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How the police killed Breonna Taylor

Breonna Taylor’s name became synonymous with campaigns for racial justice and police reform in 2020 after she was killed by the police at her Louisville home on March 13. But a full telling of what happened during the late-night raid was impeded because none of the seven police officers who executed the search warrant used body cameras, a violation of police policy.

Residents of Louisville outraged by Taylor’s death campaigned for months to seek charges against the police officers who shot her. In September, protests flared anew when a grand jury investigation indicted one officer, Detective Brett Hankison, for shooting his service weapon into a neighboring apartment, but charged no officer for killing Taylor.

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On Tuesday, Louisville’s police department moved to oust two officers involved in the raid: Detective Myles Cosgrove, who fired the shot that killed Taylor, and Detective Joshua Jaynes, who obtained a judge’s approval for the raid. The move is the most significant acknowledgment by the department that its officers had committed serious violations in conducting the raid.

What happened in the final minutes of Taylor’s life?

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After the recent release of thousands of documents, photos, videos and audio recordings collected during three investigations, The New York Times initiated a fresh examination of the case. We used crime scene photos to create a precise model of Taylor’s apartment. We forensically mapped out and retraced the first bullet, fired by Taylor’s boyfriend, and the 32 bullets that the police shot in return through windows, walls and ceilings.

Using interviews that witnesses and the police gave to investigators, we charted the officers’ movements as they carried out the raid. And we analyzed hours of 911 calls, grand jury proceedings and footage by the SWAT team that arrived after the shooting.

Three of the grand jurors have accused Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, of shielding the officers who fired their weapons from homicide charges.

Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, the first officer to return fire, did so in response to a shot fired by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Walker says neither he nor Taylor heard the police announce their presence before they rammed in Taylor’s door; neither did Taylor’s next-door neighbors.

Mattingly may have been justified in using lethal force. But our new analysis paints a more complicated and problematic picture about how the raid on Taylor’s apartment was compromised from beginning to end.

The investigation outlines the flawed intelligence, miscommunication and tactical mistakes of a hodgepodge team of narcotics officers; their failure to properly announce their presence at Taylor’s; and the chaos and excessive use of force that ensued.

c.2020 The New York Times Company

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