*** Thanks for all the thoughtful questions, y'all. You can keep up with what's happening in the case by going to our website, www.wfpl.org, and following us on Twitter: @WFPLNews, @aminamania and @RyanVanVelzer. ***

Louisville, Ky. has become an epicenter of racial justice demonstrations after the police killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed in her home by Louisville Metro Police officers in March. The investigation is still ongoing, as are the protests in downtown Louisville, but there is still inaccurate information circulating about the case. Amina Elahi covers city government, and Ryan Van Velzer has been on the ground with protesters. Ask us anything.





Comments: 702 • Responses: 9  • Date: 

Stxmoose32247 karma

What information do we still not know with regard to the actual sequence of events in Breonna’s apartment that night? What evidence might exist that would shed light on that?

Also, when do the next police union contracts get negotiated for the city and what leverage can be put on that process?

WFPLNews464 karma

AE: The police are not commenting on or releasing many documents/materials that are part of their internal investigation into the incident. Plus, there’s no body camera footage from the officers who shot at Breonna Taylor, because that wasn’t the policy for their unit at the time. That’s changed. Therefore, much of the documentation or narratives has mostly been released through media, other departments/agencies or attorneys for Breonna Taylor’s Family, or the attorney for her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. (Background: Walker fired his gun once when police forced entry to Taylor’s apartment after midnight on March 13, 2020. He told police investigators after the shooting that he did not know who was entering, and intended it to be a warning shot to scare who he thought were intruders away. The gunshot struck Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the femoral artery, an injury for which he later underwent surgery.) Here are some of the things we have gotten: tape of the 911 call placed by Walker after the shooting, a nearly blank incident report from the night of the shooting, and letters related to the firing of Officer Brett Hankison (he’s currently appealing that decision), and audio of interviews with Walker and Mattingly released by Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine and, more recently, NBC News. While these documents and arguments tell some of the story, we need the entire internal investigation and related documents to get closer to constructing a full narrative—and to give us more leads to chase. One key document that’s being held is Taylor’s autopsy.

Here are some related links:






As for union contracts, our colleague Jacob Ryan took a good look at the status of the police union contract, which is currently under negotiation: https://wfpl.org/with-police-union-contract-under-negotiation-fischer-could-push-for-changes/

murakamidiver82 karma

Are you seeing any evidence of coalition building between the protestors and elements of civil society, gavernment and or the police to bring about the stated goals of the movement or are the daily marches/protests/caravans/engagements with police occuring in a vacum and without any connection to a wider strategy for achieving police reform?

WFPLNews100 karma

AE: What I’m seeing, from the perspective of someone who covers government including the police, is that there is plenty of stated support for peaceful protests. At the same time, the tactics employed to manage the protests have sometimes produced actions that aren’t peaceful. (For example, police using pepper balls and flash bangs to disperse crowds and the mayor calling in the National Guard in late May.) What we haven’t seen here is the mayor or police leaders marching with protesters. It took six days for the mayor to even meet with protesters, and it was in that first meeting that he told them to their faces that he believed state law and the collective bargaining agreement with the police union made it difficult for him to fire the officers who shot at Breonna Taylor, which is one of the protesters’ demands.

That said, Metro Council seems to be hearing some, if not all, of the protesters’ demands. They passed an ordinance banning no-knock warrants in Louisville, which Mayor Greg Fischer signed the next day, but they also passed a budget preserving police funding despite calls to defund.

Ryan, you’ve been out with the protesters. Have you seen much collaboration between them and the police or government officials?

RVV: Yesterday, we saw U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth join protesters at the beginning of a march, and I think that is evidence that the protests are not happening in a vacuum.

The pressure campaign from protests have already contributed to several changes: There’s a top-to-bottom review of the Louisville Metro Police Department, work on a civilian oversight board, a new city ordinance ending the practice of no-knock warrants, and the removal of at least two statues associated with the confederacy (one of them was a Jefferson Davis statue in the state capitol). However, the main stated goals of the protests continue to be unanswered, those include: firing, arresting and prosecuting all three officers who shot at and killed Breonna Taylor (so far only Brett Hankinson has been fired), transparency in the investigation into the incident, criminal justice reforms, disinvestment from police, and investment in the city’s West End.

So while there is plenty of coalition building happening, I’m not sure it’s yet had any major influence on government. But with council people, Yarmuth and others showing up to protests, it’s clear that protests are continuing to resonate with officials.

As far as collaboration between police and protesters, there was one meeting I know of to settle disputes over allegations that LMPD was specifically targeting livestreamers.

Here are some related links: https://wfpl.org/the-weapons-used-against-louisville-protesters-demanding-racial-justice/









murakamidiver29 karma

Following up:

What possible avenues of advancing the goals of the protestors exist at this time?

What in your estimation is the likelyhood of renewed civil disobedience at the following junctures:

  1. Any announcement from the KY AG
  2. The proposed Kentucky Derby

What is current state of the protests? After 45 days in the streets how durable are the ad-hoc networks that are participating in and supporting the demonstrators.

