LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Breonna Taylor’s fatal shooting at the hands of Louisville Metro Police officers has rocketed to national attention because of mounting pressure from activists, attorneys and family members who want to know why she is dead.
But Taylor wasn’t alone in her apartment the night police burst in while executing a “no-knock” search warrant, and calls are growing to free her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who is charged with attempted murder after he allegedly shot a police officer who he thought was an intruder.
© Special to the Courier Journal Kenneth Walker has been charged with attempted murder of a police officer after officers burst into his girlfriend’s apartment on a search warrant. Walker says he thought intruders were breaking in and he acted in self-defense.
“Don’t African Americans have the right to the Second Amendment?” asked attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Taylor’s family. “He was trying to protect Breonna. He was trying to protect himself.”
Walker, 27, was arrested about 1 a.m. March 13, less than 20 minutes after Taylor was shot eight times by officers who entered their home.
He told officers in a sworn statement that night he was the only one to shoot from the apartment and his defense attorney has said he acted in self-defense, fearing that someone was breaking in.
© Special to the Courier Journal Kenneth Walker has been charged with attempted murder of a police officer after Louisville officers burst into his girlfriend’s apartment on a search warrant. Walker says he thought intruders were breaking in and he acted in self-defense.
At a vigil for Taylor days after the shooting, Taylor’s aunt Bianca Austin said “both their lives” were changed by the events.
“I want Kenny to know, we’re fighting for you, too,” Austin said. “You did not deserve this. … This should’ve never happened.”
“We’re not stopping until Kenny (is) out.”
Here’s what we know about him:
Who is Kenneth Walker?
Walker, a Louisville native, had dated Taylor for “years.”
He was in her apartment the night of the shooting but didn’t live there full time. His arrest citation lists a home address in the Iroquois Park neighborhood.
He graduated from Valley High School, where he played football, and attended Western Kentucky University for two years, his father wrote in a sworn affidavit submitted in court documents.
Walker’s father, also named Kenneth, says his son was scheduled to start work at the U.S. Postal Service before the shooting. Before that, he’d worked various jobs, including roughly two years spent working for Coca-Cola.
“My son is not a drug dealer,” Walker’s father said. “Ms. Taylor was not a drug dealer. They both worked and were law-abiding citizens. Had they known police were at the door, they would have let them in immediately and allowed them to search.
“A horrible mistake has been made by police.”.
A phone number listed for Walker in public records is disconnected. His defense attorney, Rob Eggert, declined to make him available for an interview.
A GoFundMe for his legal fees, apparently set up by a relative three days after his arrest, has surged in recent days, raising more than $100,000.
What happened the night of Taylor’s shooting?
Walker fired a weapon as officers entered Taylor’s apartment.
Police have said his bullet struck Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg, requiring surgery. Mattingly and officers Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove returned fire, expending more than 20 rounds.
Eggert hasn’t contested that the shooting occurred — an arrest citation for Walker says he gave police a sworn statement that night admitting he shot a firearm and was the only one in the apartment to do so — but he says it was self-defense.
“In this case, the threat to the community came not from Kenneth Walker, but from police,” Eggert has said.
Eggert’s examination of the apartment after the shooting found more than 20 bullet holes, some in adjoining apartments, according to court filings.
Eggert says police didn’t announce themselves before entering the apartment and that Walker fired one shot when he and Taylor heard the door exploding open.
“Had Mr. Walker known that police were outside he would have opened the door and ushered them in,” Eggert wrote.
Slide 1 of 15: Tamika Palmer, left, embraced her daughter Juniyah Palmer during a vigil for her other daughter, Breonna Taylor, outside the Judicial Center in downtown Louisville, Ky. on Mar. 19, 2020. Taylor was shot and killed by LMPD officers last week. The family chose the vigil site because it is across the street from the Louisville Metro Police Department.Next SlideFull screen1/15 SLIDES © Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier JournalTamika Palmer, left, embraced her daughter Juniyah Palmer during a vigil for her other daughter, Breonna Taylor, outside the Judicial Center in downtown Louisville, Ky. on Mar. 19, 2020. Taylor was shot and killed by LMPD officers last week. The family chose the vigil site because it is across the street from the Louisville Metro Police Department.
