An ex-boyfriend’s run-ins with the law entangled her even as she tried to move on. Interviews, documents and jailhouse recordings help explain how she landed in the middle of a deadly drug raid.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Breonna Taylor had just done four overnight shifts at the hospital where she worked as an emergency room technician. To let off some steam, she and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, planned a date night: dinner at a steakhouse, followed by a movie in bed.
Usually, they headed to his apartment, where he lived alone and she had left a toothbrush and a flat iron. But that night, they went to the small unit she shared with her younger sister, who was away on a trip. It was dark when the couple pulled into the parking lot, then closed the door to Apartment 4 behind them.
This was the year of big plans for the 26-year-old: Her home was brimming with the Post-it notes and envelopes on which she wrote her goals. She had just bought a new car. Next on the list: buying her own home. And trying to have a baby with Mr. Walker. They had already chosen a name.
She fell asleep next to him just after midnight on March 13, the movie still playing. “The last thing she said was, ‘Turn off the TV,’” he said in an interview.
From the parking lot, undercover officers surveilling Ms. Taylor’s apartment before a drug raid saw only the blue glow of the television.
When they punched in the door with a battering ram, Mr. Walker, fearing an intruder, reached for his gun and let off one shot, wounding an officer. He and another officer returned fire, while a third began blindly shooting through Ms. Taylor’s window and patio door. Bullets ripped through nearly every room in her apartment, then into two adjoining ones. They sliced through a soap dish, a chair and a table and shattered a sliding-glass door.
Ms. Taylor, struck five times, bled out on the floor.
Breonna Taylor has since become an icon, her silhouette a symbol of police violence and racial injustice. Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris spoke her name during their speeches at the Democratic convention. Oprah Winfrey ceded the cover of her magazine for the first time to feature the young Black woman, and paid for billboards with her image across Louisville. Beyoncé called for the three white officers who opened fire to be criminally charged. N.B.A. stars including LeBron James devoted postgame interviews to keeping her name in the news.
In Louisville, demonstrators have led nightly protests downtown, where most government buildings and many businesses are now boarded up. As outrage mounted, the city fired one of the officers, pushed out the police chief and passed “Breonna’s Law,” banning “no-knock” warrants, which allow the police to burst into people’s homes without warning. Protesters say that is not enough.
Nearly six months after Ms. Taylor’s killing, the story of what happened that night — and what came before and after — remains largely untold. Unlike the death of George Floyd, which was captured on video as a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck, Ms. Taylor’s final moments remain in shadow because no such footage exists.
But a clearer picture of Ms. Taylor’s death and life, of the person behind the cause, emerged from dozens of interviews with public officials and people who knew her, as well as a review of over 1,500 pages of police records, including evidence logs, transcripts of jailhouse recordings and surveillance photos. The Louisville Metro Police Department, citing a pending investigation, declined to answer simple questions about the case or make anyone available for interviews.
The daughter of a teenage mother and a man who has been incarcerated since she was a child, Ms. Taylor attended college, trained as an E.M.T. and hoped to become a nurse. But along the way, she developed a yearslong relationship with a twice-convicted drug dealer whose trail led the police to her door that fateful night.
Sloppy surveillance outside her apartment in the hours before the raid failed to detect that Mr. Walker was there, so the officers expected to find an unarmed woman alone. A failure to follow their own rules of engagement and a lack of routine safeguards, like stationing an ambulance outside, compounded the risks that night.
While the department had gotten court approval for a “no-knock” entry to search for evidence of drugs or cash from drug trafficking, the orders were changed before the raid to “knock and announce,” meaning that the police had to identify themselves.
The officers have said that they did; Mr. Walker says he did not hear anything. In interviews with nearly a dozen neighbors, only one person said he heard the officers shout “Police!” a single time.
Sam Aguiar, a lawyer representing Ms. Taylor’s family, blames “catastrophic failures” by the police department for the young woman’s death. “Breonna Taylor,” he said, “gets shot in her own home, with her boyfriend doing what’s as American as apple pie, in defending himself and his woman.”
