LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Louisville sergeant investigating the officers within the deadly capturing of Breonna Taylor questioned whether or not they purposely downgraded the risk of searching her home so they could exclude SWAT.
While interviewing the officers who broke down Taylor’s door in a raid that led to her demise, Sgt. Andrew Meyer of the Professional Standards Unit pressed them on “obvious and seemingly blatant omissions” on the risk evaluation kind they stuffed out earlier than the raid.
“The exclusions of these certain pieces of information made the document appear deceptive,” Meyer informed one of the officers he was questioning.
As the title implies, the risk evaluation matrix helps gauge the potential hazard concerned in a potential search. The greater the rating on the shape, the larger the potential risk.
But the evaluation for Taylor’s residence was scored simply low sufficient to keep away from a required session with SWAT earlier than the search was carried out, based on a replica of the doc The Courier Journal, a component of the USA TODAY Network, obtained in an open-records request.
Indeed, in his last report, Sgt. Meyer — the same investigator who concluded officers shouldn’t have fired a “single shot” in Taylor’s apartment — said even a “conservative estimate” of the risk ought to have prompted officers to get enter from Louisville Metro Police Department’s SWAT group earlier than getting into.
Had a session occurred, the SWAT group might need prompt a distinct strategy to Taylor’s residence, significantly since SWAT leaders already had informed officers to not do the search the identical night time they have been looking different houses miles away as half of their narcotics investigation.
Seven plainclothes officers went to Taylor’s residence shortly earlier than 1 a.m. on March 13, 2020, knocked after which broke into the door. Taylor’s boyfriend fired one shot from his legally owned handgun when the door burst in, hitting a sergeant within the leg.
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Three officers fired 32 pictures in response, killing Taylor, who was unarmed, in her hallway. Taylor’s boyfriend later mentioned he thought an intruder was breaking in.
The officers Meyer questioned bristled at his line of questioning, insisting they weren’t making an attempt to keep away from SWAT.
“If SWAT wanted to do this, by all means, I want them to do this,” detective Wes Barton, who stuffed out the doc, informed Meyer. “I want everyone to go home safe.”
Ultimately, Meyer’s investigation resulted in no conclusive findings whether there was an intent to mislead or exclude SWAT.
But his questions and the inaccuracies in the risk assessment itself raise questions about the intelligence gathered by police in the Place-Based Investigations unit and others on-scene before they raided Taylor’s apartment.
Despite surveillance of the apartment, police failed to anticipate that Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, would be in the apartment or carrying a gun.
Intelligence also appears to have missed that Taylor’s younger sister lived with her, that Taylor often cared for a child in the home and that she and the narcotics investigation’s main target, ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, had drifted apart.
Any of those pieces of information might have raised the risk assessment score, requiring a SWAT consultation or having SWAT carry out the search itself.
“I sincerely hope that the FBI of their investigation may shut some of the hole right here,” Chief Erika Shields told NBC Nightly News on Tuesday. “I’ve very actual considerations about how the (search) warrant was drawn up.”
The matrix for Taylor’s apartment was scored at 15 points, putting it in the category of minimal risk.
Between 17 and 27 points is considered medium risk and requires a SWAT consult. Twenty-eight or more points is a high-risk search that must be carried out by SWAT.
In Meyer’s assessment, the matrix for Taylor’s home should have included another 25 points for a total of 40, which would have mandated SWAT service.
In his questioning of the officers, Meyer pressed his point, focusing on specific questions that might have raised the risk, such as:
- Who did officers expect to find inside Taylor’s apartment?
- Why didn’t the risk assessment form indicate they had secured a search warrant with a “no-knock” provision?
- Was Taylor a suspect in the narcotics investigation?
- Was her ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, the main target, a “Class 1 drug violator,” raising the risk?
‘I would’ve advised them 100% not to do it until we were done’
While seven officers gathered outside Taylor’s door that night, SWAT officers were preparing to search three houses about 10 miles away in the Russell neighborhood where Glover and his associates were suspected of selling drugs.
SWAT Lt. Dale Massey told investigators he warned the officers days earlier against serving simultaneous warrants, calling them “unhealthy enterprise.”
But Massey said Taylor’s apartment was never mentioned at a briefing held the day the warrants were served, nor did he see the risk assessment or operations plan for that address.
“I might’ve suggested them 100% to not do it till we have been carried out doin’ what we needed to do,” Massey said.