Police acknowledge using a battering ram, but only after they said they identified themselves. Police have declined to comment further, saying an internal investigation is underway.
No drugs were found in the home. And Walker was not named in the search warrant.
Sam Aguiar, an attorney representing Taylor’s family, said Wednesday that dropping the charges against Walker is part of getting justice.
“He got charged with attempted murder of a police officer as a result of everything the police did in this, and his criminal defense case is incredibly important,” he said.
Why did police have a ‘no-knock’ warrant?
Taylor was not the main subject of the narcotics investigation that prompted LMPD officers to enter her home, records show, but they did have a search warrant for her and her apartment.
The warrant, signed by Jefferson Circuit Judge Mary Shaw the day before police entered the home after midnight, had a “no-knock” provision, meaning that police could enter Taylor’s house without identifying themselves as law enforcement.
Police can seek a “no-knock” entry if there is a reasonable suspicion that knocking would be dangerous, futile or inhibit the “effective investigation of the crime,” LMPD’s policies state.
In this case, police have said it was necessary because “these drug traffickers have a history of attempting to destroy evidence, have cameras on the location that compromise detectives once an approach to the dwelling is made, and have a history of fleeing from law enforcement.”
Taylor had no criminal convictions. Her name and address were included in the search warrant, records show, based on police’s belief that one of the narcotics investigation’s main suspects, Jamarcus Glover, used her home to receive mail, keep drugs or stash money earned from the sale of drugs.
A detective wrote in an affidavit summarizing the investigation that led to the warrant that Glover was seen walking into Taylor’s apartment one January afternoon and left with a “suspected USPS package in his right hand.”
The detective also wrote that a white vehicle registered to Taylor was parked in front of a 2424 Elliott Ave, a suspected drug house. He also claimed that Glover used Taylor’s apartment’s address as his “current home address” as of February 2020.
Aguiar has said Taylor and Glover dated two years ago and maintained a “passive friendship.”
Why is Walker being charged if he acted in self-defense?
While Walker’s attorney has repeatedly said, based in part on interviews with neighbors, that police did not identify themselves, the police department disputes that.
In Walker’s arrest citation, police wrote that “detectives knocked multiple times and announced their presence in an attempt to get occupants to answer the door” before forcing it open.
And in a press conference following the shooting, police officials said officers knocked and identified themselves.
A lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family against the three officers in her apartment that night, however, says that they entered the home “without knocking and without announcing themselves.”
“While police may claim to have identified themselves, they did not. Mr. Walker and Ms. Taylor again heard a large bang on the door. Again, when they inquired, there was no response that there was police outside. At this point, the door suddenly explodes,” Eggert said in a motion.
What has happened since the shooting?
Walker was released from jail on home incarceration, infuriating the union representing Louisville Metro Police.
FOP Chapter 614 President Ryan Nichols said in late March that the judge’s decision to release Walker from jail is a “slap in the face to everyone wearing a badge” and would endanger the public.
This week, Nichols told The Courier Journal that the union maintains anyone who has “reached a level of probable cause arrest for a violent crime, i.e. the attempted murder of a police officer, or anyone, for that matter, should not be on the home incarceration program.”
Walker’s next court hearing in the case is slated for June 25.
Earlier this week, Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine indicated his office planned to move forward in prosecuting Walker.
Wine announced he was recusing himself from reviewing the internal investigation done by police investigators of officers’ conduct during the fatal shooting of Taylor, which he typically would have reviewed to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against the officers involved.
His office said he believed he was “conflicted” from reviewing that investigation because he is prosecuting Walker for the events that night.
“We are requesting that the matter be assigned to a special prosecutor to review the investigation for further action,” a representative from Wine’s office wrote in a letter to the state attorney general’s office.