Ms. Taylor had been focused on her future with Mr. Walker. But her history with 30-year-old Jamarcus Glover, an on-again off-again boyfriend who had spent years in prison, was hard to escape, even after she cut ties with him a month before the raid. When the officers rammed the door of the apartment, Mr. Walker later explained, he fired his gun because he feared it was her ex-boyfriend forcing his way in.
Although Ms. Taylor had no criminal record and was never the target of an inquiry, Mr. Glover’s frequent run-ins with the police entangled her. She had been interviewed in a murder inquiry, and paid or arranged bail for him and his associates.
When Mr. Glover called from jail after an earlier arrest in January, she told him that his brushes with the law worried her, according to a recording; each said “I love you” before hanging up. A GPS tracker the police placed on his car later showed him making regular trips to her apartment complex, and surveillance photos showed her outside a drug house.
In a series of calls hours after her death, as Mr. Glover tried to make bail, he told another woman that he had left about $14,000 with Ms. Taylor. “Bre been having all my money,” he claimed. The same afternoon, he also told an associate he had left money at Ms. Taylor’s home.
Mr. Aguiar, the lawyer for her family, said that no drugs or cash were found at her apartment after the raid. Thomas B. Wine, the Jefferson County prosecutor, countered that the search was called off once the shooting occurred.
With three investigations underway, including a federal civil rights inquiry, a full public accounting of the botched raid is not yet possible. A city on the defensive has withheld some of the most basic information about the case, roiling public anger. Still, as journalists in recent days have reported about Ms. Taylor’s ties to the drug dealer, city officials have made a point of not excusing the outcome of the raid. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement: “Breonna Taylor’s death was a tragedy. Period.”
Christopher 2X, a longtime community organizer whom Ms. Taylor’s family turned to after her death, said her relationship with Mr. Glover had to be acknowledged. “You can’t just look away from it and act like it’s not there,” he said. “My hope is courageous people will say: ‘There it is — it’s what it is — but was this shooting justified? She should be alive today.’”
‘This Agency Isn’t Really Built for Us’
The fumbled raid that resulted in the young woman’s death was paradoxically set in motion by an attempt at police reform.
The department would be sued at least three times that year for racial bias by Black motorists. They included the teenager, who had borrowed his mother’s car to get a slushy; a father and his 9-year-old son, who were boxed in by police cars for failing to signal; and a man and his caregiver who were stopped for an obstructed windshield, then told to stand barefoot on the asphalt as the car was searched.
In each instance, the police looked for drugs and found none.
The week that the video of the teenager was uploaded to YouTube coincided with a visit to the department by Robin Engel, the director of the University of Cincinnati Center for Police Research and Policy. Her research helped shape a model of policing credited with cutting violent crime in Cincinnati and Las Vegas.
She recalled that the police chief at the time, Steve Conrad, asked her: How can we do better?
Tensions between the Louisville department and the city’s Black residents had accrued over decades of heavy-handed policing and discriminatory practices. A federal consent decree in the 1980s required the department to hire one Black officer for every two white recruits, with the goal of raising Black representation on the force to 15 percent. Nearly 40 years later, in a city that is almost one-quarter African-American, only 10 percent of the force’s 1,154 officers are Black, according to a spokeswoman.
“The trauma of it, the reality of it, just set in for so many of us that this agency isn’t really built for us,” said Charles Booker, a state representative in Kentucky who is Black.
What Ms. Engel proposed was a departure from traditional practices in Louisville and other cities. Instead of targeting a large area for frequent traffic stops or going after specific criminals who are quickly replaced, focus on micro-locations: a storefront, a parking lot, a city block. The idea was to identify spots conducive to crime and adopt remedies, like cutting tall grass in a neighborhood where felons hide guns, or putting “No Parking” signs along a street where drug dealers idle in cars.