How is security being handled by the protestors after the free fire incident that resulted in the death of an innocent protestor by the hands of another individual attracted to the protestors? And does the evidence point to the initial shooter having taken an open carry firearm from protest security themselves, or another source?

WFPLNews49 karma

RVV: What we have witnessed over the last seven weeks is historic and I think Pastor Bruce F. Williams summarized it well yesterday:

“Have you ever heard of demonstrations happening in all 50 states? Have you ever seen a demonstration where Black Lives Matter is the mantra but you have more white people than Black folk in the demonstration?”

I feel like I could write a book on all that’s happened, but I will try to summarize. After a week or so of mass demonstrations across the country, Louisville’s protests shifted into an Occupy model where they established an encampment in a park across from the mayor’s office in downtown Louisville. The encampment phase ended when police cleared Jefferson Square Park in the aftermath of a man shooting and killing Tyler Gerth.


Since then, LMPD has enforced regulations that prevent protesters from occupying the square after 11 p.m.

I was at protests earlier that day when armed counter protesters were supposed to show up but never did: https://wfpl.org/american-freedom-fighters-fail-to-show-at-louisville-protest/ It was the first time I saw protesters openly carrying a large number of firearms, including long guns. Previously, I had seen individuals armed with pistols, but that day was different.

As for the volunteer security force, that seemed to start around the time the encampment started. A colleague of mine who freelances for the Guardian actually got chased off by “security” carrying batons at one point. But carrying firearms didn’t seem to be a regular thing until the day Gerth was shot. That day, armed volunteer security forces were set up on each corner of the square. I took photos of them (one group was not happy about that).

As to what happened with the shooting, I have no information besides what is already out there. The Courier Journal has done an excellent job covering the shooting (and everything else with the protests). Check out this story from Billy Kobin: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/crime/2020/07/09/accused-louisville-protest-shooter-steven-lopez-said-he-felt-threatened/5404919002/

Since then, evening marches have continued, but the numbers seem to be dwindling. In its place, we have seen the rise of direct action demonstrations with the stated goals of disrupting life until protesters’ goals have been met. I know of more than a half-dozen organizations planning demonstrations. We’ve seen protesters close down a bridge between Louisville and Indiana. We saw them protest outside the opening of a new soccer stadium in Louisville. We saw them disrupt a ribbon cutting with the mayor. I think we can expect more demonstrations like that.

I have already seen posters around town calling for “canceling” the Derby. It would not surprise me at all to see large protests surrounding the Derby and any announcement from the AG’s Office.

Sociojoe76 karma

If police:

  1. Identified themselves at the door
  2. Knocked on the door despite having a "no-knock" warrant.
  3. Were shot by the inhabitants

What (if anything) did they do wrong by returning fire?

WFPLNews192 karma

AE: This is a good question and I’m glad you asked it. It’s a complicated situation. And I’m going to respond specifically to your point about returning fire.

Here’s something we know: Police say they announced themselves. Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who was in the apartment with her that night, said they heard knocking/banging but did not hear a verbal response. In his interview with police after the shooting, he said, “It's a loud boom at the door, first thing she says, ‘Who is it?’ No response. So we’re like, What the heck? We both get up, start putting on clothes, another knock at the door. She's like, ‘Who is it?’ Loud, at the top of her lungs. No response.” Because the police haven’t released any footage, it’s one party’s word against the other’s.

And Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine, who released tape of the interview above when he announced he was dropping charges against Walker, said at the time: “It's very possible that there is no criminal activity on either side of that door because people couldn't hear what the other party was saying.”


When it comes to whether they did anything wrong by returning fire, that gets complicated, too, when you take into account how that played out. For example, Officer Brett Hankison was fired last month (he is appealing that decision) for his role in the shooting. In a letter announcing his intention to terminate Hankison, acting police chief Robert Schroeder wrote, “your actions displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life when you wantonly and blindly fired ten (10) rounds into the apartment of Breonna Taylor on March 13, 2020.” He went on to write that Hankison fired through a covered window “that completely prevented you from verifying any person as an immediate threat or more importantly any innocent persons present.” Schroeder also described that some of the rounds fired by Hankison went into an adjoining neighbor’s apartment. That neighbor is suing Hankison and the other officers for assault, excessive force and negligence.


In addition to those details, the reason authorities are investigating this incident is that there are questions about the validity of the search warrants and the inclusion of Taylor’s name and address in those warrants (since the narcotics investigation was focused on her ex, and nothing illegal was found in her home). That’s why this case is about more than whether it was OK for police to shoot back.

AjsimonMM22 karma

I feel quite informed from following you two on Twitter, and listening to 89.3 all day. I know you're not supposed to be part of the story as journalists, but how has the protests downtown influenced your views on the current state of affairs in Louisvile/nationwide? Unfortunately, with the conflicts that sometimes stir up, you all get caught up in the situation.

And thank you both for your coverage. Please stay safe. I'm a proud supporter of WFPL.

