taylor’s apartment.

“They took a total of thirty-two shots, when the provided circumstances made it unsafe to take a single shot,” Meyer wrote. “This is how the wrong person was shot and killed.”

Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical worker, was fatally shot after officers entered her apartment with a battering ram on March 13, 2020. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was with her and fired a shot at the officers, later saying he thought an intruder was breaking in.

Walker’s bullet struck Sgt. Johnathan Mattingly in the leg, and Mattingly returned fire. But even Mattingly violated department policy when he returned fire, Meyer wrote.

Mattingly “should not have taken the shot” because his target wasn’t isolated and there was a significant risk of hitting someone who didn’t pose a threat, Meyer said.

Mattingly was cleared of violating department policy by police officials who overruled Meyer’s findings. Two other officers who fired their guns during the raid have been fired for violating use of force policies. Mattingly is retiring on June 1.

Former Interim chief Yvette Gentry wrote in a Dec. 27 letter to officers that Mattingly’s actions should be viewed based on his understanding at the time “after being shot himself.” She wrote that Mattingly fired “at the aggressor he identified.”

The documents were released this week to the newspaper after parts of the investigative file were withheld in April.