In December 2019, the Louisville Police created its Place-Based Investigations unit, and after analyzing crime statistics, decided to focus on Elliott Avenue, a street of dilapidated and abandoned houses, according to city records.
Nearly every year since 2014, a timeline provided by the city shows that at least one killing occurred there, most of them on the 2400 block. In 2014, a teenage girl was shot multiple times; in 2015, a 49-year-old man was doused in lighter fluid and set on fire; in 2016, a man was fatally shot; in 2018, a homicide victim was found in his home; and in 2019, a bystander died in a shootout, according to city records.
The focus on Elliott Avenue dovetailed with an existing city project to redevelop a swath of the predominantly Black neighborhood with over $30 million in federal grants. Since 2017, the city had been foreclosing on blighted properties to demolish them and make way for new low-income and affordable housing, according to interviews with city officials and the timeline they provided.
Mr. Aguiar, who has brought a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Taylor’s family, has criticized the effort as gentrification run amok — an attempt to deliver a political win for the mayor, causing the police to overreach. But community leaders and residents say they welcomed the investment.
Pointing to a street-side memorial for a shooting victim, the Rev. Paul Stillwell asked, “Are we not allowed to dream?”
By the end of 2019, the city had taken possession of nearly half of the vacant buildings and was working to acquire the rest — among them 2424 Elliott, 2425 Elliott, 2426 Elliott and 2427 Elliott. There, according to court records, Jamarcus Glover and his associates operated a series of “trap houses,” where they stashed crack cocaine, marijuana and prescription pills.
An informant sent inside No. 2424 reported that six men were packaging crack cocaine and passing it to customers through a mail slot in a security door.
On Dec. 30, days after the new squad was started, police executed search warrants at Nos. 2424 and 2426 and a house a few blocks away, seizing eight guns, a surveillance system and 4.9 grams of crack, according to a police log. Mr. Glover was arrested, along with five others, and soon released on bail.
On Jan. 2, Detective Joshua Jaynes of the Place-Based Investigations unit asked for a camera to be installed overlooking the 2400 block of Elliott, according to an internal report he signed. Within an hour, it had captured between 15 and 20 cars briefly stopping in front of No. 2424. “Indicative of narcotics trafficking,” his report says.
At 5:53 p.m., a white Chevrolet Impala pulled up in front of the house, and Mr. Glover exited. The car was registered to Breonna Taylor, the report says.
Over the next two months, the new squad surveilled the Elliott addresses where Mr. Glover operated, and Ms. Taylor’s apartment 10 miles away. A GPS device the police put on Mr. Glover’s car tracked it to her apartment complex six times, according to the internal report. And Ms. Taylor’s new car — a Dodge Charger — was seen at the trap house on multiple occasions; she was photographed in front of it in mid-February.
The evidence collected on the Elliott houses was extensive, according to an application for a warrant to search the premises. And it appears to have been accurate: The same March night as the raid on Ms. Taylor’s apartment, the police struck No. 2424, where they found a table covered in drugs packaged for sale, including a plastic sachet containing cocaine and fentanyl, police logs and a laboratory report show.
But the information the police had compiled to suggest that Ms. Taylor’s apartment was used in the operation was thinner.
State and federal officials are investigating whether detectives had enough evidence to tie Ms. Taylor to Mr. Glover when they sought the warrant to search her apartment. Mr. Aguiar has argued that the police did not have adequate justification for the raid, and both he and the A.C.L.U. have objected to the use of a no-knock warrant.
That type of warrant is typically used in narcotics investigations when the police need the element of surprise to disrupt criminal activity and prohibit suspects from destroying evidence, said Walter P. Signorelli, former head of narcotics at the New York Police Department and author of a book on criminal law. It is also considered high risk; multiple jurisdictions across the country banned such warrants after innocent people were mistakenly killed in raids.
Judge Mary Shaw, who signed the order, said she had “asked needed questions of the officer, reviewed the affidavits prepared for each warrant and subsequently made the probable-cause determination required of me by law.”
