LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- Breonna Taylor's fatal shooting at the hands of Louisville police was the end result of a land grab by the city using officers to "target" and remove people and homes in the Russell neighborhood, where Taylor's former boyfriend lived, to revitalize western Louisville with a large real estate development project, attorneys for her family claim.
In an amended lawsuit filed over the weekend, the attorneys allege that Taylor's death stemmed from a "political need" to clear out homes on Elliott Avenue, centered in an area where for years the city has hyped a multimillion-dollar revitalization plan called "Vision Russell."
While eight homes on Elliott Avenue were demolished and cleared by the city in the weeks before Taylor's death in March, one of the remaining holdouts on that street was the rented house of Jamarcus Glover, an ex-boyfriend of Taylor's, according to the new claims.
To remove Glover from the home, a new police unit, guided by city officials, misled other officers into using an unwarranted amount of power to focus on him, including obtaining five no-knock warrants on March 12 to ensure he was captured. One of the warrants was for Breonna Taylor's home, 10 miles away, according to the suit.
"When the layers are peeled back, the origin of Breonna's home being raided by police starts with a political need to clear out a street for a large real estate development project and finishes with a newly formed, rogue police unit violating all levels of policy, protocol and policing standards," the amended lawsuit claims.
The new filing by attorneys Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker amends a wrongful death lawsuit filed in April on behalf of Taylor's family against the city and three Louisville officers who fired multiple shots into Taylor's home on Springfield Avenue while serving a search warrant early in the morning on March 13.
The fatal shooting of Taylor, an unarmed Black woman with no criminal history who was working as an emergency medical technician, has drawn national scrutiny and a month of protests both local and across the nation.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Fischer said the allegations are "outrageous" and "without foundation or supporting facts."
"They are insulting to the neighborhood members of the Vision Russell initiative and all the people involved in the years of work being done to revitalize the neighborhoods of west Louisville," Jean Porter said in a statement.
The goal of Vision Russell, which includes a $30 million grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, is to revitalize the area between Market Street and Broadway and from Ninth Street to 32nd Street, city officials said in 2016.
In a statement, Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, chief of Louisville Forward, called the claims in the lawsuit a "gross mischaracterization of the project."
"The work along Elliott Ave is one small piece of the larger Russell neighborhood revitalization and stabilization work we've been doing for years, including the transformation of Beecher Terrace through Choice neighborhoods grants," she said. "We have partnered with a community organization to understand community needs and wants, and the public land bank has been acquiring properties through foreclosure, donation, and some sales; less than half the homes there are occupied. We have also been in conversation with non-profit housing interests about using the publicly acquired properties to create Louisville's first community land trust to ensure investment without displacement. Our goal is to provide a safe, clean, desirable, and affordable neighborhood for the residents of Russell."
Rev. Paul Stillwell, founder of the group Keeping it Real, also disputed the claims outlined in the amended lawsuit.
Stillwell said he has been working with Fischer's administration since 2016 to find out how residents would like to see their homes and neighborhoods improved while keeping current residents where they are.
"I'm a community advocate, OK? I'm trying to do some positive things in my community, for the neighborhood and for the residents that live here. I'm upset with them for even suggesting that," he said. "As an African American male in this community, that I would even suggest the fact of removing other African Americans out of this community."
The amended complaint includes renderings for the Elliott real estate development plan, including "modern, futuristic homes, a café, an amphitheater" and fitness center.
But "certain lingering homes," including Glover's in the 2400 block of Elliott Avenue, were in the way, and a new police unit, called Place Based Investigations, was tasked "with focusing on certain areas which needed to be cleared for real estate development projects to proceed," according to the suit.
The Louisville Metro Police department does not typically comment on pending litigation. The department did not immediately respond to a question about whether officers would conduct raids in coordination with city officials.
