Audio from the grand jury proceedings into the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor has been released to the public. The release of the tapes Friday comes after days of protests and intense scrutiny in the wake of the grand jury announcement that no criminal charges would be brought against the officers who shot and killed an unarmed Taylor as they attempted to serve a “no-knock” warrant in March. The only person to receive an indictment related to the incident was an officer who was charged with wanton endangerment for shooting into a neighboring unit located on the level directly above Taylor’s apartment in Louisville, Kentucky; no offer was charged directly for Taylor’s death.
As news of the grand jury’s announcement spread and Kentucky's Republican attorney general Daniel Cameron continued to defend the outcome, questions mounted about the proceedings. Amid the controversy, an unnamed juror filed a court motion requesting that the audio recording of the court proceedings be made public and that jurors be allowed to discuss the case publicly. The juror implied that Cameron had mischaracterized the grand jury's process and alleged that jurors had not been presented with all possible charging options, but instead were only asked to weigh in on possible charges for the one officer, Brett Hankison.
Now, those files have been released, and media outlets are busily parsing through the 20 hours of tapes to piece together whether or not the jurors were presented with a full and accurate representation of the case — and whether or not Cameron ever actually intended to bring Breonna Taylor’s killers to justice.
WDRB, a Louisville-based news outlet, reported several early insights from the audio, including a neighbor who lived directly next door to Taylor saying that he “knows for a fact nobody announced” themselves as police. Someone from Cameron’s office can also be heard telling jurors that another neighbor heard police say, “Reload, reload, let’s do what we need to do.”
At another point in the audio, Jonathan Mattingly, one of three officers who shot into Taylor’s apartment, is heard in his interview addressing a key detail in the original no-knock warrant that led to the raid on Taylor’s apartment. Mattingly is quoted saying, “We were told the target [Jamarcus Glover] had packages sent to this location,” telling the grand jury that, “[Taylor] receives his packages and held his money.” On the tapes released Friday, an investigator from Cameron’s office is heard relaying a story from one of Taylor’s neighbors, who told him that when she asked an officer at the scene what was going on, the officer responded, “Some drug-dealing girl shot at the police.”
Glover was identified as a key person of interest in the department’s narcotics investigation, and the warrant on Taylor’s apartment was granted because it was suspected that her apartment was part of his drug operation. But after an investigative report leaked this past week, it would appear that the detective handling the warrant lied about this detail in order to move the raid forward. According to WDRB, multiple officers were told at multiple points before the raid that no packages were received at Taylor’s address. In fact, according to an interview in May conducted by the department’s Public Integrity Unit, Mattingly himself told another officer that there was no package history at Taylor’s home, per WDRB.
Cameron also finally admitted earlier this week that he never presented any homicide charges to the grand jurors to consider for the officers who killed Taylor. In fact, the only charge his office recommended for the entire case was wanton endangerment against Hankison — which, again, is a charge related to the bullets he fired that missed Taylor and hit surrounding apartments.
Legal experts around the country have also weighed in on the handling of several pieces of evidence, from the justifications for self-defense to ballistic reports and more. Last week, Vice published body-cam footage recorded immediately after the police raid that raised even more questions about the events surrounding Taylor’s death. Oddly, the Louisville Police Department has continued to insist for weeks that no body camera footage of the raid itself exists, despite photographic evidence that at least one of the officers who was present for the raid was, in fact, wearing a body camera.
In a statement Friday, Cameron said, “I'm confident that once the public listens to the recordings, they will see that our team presented a thorough case to the Jefferson County grand jury. ... Our presentation followed the facts and the evidence, and the grand jury was given a complete picture of the events surrounding Ms. Taylor's death on March 13."
But while reporters are still moving through the mountain of audio tape, the only thing that’s clear is that the case is far from clean. The public is merely left hoping for at least some transparency around Taylor’s death — one that should never have happened in the first place.