The warrant cited five pieces of information establishing what the police said was probable cause: Mr. Glover’s car making repeated trips between the trap house and Ms. Taylor’s home; her car’s appearance in front of 2424 Elliott on multiple occasions; surveillance footage of him leaving her apartment with a package in mid-January; a postal inspector’s confirmation that Mr. Glover used her address to receive parcels; and database searches indicating that as of late February, he listed her apartment as his home address.
But since Ms. Taylor’s death, what has emerged in bank statements, cellphone records, bail paperwork, audio recordings of police interrogations and other documents is a trail of evidence pointing to a complicated liaison between her and Mr. Glover, dating back to 2016.
Mr. Aguiar said in a statement last week that the police department had gone to “great lengths after Breonna died and this case received national scrutiny to dig up all of her past.”
But the lawyer also apologized to the public for having previously understated the extent of her relationship with the drug dealer, saying he had been unaware of the jailhouse recordings, which were first reported by The Louisville Courier Journal.
Court records show that Mr. Glover was convicted of selling cocaine and spent years in prison, starting in 2008 in his home state of Mississippi, where he was handed a 17-year sentence. In 2014, after moving to Kentucky, he was convicted of a second drug offense. He began dating Ms. Taylor in 2016, according to a statement he gave the police.
That December, a favor he asked of her — renting a car and lending it to him — ensnared her in a murder inquiry. A man was found slumped over the wheel, eight bullets riddling his body. Inside the car were three baggies of drugs and Ms. Taylor’s rental contract, court records show.
Mr. Glover told officers he had given the keys to a man he knew as “Rambo,” who said he had to run an errand. The internal police report states that the victim was the brother of an associate of Mr. Glover, who had been arrested alongside the drug dealer numerous times. A suspect in the shooting was charged nearly two months later.
Investigators noted that they believed Ms. Taylor had no knowledge of the killing. But they wondered whether she was involved in Mr. Glover’s drug operation, according to a recording of a detective questioning them.
“Are you all into the game?” the detective, Yolanda Baker, asked the couple at Ms. Taylor’s apartment. When Mr. Glover demurred, she pressed, “So how are you getting all these little fine things you’ve got on?”
In the years that followed, as Mr. Glover was in and out of jail on drug charges, Ms. Taylor paid at least $7,500 in bail for him and an associate in 2017 and 2019, according to bond paperwork.
At the start of this year, Mr. Glover was detained again, held at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections jail. He phoned her, one of 48 jailhouse calls to her cellphone from him and other prisoners in the last four years, according to the report. His tone in the Jan. 3 call was demanding. “I was sleeping. I am so sorry,” she responded, according to a recording.
He told her whom to contact to arrange his bail, and added that after he was released, he would “come get me some rest in your bed.”
“When you around, I stress more,” she told him. “Because I just always be worried about you,” she said, “with the police.”
Later that month, Mr. Glover opened a Chase bank account, listing her apartment as his home address. He then made three Zelle transfers to her phone for $150, $200 and then $225.
In recorded jailhouse calls, he complained to a friend that the police saw the transactions as suspicious when they were only meant to reimburse Ms. Taylor for paying his cellphone bill. The police later retrieved an AT&T payment reminder from Mr. Glover’s phone: “Your online bill is ready, BREONNA,” it said.
Hours after the raid and Ms. Taylor’s death, he claimed during a recorded jailhouse call to another girlfriend that Ms. Taylor had been holding thousands of dollars for him. On the call, Kiera Bradley, with whom he has a daughter, asked where to find bail money.
“Bre had, like, eight grand,” he said.
“Bre had eight grand of your money?” Ms. Bradley responded, her voice rising.
“Yeah,” he said. When another man joined the call, he added: “She had the eight I gave her the other day, and she picked up another six.” Later, he said, “Don’t take it wrong, but that Bre been having all my money.”
