Newly-released audio from the internal investigation into Breonna Taylor’s death illustrates conflicting accounts of whether police identified themselves before ultimately breaking down Taylor’s door in an incident which led to her death.
The audio, first reported by NBC News and obtained by CNN, includes the Louisville Metro Police Department’s interview with Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, on the night of the shooting. It’s unclear if Walker had an attorney present during the interview.
Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was shot eight times after police broke down the door to her apartment while executing a nighttime warrant in a narcotics investigation on March 13.
Walker, who was audibly upset, described multiple knocks and both he and Taylor shouting “who is it” to no response. He said as the couple approached the door, it came “off the hinges” and he fired a shot. When a “lot of shots” were fired, the two dropped to the floor, Walker said, and his gun fell. He “was scared to death,” he said.
That shot Walker fired struck Sgt. John Mattingly in the leg, puncturing his femoral artery and setting off a wave of return fire according to police.
The tapes also include an interview with Mattingly, conducted on March 25, nine days after his release from the hospital. Mattingly was interviewed with an attorney present.
In the interview, Mattingly maintains that officers identified themselves repeatedly before breaking down Taylor’s door.
Though the narcotics warrant that police say they were serving at Taylor’s door was a so-called no-knock warrant, Mattingly told investigators the officers were instructed to knock on the door.
Recounting the pre-operational briefing for the warrant at the recommendation of his attorney, Mattingly said, “I verbally heard, ‘We have it signed as a no-knock, but we’re not going to go that route.’”
Neither Mattingly nor Walker deny that the police officers banged on the door. Mattingly, however, told investigators that police repeatedly knocked on the door and announced their presence.
“I probably banged on the door six or seven different time periods,” Mattingly was recorded telling investigators. “Seems like an eternity when you’re up at a doorway. It probably lasted between 45 seconds and a minute,” he said.
“We banged on it, no response,” Mattingly said. “Banged on it again, no response. At that point we started announcing ourselves: ‘Police! Please come to the door! Police! We have a search warrant!’”
Later in the interview, Mattingly said officers waited an appropriate amount of time before breaking down Taylor’s door – “more than enough time for the average person, or even a disabled person, to get to the door in that small apartment,” he said.
Mattingly offered a different account than Walker, saying the door was not knocked off its hinges.
Louisville Metro Police Department investigator Jason Vance confirmed with Mattingly that Taylor’s house was considered a “soft target” – officers didn’t expect much resistance. “That’s what kind of made you all come up with the original, ‘Hey, we’re just going to knock, try to get her to the door,’ you know, the most passive way to serve the warrant,” Vance said.
“Right,” Mattingly replied.
When, after knocking, police decided to break down the door, Mattingly was the first into the apartment.
The lights in the apartment were off, but Mattingly described seeing Walker and Taylor side by side down a hallway, with Walker “stretched out” and holding a gun.
“I did not turn my gun light on, which I am grateful for,” Mattingly said, explaining the light would have made him more of a target.
“As soon as I clear (the door), he fired. Boom. It was almost like at the shooting range when two things flip at the same time and you’ve got to shoot, no-shoot,” he said of Walker and Taylor. “They were like shoulder-to-shoulder.”
Mattingly said he realized he’d been hit and felt hot pain in his leg. “So I just returned fire. I got four rounds off,” he said. It’s unclear if Mattingly’s shots struck Taylor.
Mattingly then retreated to the street, he told investigators, where he fell and was dragged away by other officers to await medical care. From outside, he said he could hear more gunshots.
Throughout the interview with investigator Amanda Seely, Walker expressed he was scared.
“I don’t even know what happened,” Walker sobbed, “or why.”
He told investigators he legally possessed a gun. “I’m licensed to carry, everything. I’ve never even fired my gun outside of a range. I’m scared to death,” he said.
Walker said the one shot he fired was meant to be a warning shot. “I’m trying to protect her,” he said.
It was only later that he realized they were police officers.
When he surrendered to police, Walker said, an officer asked him if he had been hit. When he said no, Walker told investigators the officer responded, “That’s unfortunate.”
Walker also said that on the way to police station that night, an officer had characterized the raid to him as a “misunderstanding.”
Asked to comment on the tapes, an attorney for Taylor’s family told CNN Thursday she had not yet heard the audio.
The Louisville Fraternal Order of Police could not be immediately reached for comment.