LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Former Louisville Metro Police Detective Brett Hankison was "worked up" and told to "relax" shortly before the early-morning raid on Breonna Taylor's home, according to a recorded interview with one of the officers involved.
The recording sheds new light on the March shooting at Taylor's apartment, where police were serving a "no-knock" search warrant, including Hankison's actions in the minutes before officers used a battering ram to enter the unit.
Police Chief Robert Schroeder fired Hankison in May, accusing him of displaying "extreme indifference to the value of human life" by "blindly" firing 10 rounds into Taylor's apartment. Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency room tech, was shot five times and died.
Now, for the first time publicly, the newly released interviews provide the full accounts of Sgt. Jon Mattingly, who led the March 13 raid, and Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was with Taylor in the apartment.
As police prepared to serve the warrant, a man appeared on an outside staircase and began arguing with officers and telling them to "leave that girl alone or something like that," Mattingly told investigators on March 25. Among those officers was Hankison, he said.
The neighbor "was being belligerent," Mattingly said. "I don't know why. I mean, I don't know if he was drunk or what. But he was being very hostile from the get-go. As soon as the contact was made he was just arguing back."
"I remember Brett extending his gun saying, 'Get back in your apartment! Get back in your apartment!'" Mattingly said.
"Brett was a little bit worked up, and I remember at one point … I remember looking at Brett and saying, 'Brett, relax. Brett, just relax. Relax.' Because, you know, while you got to pay attention to him, it's not your focus."
Mattingly's full interview with the LMPD's Public Integrity Unit occurred 12 days after the shooting. He was hospitalized for three days after Walker shot him in the leg, he said.
Mattingly told Sgts. Amanda Seelye and Jason Vance of the Public Integrity Unit that officers met at 10 p.m. on March 12 for a "pre-operational briefing." He described Taylor as a "soft target" who was believed to be alone in her apartment on Springfield Drive near Pleasure Ridge Park.
"We were told that the target, their main target, the male, had packages sent to this location in her name. She held – possibly held dope for him, received the packages and received his money," Mattingly said.
That is presumably a reference to Jamarcus Glover, a drug suspect whom Det. Joshua Jaynes wrote in a March 12 search warrant affidavit was believed to be keeping drugs or proceeds from drug sales at Taylor's apartment.
Nothing illegal was found in Taylor's apartment.
In May, a Louisville postal inspector told WDRB News that police did not use his office to verify that Glover was receiving packages at Taylor's home. And, in fact, he 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 there were "no packages of interest" delivered there.
The recordings of Mattingly and Walker's police interviews were released to Louisville media by Rob Eggert, an attorney representing Walker. NBC News first reported their content.
There is no body camera footage of the police raid, resulting in substantial differences in the accounts of what happened.
Walker met with police investigators Seelye and Sgt. Chad Tinnell just before 4 a.m. March 13.
He agreed to waive his Miranda rights and speak with them without an attorney. Seelye, who would later appear on prosecutors' behalf at Walker's grand jury hearing, told him they investigate police shootings.
Walker said he and Taylor had just fallen asleep while the two were watching the movie "Freedom Writers" when loud banging started on the apartment door. Taylor, who was startled out of her sleep, began asking, "Who is it?" Walker said, to no response.
Walker said his first thought was that one of Taylor's former boyfriends was outside.
"So we're like, 'What the heck?' We both get up, start putting on clothes – another knock at the door," Walker said. "She's like, 'Who is it?' loud at the top of her lungs. No response.
"… It's a long hallway," Walker told investigators. "Even if somebody was saying something on the other side, you probably couldn't hear them. But, as loud as we were screaming … I know whoever was on the other side of the door could hear us."
In the hallway outside Taylor's bedroom, Walker said he fired a shot from his licensed Glock handgun as the door to Taylor's apartment flew off its hinges.
"I feel like I aimed down a little bit," Walker said. "I don't need to kill anybody if I could just get you out of here just hearing that."
Walker said he and Taylor dropped to the ground as shots flew into the apartment. He said he kicked the gun away and was anticipating someone coming inside.
"The door's busted open, and I hear a bunch of yelling and I'm just panicking," Walker told investigators. "I'm telling somebody – I'm yelling, 'Help' because she's right here bleeding and nobody's coming and I'm just confused and scared and I feel the same right now."
Walker told investigators that, upon leaving the apartment, a uniformed LMPD officer with a K-9 threatened to release the dog on him and said that Walker was going to spend the rest of his life in prison.
"I just don't like when people do that," said Tinnell, who asked Walker if he could describe the officer physically. Walker said he couldn't identify him, but that it was the first uniformed officer he came into contact with.
"He asked me, 'Were you hit by any bullets?'" Walker told investigators. "I said, 'No.'" He said, 'That's unfortunate.'"
"That's not appropriate then," Tinnell said.
"No, not at all," Seelye added.
As Walker was being taken from the scene in a police car to the interview with investigators, he said the car stopped in a parking lot and was approached by a non-uniformed man driving a silver SUV.