His claim could not be verified, though he also told another associate there was money at Ms. Taylor’s home. “It was there, it was there, it was there,” he said in a recorded call that day.
Mr. Glover, who had become a fugitive, was arrested on Thursday in possession of drugs, according to a charging document. He told The Courier Journal that Ms. Taylor had no involvement in the drug trade. “The police are trying to make it out to be my fault and turning the whole community out here, making it look like I brought this to Breonna’s door,” he said.
‘She Was “Extra”’
In the terabytes of call logs, surveillance tapes, database searches and other evidence detailing her connection to Mr. Glover, the Louisville police appeared to miss the new arc that the young woman’s life had taken, an oversight that would have calamitous consequences.
“Breonna was a woman who was figuring everything out in her life, who had turned a corner,” said Mr. Aguiar, the lawyer. “Breonna was starting to live her best life.”
Ms. Taylor was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., to a 16-year-old single mother. Her father, Everett Taylor, has been in prison since she was a child, the lawyer said. He was convicted of murder when she was 6, after shooting a man who had failed to pay for a rock of crack cocaine, court records show.
Family and friends describe the mother and daughter as close. “She was a better version of me,” said her mother, Tamika Palmer, a dialysis technician. “Full of life. Easy to love.”
As a girl, Ms. Taylor was considered by other parents to be the responsible one among their daughters’ friends. She woke them up to get to school on time after sleepovers, practiced mock interviews for an after-school job in ninth grade in Louisville, where her family had moved, and tried to dream big.
“Graduating this year on time is so important to me because I will be the first in my family to accomplish this,” she wrote in her scrapbook during her senior year, next to a photo of herself in a cap and gown. “I want to be the one who finally breaks the cycle of my family’s educational history. I want to be the one to finally make a difference.”
She enrolled at the University of Kentucky and a year later, in 2012, began a banter on Twitter with Mr. Walker, then a student at a university two and a half hours away. He was 20, she was 19. The flirtatious tweets grew into a friendship, and then a romance four years later, according to his account.
“I kept on telling her, I don’t want to be friends no more,” he recalled in an interview. “But I’m a Gemini, and she was also a Gemini. So, you know, some days it was, ‘Yeah let’s, let’s get married and have a kid,’ and another day it’s like, “No, let’s be single and live carefree lives.”
They began dating in the summer of 2016, he said. But a few months later, she started seeing Mr. Glover. For nearly four years — until weeks before her death — she went back and forth between the two men, Mr. Walker told the police.
Her family and friends are effusive about Mr. Walker, a former warehouse worker for Coca-Cola, describing him as “good for her” and “a man who treated her right.” None of them would discuss Mr. Glover.
Her social media posts and Mr. Glover’s, combined with court and police records, suggest he came into her life at a low point: She had dropped out of college and become an E.M.T., but she quit after a year, discouraged by the 16-hour shifts and low pay.
At times, she struggled to afford groceries, she said in one tweet. In another she wrote: “I pray 2018 is a better year for me financially. I mean by the grace of God, I always made sure my bills were covered but it’s been a long struggle & I’m over it.”
Around that time, her younger sister, Juniyah, moved in with her. Ms. Taylor was intent on setting a good example for her and for an infant goddaughter who began spending several nights a week at their home, according to Mr. Aguiar.
“These two beautiful little girls right here are my world,” she wrote in her scrapbook. “They look up to me, so when they’re around it’s almost like I become an entire new person. I know they’re watching my every move, so I make sure I don’t do anything wrong.”
Those who knew her describe her as loving and fun — she adored fast cars and hot sauce. Her friends joked that she would put it on pancakes. “It was the Bre way,” said her cousin Preonia Flakes. “She was ‘extra’ and we loved her.”
She had long been interested in medicine. As a girl, she asked permission to prick her grandmother’s finger to test her insulin level, her mother recalled. At 23, she became a patient care assistant at Frazier Rehabilitation Institute, part of the University of Louisville Health hospital, tending to people recovering from traumatic injuries, said Jessica Jackson, a co-worker who led her orientation.
