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Recording From Grand Jury Proceedings Released In The Breonna Taylor Case


Now let's turn to Louisville, Ky., where a court has released recordings of the Breonna Taylor grand jury proceedings. Last week, the grand jury decided that none of the officers involved would be charged with her death. And now for the first time, we're hearing testimony from the officers themselves. There are also new details about what happened on that night in March when officers burst into her apartment using a no-knock warrant. Amina Elahi and her colleagues at member station WFPL have been listening to the 15 hours of recordings, and she's taking a break to join us now and tell us what she's learned.

Hi, Amina.


SHAPIRO: One of the major questions of this case has been whether the officers announced who they were before breaking down Breonna Taylor's door, and there have been conflicting stories about that. What does the tape show? What have you learned?

ELAHI: Well, that's been a key question because Breonna Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he didn't know they were police when he shot at them, and it was his shot that prompted them to return fire. So in the recordings, we hear an investigator talking about some of his interviews with neighbors, and at least three of them say they didn't hear police announce, even though police have contended all along that they did. And another witness changed his story over time. So, first, he told the police he didn't hear knocking, and in later interviews - excuse me - announcing, and in later interviews, he said he did. And the Kentucky attorney general maintains that the officers shouldn't have been charged in her death because they were acting in self-defense in response to Kenneth Walker's shot.

SHAPIRO: And another big issue here is the fact that there was no body camera footage of the shooting itself because the officers who shot into Taylor's apartment were not required to have those body cameras at the time. But you learned something new about body cameras on the scene, right?

ELAHI: Right. One of the officers on the scene who didn't fire his weapon, Tony James, had a body camera that he didn't activate, according to a representative from the attorney general's office. So there were both prosecutors and investigators from that office speaking to the grand jury. And in some cases, it's hard to identify them because the recordings aren't crystal clear. But that representative said James thought he had activated his body camera, but he hadn't. And there are photographs of James from after the shooting, showing that he was wearing a body camera mounted on his shoulder. And although other officers weren't wearing body cameras, James' failure to activate his would constitute a violation of the police department's rules.

SHAPIRO: What other evidence did they recover?

ELAHI: Well, my colleagues and I are still working through the 15 hours of tape. But one of the first sections I listened to was the explanation of 61 exhibits of photo evidence. The attorney general's team seemed to include a lot of photos of the apartment complex and the damage done to property, including windows, doors and furniture. They also showed the grand jurors a batch of photos of a deceased Breonna Taylor, and the investigator specifically described a number of her wounds.

But one thing that jumped out at me as I listened to this was the way one of the investigators identified the people involved. When he pulled up a picture of Breonna Taylor, all he said was she was an occupant of the apartment and didn't mention that she was killed by police. But for a picture of one of the officers, he said, this is Sergeant John Mattingly; he was injured in the incident.

SHAPIRO: So John Mattingly was one of the officers who fired his weapon. What did you learn from these tapes about the other two?

ELAHI: Well, we're finally hearing from the other two, Detective Myles Cosgrove and former detective Brett Hankison. Their official post-incident interviews are included in these recordings, so we're learning their sides of the story based on what they told investigators. And Hankison, by the way, was the only officer indicted related to this case. He was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing into the apartment of Taylor's neighbor. And none of them were charged directly for her killing. In Hankison's interview, he says he saw someone inside the apartment with a long gun, even though one was never found, and the window he says he looked through was covered by blinds.

And, Ari, there's been criticism of how Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has portrayed the grand jury proceedings. The public demanded these tapes because they wanted to be sure that a complete case was presented to the grand jury. So what we're learning now is it answers some of the questions, but not all of them.

SHAPIRO: That's Amina Elahi of member station WFPL in Louisville. She's been going through those 15 hours of recordings of grand jury testimony that were just released today.

Amina, thanks for sharing with us what you've learned.

ELAHI: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Amina Elahi

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