Ballistics report raises questions in Breonna Taylor shooting

The ballistics report could not determine if Taylor's boyfriend shot an officer.

September 27, 2020, 11:52 PM

The ballistics report from the Kentucky State Police on the Breonna Taylor shooting could not determine that Taylor's boyfriend shot one of the officers who unleashed a barrage of 32 bullets into her apartment, contradicting statements made by the state attorney general, according to records obtained by ABC News.

In an interview with ABC News, Steve Romines, one of the attorneys for Kenneth Walker, said "the Kentucky State Police's own ballistics report could not determine that Kenny's shot is who hit Officer [Jonathan] Mattingly."

A Jefferson County grand jury decided not to indict Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Mattingly, Officer Myles Cosgrove and former police officer Brett Hankison in the death of Taylor based primarily on the fact that Walker fired the first shot in the fatal confrontation.

Hankison was indicted on three felony counts of wanton endangerment for firing shots into Taylor's apartment that penetrated a wall of the residence of a white family next door to Taylor's apartment. But Cosgrove and Mattingly, who each fired multiple times into Taylor's darkened apartment, were found justified in their use of deadly force because Walker fired the first shot at them when they forced open Taylor's front door to serve a search warrant, according to Kentucky State Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

PHOTO: Former Louisville Metro Police Officer Brett Hankison is pictured in a booking photo released by the Shelby County Detention Center in Kentucky on Sept. 23, 2020.
Former Louisville Metro Police Officer Brett Hankison is pictured in a booking photo released by the Shelby County Detention Center in Kentucky on Sept. 23, 2020.
Shelby County Detention Center

Walker, 27, a licensed gun owner, was initially charged with attempted murder and assault following the March incident, but those charges were dropped. Walker has since filed a civil lawsuit against the Louisville police department, claiming they never knocked or announced themselves before they forced open Taylor's door.

Walker claimed he fired a warning shot because he initially thought the police officers, who were in plain clothes, were intruders.

Walker's civil suit also raises the possibility that Mattingly was wounded by friendly fire from one of the other officers.

Walker's attorneys filed a court motion on Saturday, asking that the grand jury transcript and the full report on the investigation by the Metro Police's Public Integrity Unit be made public to "promote 'the ends of justice' and the search for the truth." The motion argues the material is important in Walker's freedom from further arrest and prosecution in the shooting.

The motion claims that Walker "was fully justified in his reaction" to the officers barging into Taylor's apartment.

During a news conference following the grand jury's announcement on Wednesday, Cameron was emphatic in his statement that the bullet fired by Walker, who was armed with a licensed 9mm handgun, struck Mattingly.

"Kenneth Walker fired the shot that hit Sgt. Mattingly and there's no evidence to support that Sgt. Mattingly was hit by friendly fire from other officers," Cameron said. "Mr. Walker admitted that he fired one shot and was the first to shoot."

But a portion of the Kentucky State Police ballistic report obtained by ABC News indicates that the one shot fired by Walker "was neither identified nor eliminated as having been fired" from his weapon "due to the limited markings of comparative value."

Cameron, however, said that because Walker fired the first shot, Cosgrove and Mattingly were justified in returning fire to protect themselves.

"This justification bars us from pursuing charges in Ms. Breonna Taylor's death," Cameron said.

The attorney general's office did not immediately reply to ABC News' request for comment on the ballistics report.

Attorneys for Taylor's family have called the grand jury proceedings a "sham" and are demanding that Cameron release the transcript of the entire hearing to see what evidence prosecutors from Cameron's office presented to the panel.

The attorneys allege that prosecutors presented scant evidence, if any, that pertained to Taylor's death, and cited at least eleven witnesses who dispute Cameron's claim that the investigation showed the officers knocked on Taylor's door and announced themselves before using a battering ram to force the door open.

Cameron claimed that statements from the officers that they knocked and announced their presence before entering Taylor's apartment "were corroborated by an independent witness, who was near in proximity to apartment 4," which was Taylor's unit.

But Walker's attorneys say the witness changed his story. They told ABC News that a week after the shooting, the individual, who has not been publicly identified, claimed the officers did not identify themselves as police, yet two months later he said they did. Vice News published an alleged recording of the witness telling an investigator on March 21 that "nobody identified themselves." ABC has not independently verified the audio.

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman and a certified emergency medical technician, was shot in her apartment around 1 a.m. on March 13 when the officers executed what a judge approved as a "no-knock" warrant based on a sworn affidavit from a detective that an ex-boyfriend of Taylor's was sending packages of drugs to her apartment through the U.S. Postal Service.

No drugs were found in Taylor's apartment and lawyers for Taylor's family allege the warrant was secured with an affidavit that contained lies.

The warrant required the police to verify with postal inspectors that the ex-boyfriend was receiving packages at Taylor's address. But lawyers for Taylor's family say the Louisville Postal Inspector denied that his office inspected packages sent to Taylor's home as part of a drug-trafficking investigation.

Cameron said his office did not investigate how the warrant was obtained. He said federal investigators are probing that aspect of the shooting.

It remains unclear if any evidence was presented to the grand jury about the warrant except that police were at Taylor's apartment to serve one.

Taylor, dressed in her nightclothes, was shot six times by bullets fired by Cosgrove and Mattingly, Cameron said. He said Cosgrove, Mattingly and Hankison fired a total of 32 shots into Taylor's apartment.

Cameron said none of the 10 bullets fired by Hankison, who shot through a sliding glass patio door that had the blinds drawn, hit Taylor.

The attorney general said an FBI ballistics analysis determined that the one fatal shot that hit Taylor came from Cosgrove's 40-caliber weapon.

He said the Kentucky State Police ballistics analysis did not identify which of the three officers fired the fatal shot.  That's why the FBI Crime Lab was asked to conduct an analysis to see if it reached the same results.

Cameron said the special prosecutor's unit that investigated the shooting "looked at both reports to determine if there were major differences in the procedures used by each lab that would have led the FBI to identify who fired the fatal shot. Both law enforcement agencies used similar equipment and analysis, but issued different findings."

Cameron would not say if the same duel analysis was conducted to determine where the shot that hit Mattingly came from. He would only say that the officers who fired into Taylor's apartment all had 40-caliber weapons and that Walker's gun was a 9mm pistol.

Fred Moore, another attorney for Walker told ABC News that LMPD records show Hankison had a 9mm and two 40-caliber service weapons. Moore said it's been difficult to determine which weapons Hankison was armed with during the shooting because he disappeared and was unaccompanied for several hours after the incident.

Romines added, "At that point in time, they didn't even know, and still don't know to this day, that Kenny's shot hit Officer Mattingly."

Cameron has declined to answer further questions about the case, saying, "I'm prohibited from making comments that could sway public opinion or heighten public condemnation of those involved in the case."

"As long as the case is making its way through our legal system, I can only speak in general terms about our independent investigation and findings," Cameron said last week. "As the prosecutor, I am prohibited by the Kentucky rules of professional conduct from making public comments that could in any way prejudice this case as it moves forward."

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