US police 'recklessly' leaked information about Black Lives Matter figure Breonna Taylor

The 39-page memo contains details of the case that were not provided to the judge who ruled on the search warrant and was written weeks after the fatal shooting.

A ground mural depicting a portrait of Breonna Taylor is seen at Chambers Park in Maryland.

A ground mural depicting a portrait of Breonna Taylor is seen at Chambers Park in Maryland. Source: AP

US police have been accused of orchestrating a "deeply reckless" smear against Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old who inspired Black Lives Matter protests after she was shot and killed by officers in March.

Ms Taylor was with her boyfriend in their Louisville, Kentucky, apartment when police forcibly entered the home in the middle of the night to execute a search warrant.

One of the three police officers involved . Ms Taylor's death in helped fuel a campaign against racism and police brutality in the US. 

Five and a half months since the shooting, Louisville police have leaked a memo that tries to shed light on the evidence detectives had before the deadly raid.

But the release of the 39-page document, written several weeks after Ms Taylor was killed on 13 March, has done little to quell calls for justice. Protests have been raging for months.

The leaked document shows the connection between Ms Taylor and the main suspect in the narcotics sting. It includes details that hadn’t been provided to the judge issuing the search warrant and also contains evidence that only came to light after Ms Taylor’s death.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has condemned the leak and says “Justice, peace and healing are what is needed.”

"It is deeply reckless for this information, which presents only a small fraction of the entire investigation, to be shared with the media while the criminal process remains ongoing,” Mr Fischer said in a statement.

“Efforts to sway opinion and impact the investigation by releasing select information are wrong and divisive, at a time when our city needs unity more than ever before."

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Source: AAP, EPA

Critics are accusing police of breaking into the home of an unarmed Black woman with no valid reason and killing her. Both the FBI and the Kentucky Attorney-General are investigating the shooting.

Ms Taylor never had a criminal record.

But police say she did know the person who was the main target in their narcotics probe, Jamarcus Glover.

According to the leaked memo written by a detective, Ms Taylor had known Mr Glover since her early 20s, from around 2016. 

She posted his bail after he was arrested in 2017. Then Mr Glover was arrested again in January of this year. The leaked memo shows that he called Ms Taylor three times from jail- which is corroborated by the prison phone records.

Protesters attend the Good Trouble Tuesday march for Breonna Taylor on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Protesters attend the Good Trouble Tuesday march for Breonna Taylor on Tuesday, 25 August, in Louisville, Kentucky. Source: Invision

In February, just one month before Breonna Taylor was killed, Mr Glover’s car was towed by police. He filed a complaint against the officer and listed Ms Taylor’s phone number as the point of contact, according to the memo.

The memo paints a “one-sided” picture, according to Ms Taylor’s family lawyer, Sam Aguilar.

“At a time when the public was being assured that the department was doing a thorough and impartial investigation into Breonna’s killing, [the department] was actually preparing a lengthy, one-sided report regarding things that their officers were unaware of at the time they killed Breonna,” Mr Aguilar said.

The interim chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department Robert Schroeder said during a press conference last week the leak was “not helpful.”

However, the police department did not respond to questions over why the memo had been written.

Legal experts say other crucial questions into police conduct remain unanswered, including if the officers announced they were police when entering the apartment and whether the use of force was appropriate.

“You need probable cause to get a warrant to get into a house - that doesn’t mean you’re set,” Christopher Slobogin, director of the criminal justice program at Vanderbilt Law School told NBC News.

“You still need to execute a warrant properly,” he added. “You still have to knock and announce, or announce and avoid using excessive force.”

It’s long-standing common law for police to announce themselves while knocking on doors. says Alan Rozenshtein from the University of Minnesota Law School.

“Homes are sacred spaces. We want to give people a measure of dignity. Also it is to give everyone a moment to calm down,” said Mr Rozenshtein.

He added that police may want to maintain an element of surprise in certain cases, if they are looking for evidence that might be destroyed or believe delay could pose risks to safety. But Mr Rozenshtein said they should still announce themselves - for their own safety and that of others, even if they wanted to maintain an element of surprise.

"Knocking without announcing is not helpful," he said.

The leaked memo is not dated but some of it’s contents reveal it must’ve been written weeks after Ms Taylor’s death.

Police found no drugs or money inside Ms Taylor’s apartment.

When the search warrant was executed, Ms Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a shot at the front door, striking one officer.

Mr Walker has said he believed it was a home invasion.

When police returned fire, Ms Taylor was hit by five bullets.

5 min read
Published 31 August 2020 at 3:29pm
By Virginia Langeberg