On her first day, and nearly every day after, Ms. Taylor showed up 20 minutes early, forcing Ms. Jackson — who had been written up for tardiness — to start arriving on time. “She was a go-getter,” Ms. Jackson said.
At home, Ms. Taylor began writing goals on every scrap of paper — junk mail, napkins, envelopes — her mother said. “She would just make these bullet points. ‘I want to have this done by this time,’” she recalled.
And among friends and family, Ms. Taylor became a motivator. She told Ms. Jackson that she wanted to get her nursing degree, and helped her friend, who had already done the coursework, study for the boards.
One day, Ms. Taylor sent her friend a screenshot of a saving system she had seen on Facebook, involving numbered envelopes that guide how much money to set aside each week. In a year, you could save enough for a down payment on a car, Ms. Jackson explained.
In January, Ms. Taylor drove home her brand-new Dodge Charger: sleek and jet-black, with an engine that made a loud growl. “2020 deff gonna be my year WATCH!” she tweeted.
In mid-February, she finally ended her relationship with Mr. Glover and committed to Mr. Walker, her family’s lawyer said. Among her last tweets was a message about setting a good example: “Gotta watch how you let men treat/deal with you especially when you got lil sisters/cousins looking up to ya!!”
‘Who Is It? Who Is It?’
The night of the March raid, the plainclothes narcotics officers staking out the young woman’s apartment on Springfield Drive did one last drive-by at about midnight. Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly said that he and Detective Mike Campbell drove along the front of the apartment complex and took note of the blue light emanating from the TV in Ms. Taylor’s bedroom, according to his statement to investigators.
Though they had been assigned to be the “eyes” on the apartment buildings, they had failed to notice that she was not alone when her car pulled in a few hours earlier, according to police statements and court motions.
They did not see Mr. Walker getting out with Ms. Taylor. They missed the couple, returning from their dinner at Texas Roadhouse, entering Apartment 4, the door decorated with vibrant letters: H, O, M and E.
They had the apartment to themselves: Her sister was in California, and her goddaughter was with relatives. Ms. Taylor now worked the overnight shift in the emergency room of University of Louisville Health’s Jewish Hospital East. She was expecting an 11 p.m. phone call, requesting her to come in, Mr. Walker later told police. When the call didn’t come, she baked cookies, they played Uno and then they curled up to watch “Freedom Writers,” in which Hilary Swank plays a teacher in a racially divided district.
“It was more like the movie was watching us than we were watching it,” Mr. Walker recalled.
In a pre-operation briefing before the raid, Sergeant Mattingly was told that she was home alone. “They said they did not believe she had children or animals but they weren’t sure,” he later told investigators. “Said she should be there alone because they knew where their target was,” he said, referring to Mr. Glover. “And I guess they thought he was her only boyfriend or acquaintance.”
Around the same time that the two undercover officers were doing their last drive-by of her apartment, a team of officers was executing three search warrants on Elliott Avenue. Five “no-knock” warrants had been signed by a judge that afternoon seeking evidence of drug trafficking by Mr. Glover and his associates.
In executing the warrants on Elliott Avenue, the police spared no resources: More than 60 officers flooded the street. They included a militarized SWAT unit, multiple lieutenants and sergeants and several ambulance crews, according to the lawsuit filed by Ms. Taylor’s family.
The swarm of officers beat down the doors at 2424, 2425 and 2426 Elliott without incident, recovering large quantities of crack and Fentanyl pills in a bag hidden in a tree, as well as cash, digital scales and guns. They also found signs of attempts to get rid of evidence: cocaine flushed in the toilet, according to police evidence logs and summaries. Mr. Glover and four others were arrested and taken to jail.
