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Breonna Taylor grand jury recordings paint chaotic, confusing scene

A judge ordered the recordings to be made public following a court motion filed by an unidentified grand juror.
A woman looks at a memorial to Breonna Taylor in Jefferson Square Park on Sept. 26, 2020 in Louisville, Ky.
A woman looks at a memorial to Breonna Taylor in Jefferson Square Park on Sept. 26, 2020 in Louisville, Ky.Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

Newly released grand jury recordings, including testimony from police and witnesses, in the Breonna Taylor case paint a chaotic and confusing scene leading up to the woman's fatal shooting.

In the recordings released Friday, police officers said they knocked and announced their presence before entering Taylor's apartment. But her boyfriend said he did not hear officers identify themselves and instead fired toward the front door.

Earlier this week, an unidentified juror filed a motion asking that the judge unseal the transcript and records related to Taylor's March 13 death.

The judge had ordered for the recordings to be released Wednesday, but Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed a motion for a one-week extension to give his office time to redact the personal information of witnesses. The judge instead gave his office until noon Friday.

In a statement Friday, Cameron's office said that 3 minutes and 50 seconds of audio was redacted from the recordings.

None of the three officers who fired their weapons that night — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Myles Cosgrove and former officer Brett Hankison — were charged in connection to Taylor's death.

Last week, the grand jury indicted Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment for bullets that went into a neighboring apartment. The announcement of the charges sparked protests and calls by Taylor's family and lawyers for Cameron to release the evidence.

On Friday, one of the lawyers representing Taylor's family applauded the grand jury and accused prosecutors of hindering justice.

“This grand jury was great. Paid attention. Asked important questions. Sought critical evidence that was not made available to them. Had critical observations. And they were stonewalled every step of the way by a prosecution team that had a predetermined outcome and a disingenuous agenda," Sam Aguiar said in a statement.

The recordings are approximately 15 hours long and cover the grand jury's sessions from Sept. 21 through Sept. 23. At one point during the proceedings, a detective for the Attorney General's office named Herman Hall was asked if there was a formal plan for the raid at Taylor's apartment.

"I’m not aware of one," Hall answered.

During the proceedings, the grand jury was played a recording of Louisville detective Michael Nobles speaking with investigators from the police department's Public Integrity Unit. In the recording, Nobles said that he was briefed that Taylor might be home with a small child.

According to Taylor's family, she would occasionally look after her sister's goddaughter.

"We knew who the target was. We were told at the brief who the target was and we were told that it shouldn’t be a problem," Nobles said. "It was supposed to be her and her kid. Maybe her and a small child there."

Nobles suggested that because they believed a child would be at the home, they decided to announce themselves before entering the apartment.

"It was a no-knock warrant but we wanted to give time," he said. "You could hear movement but there was no answer so Jon (Mattingly) and I decided, let’s go ahead and hit it. Jon hit the door and I announced police several times."

He said he hit the door handle on the first swing with the battering ram. On the second hit, the door partially opened but he said it was still connected to the frame. The third hit knocked the door completely off the frame, Nobles said.

"As soon as I hit the door, I went across the threshold and I couldn't see. It was pitch black," the detective said, adding that moments later he heard Mattingly scream.

"He just looked up and said, 'I’ve been shot.' He went down and I could see blood immediately, just, coming out of his leg," Nobles said in the recording. "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' account that police announced themselves before entering the apartment echoes similar statements previously made by the Louisville Metro Police Department. During a news conference last week, Cameron said that a civilian witness corroborated those claims.

However, Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, as well as multiple neighbors have said that they did not hear police announce their presence.

Louisville police Lt. Shawn Hoover said during an interview conducted on the night of the raid that officers knocked on Taylor's door three times before entering. A recording of his interview was played for the grand jury.

"We knocked on the door, said 'police,' waited I don’t know 10 or 15 seconds. Knocked again, said 'police,' waited even longer," Hoover said in the recording.

"So it was the third time that we were approaching, it had been like 45 seconds if not a minute. And then I said, 'Let’s go, let’s breach it.’ "

Officers had obtained a warrant for Taylor's home as part of a narcotics investigation. The target of the probe was Taylor's ex-boyfriend, who lived at a different address.

In a preview of what could be his own defense at trial for wanton endangerment, Hankison told grand jurors in face-to-face testimony that he believed there was someone in the apartment repeatedly shooting automatic rifle fire, which he assumed was an AR-15.

There is no evidence to support this from either the police, ballistics or Walker. No other officers report being under that same impression.

But Hankison said this is the reason why he fired through closed blinds into the apartment, according to the recording. He said he saw "muzzle flashes" from inside the apartment but there is no evidence to support that.

After police forced their way into the apartment, Walker fired a shot at the front door, striking Mattingly in the leg, police said. Attorneys for Walker have expressed doubt that the shot fired by their client hit the officer and some have even suggested Mattingly was struck by friendly fire.

During Lt. Hoover's recording that was played for the grand jury, he described the moment Mattingly was shot.

“It opens up and Jon steps over into the doorway. ... It was dark in there, as soon as he leaned over you hear gunshots going out of that apartment. I don’t know how many," he said.

Hoover said he used his belt to make a tourniquet for Mattingly. "I just took my belt off and held that until somebody got over there. He was bleeding out a substantial amount. We were trying to figure out the best way to stop the bleeding.”

Walker, who had a license to carry firearms, has said that he fired fearing it was a home invasion. Hankison said in his testimony before the grand jury that Walker had initially said that Taylor fired at police.

"I don’t remember the exact words, I’ll refer to bodycam, but he said she was the one who shot at us and was dead in the apartment," Hankison said.

Walker later changed his statement, saying that he was the one who fired the shot. In an interview with police, Walker explained that he said Taylor fired the shot because he was scared.

The recordings do not include juror deliberations and prosecutor recommendations and statements, "as they are not evidence," Cameron's office said. That is customary in grand jury proceedings.

An unredacted copy was also filed with the court "so that the Judge could compare the redacted and un-redacted copies of the recordings if needed," his office said.

Cameron said that he is confident that the release of the recordings will show "that our team presented a thorough case to the Jefferson County Grand Jury."

“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 last week that Mattingly fired six shots the night of the raid and Cosgrove fired 16 from the doorway. Hankison fired 10 from an outside patio, but the attorney general said there is no evidence that any of his bullets hit Taylor, who was shot six times.

The fatal shot was fired by Cosgrove, an FBI analysis determined, although the state police said its assessment was inconclusive.

At last week's news conference, Cameron said his "investigation showed, and the grand jury agreed, that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their return of deadly fire after having been fired upon" by Walker.

In a statement Monday, Cameron revealed that the only charge he recommended to the grand jury was wanton endangerment. But the motion filed by the juror noted that the attorney general had previously made public comments stating that his team walked the grand jury "through every homicide offense, and also presented all of the information that was available to the grand jury."