Six of the seven officers who were at Taylor’s apartment the night of her killing knew little or nothing about the underlying investigation.
Only one, Detective Mike Campbell, who was responsible for surveilling the apartment and is a part of the PBI unit, said he had seen the risk assessment before the raid.
Lt. Shawn Hoover, the ranking officer on scene, told investigators he assumed the assessment had been done.
“I say that, however I didn’t see one,” he said. “I assume that’d be an error on me for not askin’ that query.”
Risk evaluation:Read the annotated report.
Was SWAT kept out of the loop?
Officers insisted there was no attempt to exclude SWAT, noting a consultation a week earlier in which the overall operation was discussed and SWAT was able to weigh in.
Detective Joshua Jaynes, who wrote and secured the search warrants for the investigation, followed up that meeting with an email to a SWAT sergeant that included an affidavit for Taylor’s apartment and other locations.
“SWAT was concerned on this investigation,” Jaynes told Meyer. “I might acquire nothing from this to omit one thing from this (risk evaluation) matrix, one thing that they have been concerned in.”
Barton, the Place-Based unit detective who filled out the document, said his takeaway from the meeting with SWAT was, “they did recommend doing issues at a distinct time. I didn’t know they mentioned they’d not do it on the identical time.”
Barton said he wasn’t trying to lower the matrix’s score.
“I’ve no intentions of making this fluffed or no matter,” he told Meyer. “It’s not value it.”
Sgt. Kyle Meany, head of the Place-Based Investigations unit, pushed back against allegations of an artificially lowered score, arguing: “If the implication is that we try to drive the rating right down to not have SWAT serve it, why would I’ve SWAT serve warrants on Elliott the identical night time?”
In several interviews, Meyer pushed back
He noted detectives might have wanted to make sure they could search Taylor’s apartment simultaneously with the suspected drug houses because of a risk of “tampering.”
In other words, if the other homes were raided before Taylor’s apartment, any evidence there could have been destroyed before officers arrived.
Meany, the Place-Based commander, concurred that hitting all the locations was important, telling Meyer it’s necessary to “basically get every thing without delay so that there is not movin’ proof or, destroying proof.”
So is that why the warrant for Taylor’s apartment wasn’t served later? Because “for those who did not, there goes the proof?” Meyer asks.
“Correct,” Meany responded.
Neither drugs nor cash were recovered from Taylor’s home after the shooting.
Was Breonna Taylor a suspect?
One factor that could have increased the score on the risk-assessment matrix: Whether Taylor herself was a suspect in the investigation.
Though she was listed by name on the search warrant for her home, the matrix did not count her as a suspect, but rather as “extra individuals on-site.” That lowered the matrix score.
Meyer asked several officers in interviews whether Taylor was a suspect. All told him no.
Meany said officers “did not fairly perceive her involvement” in the narcotics operation they believed involved Glover, her ex-boyfriend.
“We can be jumpin’ to a conclusion to say that she’s a suspect,” Meany said.
Jaynes said in a search warrant affidavit — which resulted in Jaynes’ termination for his lack of truthfulness earlier this 12 months — officers noticed Glover choosing up a bundle from Taylor’s residence.
The affidavit famous Glover’s automotive ceaselessly was at her residence.
Barton said even if Glover was using Taylor’s address to receive contraband, that didn’t mean Taylor knew about it.
“So I don’t take into account that her being a suspect, as a result of she could be oblivious to what is going on on however nonetheless … permitting criminality to happen in her home,” he said.
Campbell said Taylor was never seen handling or trafficking drugs, but “she was round rather a lot of individuals who have been.”
“We actually wished to speak to her principally,” he said, adding they may have sought to establish her as an informant.
At times, the officers contradicted each other about the final assessment of the risk at Taylor’s apartment. Barton said it was based on the “worst-case situation” of Glover being at the apartment; Campbell said it was filled out as if Taylor was home alone because they knew Glover would be elsewhere.
Meyer ultimately disagreed with the officers’ assessment, writing that Taylor fit the category of a narcotics trafficking suspect based on the probable cause affidavit for the search.
Including Taylor as a suspect would have added another five points to the risk assessment and required consulting SWAT.
The murkiness of interpretation
There were other factors that could have tipped the scales toward involving SWAT in the search warrant.
Meyer also hammered away at: the no-knock clause on the search warrant; two other people, Glover and his associate Adrian Walker, on the warrant for Taylor’s apartment; and Glover’s lengthy history of drug arrests.
