(CBS News)–Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was asleep in her Kentucky home just after midnight on March 13 when police entered with a search warrant for someone else and opened fire, killing her. Now, a lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family accuses the officers of wrongful death, excessive force and gross negligence.
Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officials said officers in a drug investigation engaged in the shooting after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at them first. But the lawsuit alleges that police did not identify themselves and that Walker, a licensed gun owner, thought someone was breaking in. Neither Walker nor Taylor had a criminal history, the suit says.
Taylor had been working as an EMT at emergency rooms at two hospitals, helping with the coronavirus response, her family said. “Breonna loves life and she loved to help people and she loved her family. She didn’t deserve what they did to her,” Tamika Palmer, her mother, told CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan.
“I was more concerned for her washing her hands than her dying at home,” Palmer added.
The lawsuit, obtained by CBS News, says LMPD officers Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankinson and Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, who are named as defendants, arrived at the home in plainclothes and unmarked vehicles. They had a “knock and announce” search warrant for Taylor’s apartment while looking for a man who lived in a different part of Louisville. According to the lawsuit, the suspect they were searching for had already been apprehended by LMPD the previous day.
“The officers then entered Breonna’s home without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers,” the lawsuit alleges. “The Defendants then proceeded to spray gunfire into the residence with a total disregard for the value of human life.” Breonna Taylor was struck eight times.
The lawsuit states Walker and Taylor “believed the home had been broken into by criminals and that they were in significant, imminent danger.”
Police, on the other hand, say the officers knocked on the door and announced themselves, and that when the officers forced entry they were “immediately met by gunfire.”
Mattingly was shot in the leg, police said. Walker has been charged with first degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer.
Mattingly, Cosgrove and Hankison have been placed on administrative reassignment during an internal investigation. “The Public Integrity investigation into this case remains ongoing, therefore it would be inappropriate for us to comment beyond what we already have said immediately following the incident,” the LMPD said Monday in a statement to CBS affiliate WLKY.
The lawsuit brings up Cosgrove’s and Hankinson’s history of use of force as officers. Cosgrove, the lawsuit claims, shot a Louisville resident seven times in a different case, and Hankinson allegedly had “dozens of situations where he has sent citizens to the hospital for injuries from being tased, pepper sprayed and struck repeatedly in the nose and eyes.”
The family’s attorney, Ben Crump — who also represents the family of Ahmaud Arbery — told “CBS This Morning” that Walker and Taylor “thought they were being burglarized.”
“Does the Second Amendment not apply to African Americans?” Crump said. “This was a completely unnecessary and unjustifiable killing of an innocent woman.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement that he is awaiting the outcome of the LMPD investigation into the case. “As always my priority is that the truth comes out, and for justice to follow the path of truth,” Fischer said.
Governor Andy Beshear said in a statement posted on Twitter Wednesday that reports about Taylor’s death are “troubling.” “Her family and the public at large deserve the full facts of her death,” he said, and called for state legal officials to review the findings of the police investigation “to ensure justice is done.”
Gov. Beshear issues statement on Breonna Taylor: pic.twitter.com/ttiO856BdA— Governor Andy Beshear (@GovAndyBeshear) May 13, 2020