Whose Facts? Questions Emerge About Breonna Taylor Evidence

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Sep 28, 2020

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced last week that none of the officers involved in the March 13 shooting of Breonna Taylor would be charged in her death, but that is not the end of this case.

Since Cameron’s September 23 announcement, new and conflicting reports have emerged, from a new police body cam video to a ballistics report that may contradict claims that Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot an officer. 

Vice News obtained footage from 45 different body cameras from the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers and SWAT team members who were on the scene. LMPD reportedly said that video of the raid that resulted in Taylor’s killing did not exist because the narcotics officers wore plainclothes. Yet Vice News said their reporters clearly saw at least one officer wearing a camera. 

The Vice report said the videos show “officers appearing to break multiple department policies and corroborates parts of Taylor’s boyfriend’s testimony.”

In addition, Vice News reported that the footage showed two officers went to the hospital after one had been shot in the leg and three others remained on the scene with guns drawn. Brett Hankison, who fired 10 shots, stepped inside Taylor’s home to ask about evidence. All of these actions violate LMPD’s standards and procedures following use of force by officers, particularly that they “will immediately be placed on administrative leave or administrative reassignment.” Officers involved in such incidents are supposed to be removed from the scene and accompanied by an escort officer. This video also corroborated Walker’s statement that the police threatened to put their dog on him.

In a separate report, Vice News raised the question of whether Walker was the one who shot Jonathan Mattingly in the leg or if it was former officer Brett Hankison, who was charged with “wanton endangerment.” Cameron had ruled out any of the officers as having shot Mattingly, saying their issued firearms were different from Walker’s Glock 9 mm. But according to the initial ballistics report uncovered by Vice News, efforts to determine the source of the 9-mm’s bullet was inconclusive because “due to limited markings of comparative value, [the] item was neither identified nor eliminated as having been fired from #45.” The #45 was the magazine found in Walker’s gun. The Courier-Journal, however, reported that Walker’s lawyer, Steve Romines, said he obtained an LMPD report showing that Hankison had been issued a 9-mm weapon. 

The latest contradictory twist in Taylor’s case are reports that the one witness who confirmed for prosecutors that the police announced themselves at Taylor’s door, Aarin Sarpee, had initially reported the opposite. Cameron made no note of this during his announcement. According to a September 26 report by Vice News, it obtained audio and other documents from interviews conducted by LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit (PIU). What VICE found was that Sarpee told an officer a week after the shooting that he hadn’t heard police announce themselves. He changed his response on May 15 when a different official reached out. 

As a result, Romines called Sarpee an unreliable witness. “You cannot in good faith look at Sarpee’s interviews and try to rely on him to establish that police announced themselves. He’s obviously confused over the course of his interviews,” Romines told Vice News. “It’s pretty clear to me that they’re [the police] trying to create the narrative that benefits them,” he added.