Officers in the unit that served the warrants, the Criminal Interdiction Division, were "deliberately misled" into believing that Glover and others in the home were "some of Louisville's largest violent crime and drug rings" and arresting them was "critical towards reducing crime and violence in Louisville," according to the complaint.
The reality, the attorneys allege, is that Glover and others living with him were "not anywhere close to Louisville's versions of Pablo Escobar or Scarface. And they were not violent criminals. They were simply a setback to a large real estate development deal and thus the issue needed to be cleaned up."
Police first searched Glover's home on Dec. 30. Three days later, officers pulled over one of the people who lived in the home. Throughout January, police monitored the home through a surveillance camera.
Meanwhile, in February, more houses were torn down on Elliott Avenue and pressure intensified on police to remove Glover and others staying in the home, the suit claims.
After another search of the home in March, which turned up nothing, "those in charge had seen enough" and their "directions and actions intensified to a dangerous, reckless and unlawful level."
"This plan was so outrageous that even an effort to apprehend a serial killer or terrorist would likely pale in comparison," the suit claims.
Police obtained multiple no-knock warrants from Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Mary Shaw, which included more than 70 officers from multiple divisions, a SWAT unit, multiple commanders and ambulance crews, according to the suit.
The warrants were all for homes where police believed Glover and the other men in the home could be staying, including at Taylor's apartment because she and Glover had a previous relationship and police claimed he had packages mailed to her home.
In requesting the no-knock warrant for Taylor's home, Det. Joshua Janyes, "misrepresented in the affidavit that he had confirmed with the U.S. Postal Inspector" that Glover had received packages at the apartment, the suit claims.
A U.S. postal inspector in Louisville told WDRB News in May that Metro police did not use his office to verify that a drug suspect was receiving packages at Taylor's apartment. In fact, Tony Gooden said a different law enforcement agency asked his office in January to investigate whether Taylor's home was receiving any potentially suspicious mail. After looking into the request, he said, the local office concluded that it wasn't.
Jaynes has been reassigned amid questions about how and why the warrant was approved.
Attorneys for Taylor's family claim that only three of the warrants were supposed to be served that night if Glover and the other targets were found. Since Taylor was not a major target, most of the police power was focused on other locations, including Glover's home where more than 60 officers were assigned, according to the lawsuit.
Taylor had no criminal history and little connection to Glover, the suit claims.
Police served the warrant on Glover’s home and arrested him at about midnight on March 13, according to the suit. He was charged with drug trafficking and firearms offenses. The case is pending in Jefferson Circuit Court.
Even with Glover already in custody, police raided Taylor's home at around 12:40, firing numerous shots into her apartment and those of her neighbors.
The suit claims police tampered with official documents on Glover's arrest and changed the time of his raid to 12:40 a.m. as well.
In addition, the suit claims the initial raid of Taylor's home was called off after Glover was arrested but two other targets, who had no ties to Taylor, were still unaccounted for. So police made a "reckless decision" to raid Taylor's home even though there was "absolutley no legitimate reason or probable cause at this point to believe" the two other targets were there, the attorneys claim.
And there was no justification in the warrant affidavit to search Taylor's home for these two men, according to the suit.
Taylor was shot eight times and "fought for her life for more than five minutes before finally succumbing to her injuries," according to her attorneys.
Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at officers when they rushed in, hitting one in the leg. Walker has told police that he thought he and Taylor were being robbed. Walker initially was charged with attempted murder, but the charge has been dismissed.
Nothing illegal was found at the home.
In the months after Taylor's death, the city continued its effort to obtain Glover's home, according to the suit, filing public nuisance ordinance violations on the landlord who eventually agreed to deed the property to the city.
"The reality is that the Defendants raided Breonna Taylor's home due to a reckless police operation motivated by a need to get a street cleared for a real estate development project," according to the amended lawsuit. "And these Defendants did it so recklessly, dangerously, violently and unjustifiably that Breonna Taylor was taken from this world far too soon."
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