New Body-Cam Footage Raises Questions About Breonna Taylor Death Investigation

Footage and documents obtained by VICE News depict Louisville police officers apparently violating department policies and cast doubt on the integrity of the crime scene and the investigation.
September 26, 2020, 10:13pm
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Screen capture from body-cam footage.

Hours of body camera footage from Louisville Metro Police Department officers and SWAT team members paint a telling picture of the immediate aftermath of the police raid in which Breonna Taylor was killed.

The footage, which was obtained by VICE News and documents what was seen by officers who responded to the scene after the shooting, has not previously been made public. It shows officers appearing to break multiple department policies and corroborates parts of Taylor’s boyfriend’s testimony. It also raises questions about the integrity of not only the crime scene but also the ensuing investigation into what happened that night.

The footage was captured by 45 different body cameras and included as part of the investigative file compiled by the LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit and shared with the Kentucky attorney general’s office. (No footage from the raid itself has been released, and for months, LMPD has insisted that none exists, saying that officers in this unit often operate in plainclothes and were not required to wear body cameras. VICE News has previously reported that crime-scene photos contradict initial statements by the LMPD claiming that the officers involved, who work narcotics, do not wear body cameras. Photographs of officers taken from that night clearly show Tony James, one of at least seven officers present for the raid, wearing a body camera over his right shoulder.

Footage shows not one of the seven officers who were present for the raid being immediately separated and paired with an escort, which is a violation of LMPD’s own policy. The department’s standards and procedures state that all officers involved in a critical incident must be paired with an escort officer at the scene and “isolated from all non-essential individuals for the remainder of the initial investigation.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” a former LMPD narcotics officer, who reviewed parts of the footage, told VICE News. The officer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, added that it’s the responsibility of the commanders on scene to make sure all involved officers are taken aside.

“This is not how it’s supposed to work,” they added.

According to interviews they gave to LMPD investigators, two of the involved officers—Detectives Mike Nobles and Tony James—left the scene and went to the University of Louisville hospital, where Sgt. Jon Mattingly, who was shot in the leg, was taken. Body-cam footage shows four others—Detectives Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove, and Mike Campbell, and Lieutenant Shawn Hoover—still on scene, roaming around freely with their guns drawn.

The behavior of three involved officers in particular stands out: Hankison, Cosgrove, and Campbell.

After SWAT team members clear the apartment and pronounce Taylor dead on scene, now-former LMPD detective Hankison, who fired 10 shots that night, according to the department, approaches the front door to ask if someone is dead inside. Minutes later, Hankison returns and even steps inside the apartment, an active crime scene. He asks SWAT officers if they found a long gun, and whether the casings on the ground are “theirs.”

Multiple SWAT team members on the body camera footage seem to be made visibly uncomfortable by Hankison’s presence. One of them tells other officers sternly to clear him out.

“I’d back out until they get PIU in here,” SWAT officer Sgt. Brandon Hogan tells him, referring to the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates officer-involved shootings. Later, Hogan says, “This is a crime scene.”

Shortly thereafter, Hankison walks up to a SWAT team member standing on the sidewalk and asks if his body camera is on before the video cuts out.

Campbell—who, according to LMPD, didn’t discharge his weapon but was present for the raid—not only lingers on scene but also helps interview neighbors. Campbell told investigators that after SWAT cleared Taylor’s apartment, “I went up and talked, checked, tried to make contact with all the apartments to make sure they were OK.”

Body camera footage shows Campbell descending the stairs leading to the apartments above Taylor’s while officers are speaking with potential witnesses. According to recordings of investigative interviews obtained by VICE News, PIU interviewers do not question Campbell’s actions; rather, they ask what Campbell learned that might help in their own investigation.

Cosgrove, who fired 16 rounds according to LMPD, is on scene carrying a rifle immediately following the incident. At no point does body camera footage show anyone separating him from the dozens of other officers who arrived to respond to the incident.

The failure to separate the involved officers isn’t just clearly documented in body camera footage—it’s also brought up in multiple interviews conducted by PIU in the aftermath of the incident, which are included in the investigative file that was compiled by LMPD and sent to the attorney general’s office.

In his investigative report, Sgt. Jason Vance wrote, "Investigators observed Detective Hankison walking in and out of the primary scene. At 0200 hours Sergeant Wilder and I verbally requested Hankison to remove himself from the primary scene and make contact with members of LMPD Peer Support.”

The report also states that Hankison’s behavior violated policy. “It should be noted investigators later learned Detective Hankison deviated from standard LMPD practices for an officer involved in a critical incident and left the scene location without his assigned LMPD Peer Support escort," it reads. "Hankison deviated from the standard protocol when he traveled unattended to University of Louisville Hospital having contact with CID command and Police Chief Steve Conrad.”

On May 19, Lt. Dale Massey, who was the SWAT commander on scene, testified that he saw involved officers “still in the mix.” He specifically calls out Hankison and Cosgrove, both of whom fired their weapons that night.

“[Cosgrove]," he said in the interview, "had a rifle slung, so I assumed just having a rifle slung that he was there after the fact….while we’re on scene, we learned that Cosgrove’s involved in it,” Massey told investigators. “I was, like, ‘Man, get him outta the mix.’ Because he was still in the mix doing stuff. I was, like, 'Get him separated from everybody.'”

Massey added, “I do remember saying, ‘Hey, separate him. He’s involved. He’s—he was way too up in the mix, you know?’”

Now-former LMPD police chief Steve Conrad, who was interviewed on March 18, told investigators he saw Hankison at the hospital after the incident, which he described as unusual.

“I was surprised by that because, you know, the—the typical response is that someone from Public Integrity is usually tasked with keeping up with the officers involved to make sure that they get back here,” Conrad said.

“I believe I mentioned it to Major [Kim] Burbrink that I was surprised he was there,” he later told investigators.

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CAPTION: Screenshot of an exchange from LMPD Public Integrity Unit’s interview with then-Chief Steve Conrad.

Conrad told investigators that at some point prior to speaking with Hankison at the hospital, Burbrink told him Hankison was afraid of losing his job, suggesting she had already spoken with the former LMPD detective. But LMPD investigators don’t appear to have interviewed Burbrink as part of the investigation. In fact, nowhere in the investigative file compiled by LMPD and obtained by VICE News is Burbrink’s apparent contact with Hankison questioned or looked into.

LMPD, Hankison’s attorney, and the union attorney who was present for officers’ interviews did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Footage from multiple responding officers’ body cameras also appears to corroborate several parts of the testimony from Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker. In an interview conducted on March 13, a few hours after the raid, Walker says officers threatened to set a dog on him and told him he’d spend the rest of his life in jail.

Body-cam footage shows a narcotics dog leaping at Walker as he slowly walks backward towards officers, hands in the air. As Walker is complying with commands, an officer is heard yelling, “Walk straight back or I will send this dog on you!”

As Hankison and another officer handcuff Walker, footage shows, Walker is heard yelling, “What did I do?”

Hankison responds: “You’re going to prison, that’s what’s going on. For the rest of your fucking life.”

Moments later, when asked who fired on officers, Walker says it was Taylor. He later told PIU investigators that he lied because he was scared.

“It’s all just further evidence of a cover-up to violate their own policies and allow suspects involved in the shooting to have access to the crime scene and interview witnesses,” Walker’s attorney, Steven Romines, told VICE News. “There were some professional officers who attempted to secure the scene and protect the integrity of the investigation, but unfortunately they arrived too late.”