Protesters and volunteers prepare a Breonna Taylor art installation on June 5, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky. The event commemorated what would have been Breonna Taylor’s 28th birthday. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
The Louisville cops who executed the deadly raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment have long said that they didn’t expect her boyfriend, who had a concealed carry license, to be in the house. But an email obtained by VICE News shows that a Louisville Metro Police detective who was involved in the investigation that led to Taylor’s address asked for and received a “workup,” or intelligence, on Taylor’s boyfriend,
Kenneth Walker, the day before the raid. VICE News had previously reported that there had been a request for intelligence on Walker, but the email provides further proof that the department knew, or should have known, he could be at the house at the time of the raid.When police executed the ill-fated no-knock raid on Taylor’s house in 2020, Walker fired one shot, hitting former LMPD Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg, before officers responded with a barrage of more than 30 bullets, killing Taylor.Last week, four officers were charged by the Department of Justice in connection with the killing of Taylor. Three of the officers, who were part of the small team whose investigation led police to Taylor’s address, were charged with conspiracy for allegedly falsifying information included in the affidavit used to obtain a legal search warrant. The new revelation raises further questions about the investigative team. In the email, a member of LMPD’s Real Time Crime Center, which assists the department with surveillance and intelligence gathering, writes that they are providing a “workup,” internal speak for a cursory intel file, on Walker in response to a request made over the phone by Detective Wesley Barton.
On the night Breonna Taylor was killed, LMPD targeted five addresses they believed were part of a larger drug operation: Taylor’s apartment on Springfield Drive, and four others, including three homes on a single block of Elliott Avenue in Louisville’s West End, where the police arrested Jamarcus Glover, the main target of their investigation, that night.
The investigation was led by a relatively new police unit called Place Based Investigations, or PBI, which was created in 2019 to focus on crime hot spots in the city. Barton, along with three of the officers federally charged last week, were among the officers assigned to the new team. But other units were roped in on the night of March 12 and early morning of March 13 to help execute the various search warrants. Walker, who was at home with Taylor on the night of the raid, fired a single bullet, hitting former LMPD Sgt. Mattingly immediately after police rammed through the front door of the apartment. Police then fired more than 30 bullets, killing Taylor. Walker has maintained that he didn’t know police were at their door, and that he and Taylor worried an intruder had broken in. In interviews conducted after the raid on Taylor’s apartment, involved officers repeatedly told investigators that Walker’s presence was a surprise. In Mattingly’s interview with LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit, which investigates potential criminal behavior by officers, for example, he said his team was told “[Taylor] should be there alone because they knew where their target [Jamarcus Glover] was.” He also said that he assumed “they thought that he [Glover] was her only boyfriend or only acquaintance.”But the timing of the request for information on Walker strongly suggests that Barton considered Walker a person of interest, according to multiple police sources. And the report itself, which contains various pieces of highly relevant information about Walker, including a picture of Taylor and Walker hugging, raises further questions about the apparent—and potentially deadly—oversight.
The listed addresses for Walker included in the version of the file obtained by VICE News are redacted, but a source who has seen an unredacted version told VICE News that Taylor’s address on Springfield Drive is among them. “For someone from that unit to be requesting information on him the day before tells me that they knew he would be around or likely would be around,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, told VICE News in 2020.It’s unclear whether the team that executed the raid misrepresented the information that was relayed to them before the police operation, or if the information simply wasn’t shared with them before they did. But, as VICE News reported in 2020, there’s another peculiarity that raises further questions about Barton’s knowledge of Walker prior to the raid. According to LMPD’s Standard Operating Procedures, officers have to assess the risk associated with serving any search warrant before it is executed, a procedure which includes filling out a scorecard, or matrix. The risk matrix forms are broken into four categories: location factors, weapons factors, criminal history, and general risk factors. Within each category, specific line items are given a numerical value such as, multiple suspects (5), assault weapons (28), prior Assault on Police charge (10) or Gang Association (5). Once the relevant boxes have been checked, their collective value is added up to determine whether or not SWAT needs to be involved, either in executing the search warrant or in consultation prior to deployment.
According to the risk matrix associated with Taylor’s address, detectives indicated that they expected other people to be at her apartment by including ‘additional persons on-site.” They didn’t, however, select “multiple suspects,” which would have shown they thought other people named on the warrant might be there. The matrix also includes the potential presence of a handgun as a risk factor. Taylor didn’t own firearms, but Walker, as indicated in the file produced for Barton, was a licensed firearm owner.
The last box checked by detectives is for the potential presence of someone with a criminal history that included charges related to firearms or concealed carry deadly weapons, which is consistent with Walker’s history as well. In 2016, Walker was charged for carrying a weapon without a license. The charge has since been dismissed, and no longer appears on his record, but anyone who looked at the file would have known about it. In an interview conducted on November 25, 2020, Barton told investigators that he filled out the matrix to reflect the potential presence of Taylor, whom his team did not consider a suspect, and Glover, the main target, whom they did. It’s difficult to reconcile Barton’s explanation with the matrices associated with the four other addresses targeted on March 13, all of which listed Glover as a suspect and scored much higher. Especially considering that on Taylor’s the only three risk factors indicated on the form appear to line up with what Barton would have known about Walker from the file he requested and received.
It’s also unclear when the matrix, which has no date or timestamp, was filled out, a question which even LMPD investigators raised in Barton’s interview. Barton explained that he filled out the matrix for Taylor’s apartment on March 12th at his desk after pulling a template from LMPD’s digital database. But there was no way for investigators to verify that because, according to Barton, he didn’t save the completed form before or after printing it. Sgt. Andrew Meyer: “Okay. So after you’ve completed the document, did you save it or just print it or what?”Barton: “I printed it. Uh, I don’t believe I saved it. No sir. I just printed it because I always put them in with my search warrant stuff and…”Sgt. Andrew Meyer: “Okay. Just the hard copy.” Multiple police sources told VICE News they found it strange that Barton would not save the document, calling it standard practice. One asked rhetorically if it would be normal for someone to not save a Word document. But investigators didn’t push Barton any further. And no one, despite three separate investigations—two of them conducted internally by LMPD and a third by the Kentucky Attorney’s General office—appears to have ever asked about Barton’s request for information about Walker.LMPD didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.Knowledge about Walker’s potential presence is significant information. It could have changed the way that officers attempted to execute the search warrant on Taylor’s house. In Attorney General Merrick Garland’s public statements, he alleges that the officers charged “knew the search warrant would be carried out by armed LMPD officers, and that conducting that search could create a dangerous situation for anyone who happened to be in Ms. Taylor's home.”It is unclear whether the Department of Justice is investigating whether Jaynes or Meany had knowledge of the work up or whether Barton has been questioned about his knowledge of Walker. Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.