Barton told investigators he did not consult records when filling out the matrix, basing it instead on his understanding of Glover’s criminal history.
That left some categories up to interpretation, making the scoring subjective.
For example, the form advises officers to add five points to the risk if a “Class 1 drug violator” is a suspect. Glover might have qualified, according to Meyer.
Barton didn’t articulate a clear understanding of what a “Class 1 drug violator” would include, describing it as a “cartel member, somebody who’s transferring a big quantity of medicine, not somebody who’s been charged with it a number of instances.”
So Barton didn’t add the 5 points — again keeping the overall score below the threshold requiring a SWAT consultation.
Meyer disagreed with PBI officers’ assessment of Glover’s criminal history. They argued Glover wouldn’t be a “Class 1 drug violator,” as a result of he did not deal in massive portions of narcotics at a given time.
LMPD policy defines a Class 1 violator as someone trafficking a kilogram or more, but Meyer noted it doesn’t say over what time span.
He also pointed out police obtained a warrant with a no-knock provision, which should have added 15 points to the risk assessment. Officers said they didn’t add those points because they had decided to knock and announce themselves at Taylor’s door.
Meyer said had the warrant been taken at face value, the additional risk should have been included on the assessment.
‘Apparent flaws’ in matrix policy leave details up for debate
Meyer pointed out these things as oversights in the assessment, but the PBI officers noted them as policies open to interpretation. Whereas Meyer saw things one way, the PBI officers said they saw them another.
“It’s a permission slip,” Jaynes told him, “not a plan of motion.”
LMPD’s policy and matrix form are vague enough to allow different interpretations, Meyer notes in a report to his superiors.
Most serious of its “obvious flaws,” he noted, is the “duty and accountability for the completion of the shape.” While policy says a risk assessment must be done before all search warrants are carried out, it “doesn’t place the duty on a selected actor.”
“Ultimately, the risk evaluation matrix was accomplished for this occasion,” Meyer wrote. “The accountability for the omissions which made the doc misleading will relaxation on these chargeable for the doc’s creation and submission.”
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Breaking down the risk matrix:
Location factors: These circumstances consider security on the premises and who else may be present during a search.
- Multiple suspects: In addition to Jamarcus Glover, Breonna Taylor and an associate of Glover’s, a man named Adrian Walker (no relation to Kenneth Walker), were named on the search warrant; Walker was a legitimate suspect but officers involved in the investigation all said Taylor was a “individual of curiosity” — not a suspect. Sgt. Andrew Meyer, the officer investigating the March 13 shooting for standards violations, disagreed, saying the evidence gathered on Taylor would fit the definition of suspected narcotics trafficking. (Not checked; five points.)
- Additional people on-site: Meyer argued even if Taylor was counted as a suspect, detectives still should have known Taylor’s younger sister lived at the same apartment and would therefore count as an additional person. (Checked; five points.)
- Video surveillance: Officers used similar language in requesting five search warrants on March 12, including a line about “the character of how these drug traffickers function,” including “cameras on the placement that compromise detectives” on approach. Despite that language being used on the warrant for Taylor’s apartment, the “video surveillance” box is unmarked, though it was checked for 2424 Elliott and 2605 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. (Not checked; 10 points.)
- No-knock warrant: Despite having a no-knock search warrant signed by Circuit Judge Mary Shaw, officers did not check the “no-knock warrant” box for Taylor’s apartment. Officers told Meyer they planned to execute the warrant as a knock-and-announce, and department policy didn’t require them to check the box in that case. (Not checked; 15 points.)
Criminal history: The matrix also takes into consideration the criminal history of involved suspects. Points are added for select previous charges against each suspect.
- Class 1 drug violator: Detectives argued Glover did not fit this criteria because he had not been accused of moving large enough quantities of drugs. Meyer notes as a “profession narcotics trafficker … would shortly qualify” for this standards. But, the coverage is obscure and doesn’t specify if that is over the span of a single investigation, a totality of arrests or a single incident. Glover has confronted a number of arrests for medicine and served prison time in Mississippi for promoting cocaine. (Not checked; 5 factors.)
- Firearms/CCDW: As a convicted felon, Glover will not be legally allowed to have a gun, however he had been charged with felon in possession of a firearm or a handgun in 2019 and 2016. (He was additionally charged with these offenses for March 13, 2020, too.) The fees in every occasion have been dismissed or a grand jury returned a no true invoice. (Checked; 5 factors.)