By contrast, the crew poised outside Ms. Taylor’s apartment with a battering ram was smaller and less equipped, with eight or 10 officers, according to the conflicting accounts of the police department and the family’s lawyer. They were undercover, not using body cameras, and wearing tactical vests, not the elaborate protective gear worn by the SWAT team. An ambulance on standby outside was told to leave about an hour before the raid, counter to standard practice.
Although the warrant for Ms. Taylor’s house had been approved as a “no-knock,” the officers were instructed at the briefing that they should do a “knock-and-announce” — knock first, then identify themselves as the police and give Ms. Taylor a chance to come to the door — according to Sergeant Mattingly.
A little after 12:35 a.m., the officers lined up in the breezeway. Sergeant Mattingly was closest to the apartment door. Detective Myles Cosgrove was next to him, and farther back were Detective Brett Hankison, Lt. Shawn Hoover and others.
Apartment 4 sits in a complex of two-bedroom units covered in beige vinyl siding. Ms. Taylor’s 950-square-foot apartment was on the ground level, and a floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass door gave way to her patio, which faced the parking lot. Blinds covered the door and the window.
“When we all got up in line, I knocked on the door,” Sergeant Mattingly told investigators. “Our intent was to give her plenty of time to come to the door because we said she was probably there alone,” he said. “Banged. No response. Banged on it again. No response. At that point we started announcing ourself, ‘Police, please come to the door!’”
On the other side of the locked door was a 25- to 30-foot hallway, cutting through the living room, passing her sister’s empty bedroom and ending at the door to Ms. Taylor’s bedroom.
The loud banging jarred her awake. “It scared her to death,” Mr. Walker said in his statement to the investigators. “First thing she said was, ‘Who is it?’ No response,” he recounted. “Another knock at the door. She’s like, ‘Who is it?’ Loud at the top of her lungs. No response.”
They jumped out of bed and rushed to get dressed. In the confusion, Mr. Walker put on his girlfriend’s pants.
The knocking continued. Mr. Walker, a licensed gun owner who said he’d never discharged his weapon outside a firing range, grabbed his 9-millimeter Glock.
They left the bedroom and crept down the hallway toward the front door, which vibrated with each booming knock. “She’s yelling at the top of her lungs and I am, too, at this point, ‘Who is it?’ No answer, no response, no anything,” he said.
Among the officers outside her door were men who had been trained by David James, the city council president. During his 19-year career as a police officer, he had instructed recruits at the local training academy about “dynamic entry.” Especially when executing a warrant at night, he said, he told them to yell “police” at the top of their lungs, specifically so that occupants would not mistake them for an intruder.
“So everyone can hear,” he added. “Neighbors. People down the street.”
By nearly all accounts, that did not happen at Apartment 4.
Almost a dozen neighbors interviewed for this article said that they never heard the police calling out, including Clifford Tudor, who had stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. Only one person, a truck driver coming off his shift, said he heard the officers shouting. Aaron Julue Sarpee had left his 2-year-old in the care of the woman living directly above Ms. Taylor. Before the police lined up, he had run upstairs and picked up his sleeping toddler. He had just stepped out onto the exterior staircase when he saw the officers.
Before they ordered him to go back inside, Mr. Sarpee said, he heard at least three loud bangs as they knocked on Ms. Taylor’s door, and heard one or more officers scream “Police!” — a single time. He is emphatic that they said it only once.
Mr. Wine, the county prosecutor, said both the police version and Mr. Walker’s account of events could be correct: Through the door, he suggested, the police and the couple inside did not hear each other.
Because Mr. Walker said he did not realize who was at the door, he made a tragic assumption: The apartment was being broken into — and not just by anyone. He thought it was Ms. Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, he later told the police.
“We’ve been on and off together, whatever, for like, seven years,” he said. “So there was a guy that she was messing with, or whatever, throughout that time, you know. And he popped up over there once before while I was there, like, a couple months ago,” he explained. “So that’s what I thought was going on.”
Sergeant Mattingly said that as soon as the door was punched in and he cleared the threshold, he could see to the end of the long hallway. There, in silhouette, he saw a male and a female figure. The man’s hands were stretched out, holding an object.