"A guy came to my window and he was asking my name," Walker said. "… The first thing I said to him was, 'Is she alive?' He was like, 'Well we'll talk about that when you get to where you're going.'"
Walker then said the man told him there had been a "misunderstanding."
"His tone was totally different from everybody else's," Walker told investigators. "He was being real nice. I'm not an idiot; I feel like they figured out something; they did something wrong."
When Walker asked why he was told there had been an investigation, Seelye said, "That's some new information for us, as well."
"That's what we're trying to learn," she added.
As Tinnell was taking Walker to use the restroom during a break in interview, he asked Walker if he had been injured or bruised.
"Right here," Walker said.
"What is it?" Tinnell asked.
"My heart," Walker responded.
"Wish I had something for that, man," Tinnell said.
Seelye's role in interviewing Walker, then providing a partial account to a grand jury that indicted him, prompted Eggert, Walker's attorney, to question Thursday whether her job was to "investigate what happened or pin the case on Walker?"
On Thursday, Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine acknowledged that a better practice would be "for an officer outside of PIU (public integrity unit) to investigate the underlying allegations against a suspect" in a police shooting.
Wine said he previously had "expressed concern" to then-Chief Steve Conrad about the practice of "one officer handling both investigations."
In the meeting before the raid, Mattingly said police were told that while a "no-knock" warrant for Taylor's home was approved, the team executing the warrant had been asked to announce their presence and knock.
Mattingly said officers began approaching the apartment around 12:35 a.m. He said the team did not identify themselves during the first "bang on the door. I think after that we did. I couldn't be sure if it was the second."
"But again, there was probably six or seven different contacts of multiple banging on the doors and after that each one of them had, 'Police! Come to the door. Search warrant.'"
Mattingly, who said he was the only one knocking, said Hankison also was yelling that police were serving a search warrant.
Mattingly said police spent 45 seconds to 1 minute knocking on the door, or "more than enough time for the average person, or even a disabled person, to get to the door in a small apartment."
(That account diverges from that of two neighbors who filed a lawsuit against police. They claim officers approached Taylor's apartment "in a manner that kept them from being detected by neighbors" and entered the residence "without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers.")
At one point, he said, another officer said he could hear someone inside but then the sound stopped. Then, Mattingly said, officers used a battering ram to break down the door.
After he entered the apartment, Mattingly said he stepped out from the doorway and then saw a man and a woman "perpendicular to each other, side by side shoulder to shoulder." Neither said a word, he said.
"My brain was going: What is this, you know? This isn't normal. It's not the normal way people stand in a house together," he said. The man, Walker, was in a "shooting stance," he said.
Mattingly said an officer doing surveillance on the apartment before the raid reported that the only light in the unit was the glow of a television in the bedroom, a detail that matches Walker's account.
Inside the apartment, Mattingly said he could "see enough to see a male on the right, a female on the left. Could I identify their faces? No. But I could actually see the handgun in his hand. I remember seeing the barrel of that soon as we turned that corner. And as soon as it did, the flash and the heat."
Vance, the police investigator asked Mattingly, "Your backdrop is an illuminated breezeway, correct?"
Mattingly: "Correct. Correct."
Vance: "And if you have a dark space, you have a door that's now open and you have illumination behind you, whether you had your tactical light on or weapons (inaudible) light, would, I mean, in your experience I guess what I'm asking, you would be illuminated more ---"
Mattingly: "Yes, I would have the outline on me."
After he was hit in the leg, Mattingly said, he fired four rounds before trying to leave the apartment. He said he did not see anyone else fire shots, although he heard them once he was in the parking lot.
The Breonna Taylor case
The police department conducted internal investigations into the actions of the Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove. Jaynes, the detective who applied for the no-knock warrant on Taylor's apartment, has been re-assigned.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is reviewing the case to determine if three officers involved in the raid – Mattingly, Cosgrove and Hankison – will face any criminal charges. The FBI is also conducting an independent investigation of the shooting and the application for the warrant.
Protesters have demanded that all three officers be charged with crimes.
In late June, Louisville Metro Council announced it would launch its own investigation into the actions of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and his administration's handling of the Taylor case.
On Thursday, a group of council members released a letter demanding all information regarding "place based investigations" be released by the mayor's office.
Also on Thursday, Taylor family attorneys Ben Crump, Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker said the recorded interviews of Walker and Mattingly "clearly reveal that there has been a conspiracy to cover up Breonna's killing since day one."
The attorneys said in a statement that despite Mattingly's claim, the interviews "substantiate" that police did not announce themselves before they burst into Taylor's home. In addition, they said the warrant and its execution relied on "erroneous information, and that Louisville police actively worked to cover up Breonna's brutal murder."
"Enough is enough," the attorneys said. "It is time for all the officers involved in that tragic night to be terminated from their positions and to be charged with the murder of Breonna Taylor."
Cameron has not given a timeline for his office to conclude its investigation.
Reporters Travis Ragsdale and Jason Riley contributed.
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