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Breonna Taylor's family says fatal raid was connected to gentrification project

Taylor, 26, was killed on March 13 after police officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department raided her home.
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The family of Breonna Taylor amended their lawsuit against three Louisville police officers to say that the raid at her home that ended in her death was connected to a gentrification project.

Taylor, 26, a former EMT, was killed on March 13 after she was shot multiple times in her home by officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department. Police were executing a no-knock search warrant in a drug investigation.

Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, filed a lawsuit against three of the officers involved: Sgt. Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly. Hankison was fired in June for “wantonly and blindly” firing into the apartment, according to his termination letter. Cosgrove and Mattingly have been placed on administrative leave.

Breonna Taylor.
Breonna Taylor.Family photo

An amended lawsuit was filed Sunday in the Jefferson Circuit Court alleging that the raid at Taylor's home "starts with a political need to clear out a street for a large real estate development project."

"Breonna’s home should never have had police there in the first place," the suit, obtained by NBC News, says. "Breonna’s death was the culmination of radical political and police conduct."

The lawsuit says that the police were used to target people and homes on Elliott Avenue because the street needed to be vacated for the real estate project.

"One of the primary roadblocks to this unit and the real estate development project was an ex-boyfriend of Breonna Taylor, who rented a home on Elliott Avenue," the lawsuit states.

Taylor lived on a different street more than 10 miles away, but her address was listed on the police search warrant based on their belief that a suspect, her ex-boyfriend, had used her home to keep drugs or stash money.

The warrant also stated that a car registered to Taylor was seen parked on several occasions in front of a "drug house" known to the suspect, her ex-boyfriend.

Members of Louisville's Metro Council leadership on Wednesday sent a letter demanding answers from Mayor Greg Fischer about the allegations regarding potential development and Elliot Avenue.

"The trust between Louisville Metro and the people we serve is eroding at a pace that may soon pass the point of restoration," the letter, dated Wednesday, reads.

It demands "the immediate release of all documents" about the Taylor case, as well as any records between the city government — including the mayor's office — and the police department involving Elliott Avenue. The letter demands the documents and other materials be delivered by July 23.

"The people of Louisville need absolute and complete transparency," the letter reads. The letter says a Metro Council government oversight committee has already started an investigation.

Emailed requests for comment on the council members' letter sent to Fischer's office and his communications director were not immediately returned Thursday night.

On the night of the raid, Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were in bed when they heard the sound of someone knocking on their front door, according to the lawsuit. Taylor and Walker both shouted out asking who was there, but police did not identify themselves.

The suit says that Taylor and Walker were scared and Walker, who is a licensed firearm carrier, grabbed his gun fearing the home was being broken into.

"While Breonna and Kenny are in the hallway leading to the front of the home, loud bangs sound and the front door begins to come off the hinges, terrifying Breonna and Kenny," the suit says.

Walker fired a "warning shot" and police "proceed to shoot erratically" into the home killing Taylor, according to the lawsuit.

"The actions of the Defendants were made in bad faith, were performed with a corrupt motive, were outside the scope of the Defendants’ authority, were executed willfully and with the intent to harm, and were in violation of Breonna’s constitutional and statutory rights," the suit reads.

Attorneys for the officers involved did not immediately return a request for comment and the lawyer for the police union could not immediately be reached.

The complaint also mentions Mayor Fischer and accuses him of wanting to develop west Louisville so he could leave a legacy for his time in office. Fischer is not a defendant in the lawsuit and did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.

Ben Crump, the attorney for Taylor's family, said in a statement that the officers did not have probable cause to enter the home.

"The officers who robbed Breonna of her life — and Tamika Palmer of her daughter — exhibited outrageous, reckless, willful, wanton and unlawful conduct," he said. "As a consequence, the city lost one of its most precious essential frontline workers, who risked her life daily to save her fellow residents in a pandemic. This is a grievous offense against Breonna, her family, and the greater Louisville community."

The Louisville Metro Police Department was not available for comment. Lt. Ted Eidem addressed Taylor's death in a March 13 press conference saying that the officers had knocked on the door several times and “announced their presence as police who were there with a search warrant.”

After forcing their way into the home, they “were immediately met by gunfire,” Eidem said.