Since the March 13, 2020, shooting of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, at the hands of police officers in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, protests against police brutality have grown across the U.S. Out of the three white police officers involved in the shooting, Brett Hankison, Jon Mattingly, and Miles Cosgrove, only Hankison was charged, not with Taylor’s death, but with “wanton endangerment” for firing into her neighbor’s apartment.
It is common after a police-involved shooting, to see rumors spread about the victims, often in an attempt to rationalize the actions of police officers. One such meme made a range of claims in the wake of Taylor’s death:
This meme is credited to Corinne Tatum, a right-leaning media personality who has shared it on her Instagram page. The meme has also been shared by her husband Brandon Tatum, a former police officer, and self-described “Black conservative” who runs his own media company. We have previously covered his views on Snopes.
Another story being shared by LawOfficer.com — a media organization that covers law enforcement and claims to be “a true advocate for the profession” — said Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend who was present during the police raid on the apartment and who fired one shot from his handgun, told the police that Taylor shot at them, and not him, before he changed his story in subsequent interviews.
In sum, Taylor, her apartment, and her old car were all listed on the search warrant, so this claim is true.
Did the Officers Obtain a ‘No-Knock’ Exception On the Warrant? Did They Knock and Announce Themselves Before Entering?
Reports conflict here. According to the LMPD, and the timeline of events provided by the Louisville mayor, on March 13, LMPD officers executed a search warrant at Taylor’s apartment. Even though the warrant was a “no-knock” warrant, the police officers said they were instructed to knock and announce themselves, which they did, before breaking down the door.
A no-knock warrant is a search warrant authorizing police officers to enter premises without first knocking and announcing themselves, often in plainclothes. Such warrants are often issued when a judge thinks announcing police presence would pose a danger to their safety. Since Taylor’s death, the Louisville City Council unanimously banned the use of no-knock warrants.
That night, Taylor and Walker were watching a movie in bed before the police tried to enter, according to The New York Times. According to Taylor’s mother’s lawsuit, the police “entered Breonna’s home without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers.” Multiple neighbors confirmed that the officers did not knock or announce themselves before entering Taylor’s apartment. One person, a truck driver returning from his shift, said he heard officers shouting and at least three loud bangs as they knocked on Taylor’s door. He emphasized that he heard them shout “Police!” only once.
According to an interview conducted with Walker by law enforcement officials after the shooting, he said he heard a bang on the door as they were watching their movie, and Taylor had dozed off: “So I’m layin’ there layin’ on her watchin’ the movie by myself. There was a loud bang at the door […].” After the first “loud boom” Taylor asked who it was and they heard another knock at the door. When they left their bed, Walker says he saw the door come “off the hinges,” and the shooting began soon after.
In sum, even though the officers obtained a no-knock warrant, accounts differ widely on whether they announced themselves before entering. This aspect of the claim is therefore partly true and partly undetermined.
Was Taylor Asleep in Her Bed When the Police Entered? Who Shot at an Officer?
Taylor was awake but unarmed when the police broke down the apartment door, according to Walker’s interviews with investigators. His account was that Taylor fell asleep, or “dozed off” around 10 minutes before the officers tried to break down their door. They were in bed around midnight. Walker told the investigators a “loud bang” jarred Taylor awake, “It scared her to death.” She shouted “Who is it?” at the top of her lungs, according to Walker, and they jumped out of bed and rushed to get dressed.
The lawsuit filed by Taylor’s mother also said “Breonna and Kenneth were awakened by the [officers’] unannounced entry into their home […] They believed that their home had been broken into by criminals.”
There is body cam footage of the aftermath of the shooting in which Walker is heard repeatedly telling the officers that he and Taylor did not know police were trying to enter their apartment. When asked which of them fired at the police, a visibly emotional and confused Walker said, “It was her. She was scared.” But since that night, in numerous interviews Walker has insisted that he fired his handgun.
Walker, who was a licensed gun owner and who said he had never discharged his weapon outside a firing range, grabbed his gun when he heard the second knock at the door. He later said he thought intruders, or Glover, Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, were trying to break in. As soon as the door came off the hinges, he said, “I let off one shot like I can’t still see who it is or anything […] I left off one shot and then all of a sudden there’s a whole lot of shots.” Walker’s shot hit and injured a police officer.
Mattingly, the LMPD officer who was shot in the leg, claimed that he returned fire. Behind him Cosgrove also returned fire into the apartment hallway. Another detective, Hankison, had run into the parking lot and fired through the covered patio door and window, shots that tore into another apartment where a pregnant woman and a child were sleeping, according to The New York Times.
According to her mother’s lawsuit, Taylor was struck “at least eight times” by gunfire from the police officers. The New York Times reported she was struck five times. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said she was shot six times, but only one of the shots was fatal. Ultimately, she died after bleeding out on the apartment floor.
In sum, this part of the above meme and the claim about what Walker said in the body cam footage is mostly true, even though Walker subsequently changed his statement, thereafter consistently stating that he fired his handgun.
The revelation of documents detailing the LMPD investigation and months of meticulous news reports showed the LMPD attempting to connect Taylor to the activities of her ex-boyfriend, leading to the fateful events that resulted in her death. Meanwhile a viral meme attempted to expand upon the case being constructed by the LMPD. Strikingly, the meme was circulating long before the office case documents were made public. While the meme got some details right about the night of Taylor’s death, the claims about Taylor’s record, connection to drug dealing, and employment history were completely false.