“As we’re coming to the door, the door, like, comes off the hinges,” Mr. Walker said. “It’s like an explosion.” He went on: They were scared. He thought someone was breaking in. He was trying to protect his girlfriend. “So, boom, one shot. Then all of a sudden there’s a whole lot of shots,” he said. “I just hear her screaming.”
Kentucky law is clear: Under the stand-your-ground statute, citizens can use deadly force against an intruder inside their own home. But like numerous other jurisdictions, Kentucky also has a statute protecting police officers who use deadly force in self-defense.
Sometime between 12:41 and 12:42 a.m. according to call logs, the rights guaranteed by those statutes clashed.
“As soon as the shot hit, I could feel the heat in my leg,” Sergeant Mattingly recounted in his statement. “And so I just returned fire,” he said, adding that he shot at least four rounds immediately, and another two soon after. Behind him, Detective Cosgrove also returned fire into the hallway, according to police statements.
The bullet tore through the sergeant’s thigh, piercing the femoral artery. He scooted out onto the breezeway, then stumbled into the parking lot, where he collapsed, he recalled.
Meanwhile, a barrage of bullets ripped into the apartment from another direction. Detective Hankison had left the formation near the door, run into the parking lot and begun firing through the covered patio door and window, according to police records.
Unlike the two officers standing in the doorway, the 44-year-old detective probably has no self-defense claim, several local officials said. The bullets he shot from the parking lot tore diagonally through Ms. Taylor’s apartment and into Apartment 3 directly behind it, where a pregnant woman and a 5-year-old were sleeping.
His behavior was reckless, the department concluded, because he shot 10 rounds blindly, and it was not directed against someone who posed an immediate threat. He was fired in June. “I find your conduct to be a shock to the conscience,” the interim police chief said in a termination letter.
In nearly two decades with the department, Detective Hankison had received multiple complaints of excessive use of force as well as sexual misconduct, according to portions of his personnel file obtained by The Times. Most of the complaints appear to have been dismissed or not considered credible.
One record showed he was reprimanded at least three times: for improperly charging a man with having a concealed weapon in 2005; for trying to extract crack cocaine from a suspect’s mouth and failing to call an ambulance; and for causing a car wreck in 2016 that fractured the spine of another officer.
He and the two other officers involved in the shooting could not be reached for comment. Sergeant Mattingly and Detective Cosgrove have been placed on administrative leave, according to a department spokeswoman, Jessie Halladay.
Mr. Walker was charged with attempted murder for shooting Sergeant Mattingly; the charges were later dropped.
Because no ambulance had been staged, the police spent the next critical minutes trying to get medical help for the injured officer.
“I kept going, ‘Where’s E.M.S.?’” said Sergeant Mattingly.
Radio logs paint a scene of chaos. An ambulance rushing to the apartment complex went to the wrong entrance, blocked by a locked gate. On the radio, officers yelled instructions to ram the vehicle through the gate. But the ambulance didn’t get past the crushed metal. Colleagues tried to put Sergeant Mattingly in the back seat of a squad car, but he couldn’t bend his leg. They tried to put him in the trunk, but it was blocked by a gun case. Finally, they laid him atop the trunk.
As officers outside scrambled to help him, no aid was rendered to Ms. Taylor. It wasn’t until 12:47 a.m. that emergency personnel realized that she was seriously wounded, after her boyfriend called 911.
“I don’t know what’s happening. Someone kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend,” Mr. Walker cried on a recorded call to 911.
When the operator asked if the young woman was alert and able to speak, he said: “No, she’s not,” and then, “Oh my God. Oh my God.”
Reporting was contributed by Lora Moftah and Yoruba Richen from Louisville; Mary Ullmer from Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Liz Day and Penn Bullock from New York. Research was contributed by Susan C. Beachy, Alain Delaquérière, Jack Begg and Sheelagh McNeill.