Charges of attempted murder of a police officer have been dropped against Kenneth Walker, the boyfriend of Breonna Taylor, a Kentucky medical worker who was killed in her home by law enforcement officers.
On March 13, Walker fired a handgun, of which he is a legal owner, at police executing a “no-knock” drug warrant after midnight, believing the Louisville home he and Taylor shared was being broken into.
In the confrontation, a police officer was struck by a round. Police returned fire, hitting Taylor eight times, resulting in her death. No drugs were found in the home.
Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine said at a news conference Friday that a grand jury did not find enough evidence to indict Walker on the charges of attempted murder, according to the Huff Post.
Wine added, however, that further investigation is needed in the case, adding that if the probe finds evidence in support of charges, he may direct prosecutors to bring the case to a grand jury and seek another indictment.
“I believe that additional investigation is necessary,” Wine said, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. “I believe that the independent investigation by the attorney general’s office in Kentucky, the FBI, and the U.S. attorney’s office must be completed before we go forward with any prosecution of Kenneth Walker.”
Much of the controversy in the case centers on conflicting accounts of the events of the night Taylor was killed.
According to police, officers serving the “no-knock” warrant, which legally entitles them to enter a suspect’s premises unannounced, did knock and identify themselves.
“Detectives knocked multiple times and announced their presence in an attempt to get occupants to answer the door,” police wrote in Walker’s arrest citation, the Courier Journal reports.
An attorney acting on behalf of Taylor’s family disputes this, with the outlet citing the lawyer as claiming that officers did not announce themselves.
Walker was cited by Huff Post as saying that when they heard someone knocking on the door late at night, he and Taylor feared it was an ex-boyfriend.
“First thing [Taylor] said was, ‘Who is it?’ No response. ‘Who is it?’ loud, at the top of her lungs, no response,” Walker told police in audio released Friday, the outlet reported. “So I’m like what the heck? So I grab my gun, it’s legal, I have a license to carry, I’ve never even fired my gun outside of a range. There’s another knock at the door, she’s yelling at the top of her lungs, and I am too, at this point, ‘Who is it?’”
Kentucky has a “Stand Your Ground” law that entitles residents to the use of deadly force against unlawful intruders.
Wine told the press conference on Friday that the incident may have been a tragic case of miscommunication.
“It’s very possible there was no criminal activity on either side of the door because neither could hear what the other party was saying,” Wine said.
Besides sparking national outrage, the fatal shooting has also prompted a debate about the use of “no-knock” warrants, leading Louisville police to change their policies in this regard.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said officers in plainclothes units like the one that served a warrant at Taylor’s home will now wear body cameras during search warrants. Fischer also said the police chief will now need to sign off on those types of warrants before they are sent to a judge for approval.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer speaks at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage Museum in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 25, 2019. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
“This is a step, but we know there needs to be more conversation on the use of these warrants,” Fischer said.
The FBI has also since opened an investigation.
“FBI Louisville has opened an investigation into the shooting of Breonna Taylor. The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner,” Special Agent in Charge Robert Brown said in a statement posted on Twitter Thursday.