WFPLNews76 karma

RVV: I appreciate your support of us and of local media in general. I think local media is so important right now, so that means a lot. I don’t really think it’s appropriate for me to share my personal views on these events. I believe that my role as a local journalist is to amplify the voices of my community, particularly those that have been underserved and underrepresented. For me, it is a privilege to be a journalist and to tell these stories and part of the responsibility of that is not airing personal views publicly. That’s because I don’t want to cloud the stories that I am telling. For me, that’s just something I give up to be a journalist.

However, I will add that it is clear to me the country is at an inflection point. The structural inequalities that exist (and have existed) in the U.S. have been laid bare by the global pandemic and protests for racial injustice. I’ve also observed an erosion of public trust between the public (which includes protesters), police and government. I think that it’s incumbent upon the government, police and our elected officials to restore that trust.

queenofsevens21 karma

Two part question, hope that's okay..

Why haven't the officers involved been arrested? What reasons have been given for the inaction, if any? Or am I missing a key element of the story and the arrests are not, in fact, justifiable?

Also, is this or will this be available as a podcast?

WFPLNews52 karma

AE: The investigations into the officers’ actions are ongoing. KY Attorney General Daniel Cameron is reviewing the police’s internal investigation and considering criminal charges. Just yesterday, he declined to provide a timeline for when that work might be complete. At the same time but separately, the FBI is also investigating for possible civil rights violations. Again, we don’t know when that will be done.

According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine—who recused himself from investigating the officers because he was prosecuting Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker—it’s possible there won’t be criminal charges at all. See more detail on that here: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/hr4n36/were_public_radio_reporters_covering_the_breonna/fy235rz/

As for making a podcast… Ryan, you in?

RVV: I have so much tape I have not used and I would love to share it with the world.

mickhead2315 karma

When the Commonwealth’s Attorney office initially charged Mr Walker, did they know police officers had shot and killed Ms Taylor?

WFPLNews36 karma

AE: The indictment against Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, was entered into the record on March 19, 2020, six days after Taylor was killed. His defense attorney criticized the testimony that led to that grand jury indictment Sgt. Amanda Seelye did not mention Taylor was inside and had been shot by police. (A grand jury hands down an indictment, which is how a suspect is formally accused of committing a crime. People can only be prosecuted for felony offenses after being indicted by a grand jury, per the Commonwealth’s Attorney: http://louisvilleprosecutor.com/grand-jury/)



But by the time of the indictment, police had held a press conference addressing the shooting, the incident had been covered in local media, and Taylor’s name had been confirmed by the county coroner.


Togapr3313 karma

Are national media orgs still covering this with urgency ? It certainly feels like it was hot for two weeks then dropped from the national coverage.

WFPLNews43 karma

RVV: During the first weekend of protests, when Gov. Andy Beshear called in the National Guard, I ran into a reporter for The New York Times. She and an AP reporter joined us as we walked around downtown. They didn’t really know the streets well so we tried to help them as best as we could. A lot of news outlets covered the Louisville Metro Council passing a ban on no-knock warrants. And a couple weeks back I was interviewing a protester who received a call from VICE while I was doing the interview.

I know a couple of major broadcast stations (MSNBC and CBS?) have interviewed Louisville Courier Journal Reporter Tessa Duvall. However, I would say that I have not seen a lot of national coverage about how city and state officials have handled the investigation since national protests have died down.

It appears to me that Breonna Taylor has become a household name in the four months since her death, and that seems to have continued past any dropoff in national coverage.

EmperorPopovich2 karma

What has been the feel following the recent election, especially among those who were pro-Booker? I'm sure there's understandable disappointment, but can you gauge how many feel discouraged (deactivated) vs. holding on to that momentum?

Also, do either of you foresee a rise in protests (and general civic activity) once the moratorium on housing evictions is lifted? From your perspective, how are organizers preparing to respond to this, especially as heightened protests provide another opportunity to demanding justice for Breonna?

Thank you!

WFPLNews9 karma

RVV: You know, that’s not really something I’ve spoken with protesters about, but I think it’s a really good question and I’ll have to ask them. For more information on that, I’d point to this NYT interview with Booker: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/08/us/politics/charles-booker-kentucky.html

What I have observed is that protesters are both discouraged and energized. They are discouraged that their demands have not been met (that goes back to the erosion of trust I allude to in a previous question), but more so I would say they are energized. We are on week seven of protests. I know more than a half-dozen organizations coordinating demonstrations. The protests have evolved toward direct action and disruption. We saw protesters close down a bridge between Louisville and Indiana. We saw them protest outside the opening of a new soccer stadium in Louisville. We saw them disrupt a ribbon cutting with the mayor. I think we can expect more demonstrations like that.

AE: The intersection of the pandemic and these protests is really interesting, in particular because of issues such as the one you raise about evictions. We know that both coronavirus and evictions disproportionately affect people of color in Louisville, particularly those who are Black. And because Black Louisvillians are less likely to own their homes, they often rent at the mercy of their landlords. It’s an issue we explored last summer in our podcast Here Today: https://wfpl.org/here-today-its-hard-out-here-for-a-renter/

That said, the moratorium on evictions in Kentucky ended earlier than anticipated: https://kycir.org/2020/06/12/as-courts-reopen-an-eviction-crisis-looms/