Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor's Boyfriend, Sues City, Claiming Immunity Under 'Stand Your Ground' Law
This story has been updated.
Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, is suing Louisville police, the city and other government entities to prevent them from arresting him again related to events from the night of March 13, when police shot and killed Taylor in her home.
“The charges brought against me were meant to silence me and cover up Breonna’s murder,” Walker said during a news conference Tuesday. “For her and those that I love, I can no longer remain silent.”
In late March, Walker was indicted on charges of attempting to murder a police officer and first degree assault. Those charges were dropped in May. On Tuesday, he said he was a legal gun owner and alluded to firing at the plain-clothes officers who broke down Taylor’s door after midnight during the raid. He said he would never knowingly shoot a police officer.
“My life changed forever in the early morning of March 13. I was laying in bed with Breonna around midnight watching a movie,” he said. “All of a sudden someone started beating on the door. They refused to answer when we yelled, ‘Who is it?’ Fifteen minutes later, Breonna was dead from a hail of police gunfire and I was in police custody.”
Walker addressed members of the news media flanked by his attorneys and parents in front of the mayor’s office, a building whose windows remain boarded up, a relic of ongoing protests starting in late May that have resulted in occasional property damage. The protests are in response to Taylor’s killing by police, an incident that has caught national and global attention as a symbol of injustice and a lack of police accountability.
Walker’s face mask was black, with the words “BREONNA TAYLOR” in white. In recent weeks, protesters and celebrities have worn similar masks.
Criminal investigations into the police officers' actions that March night are ongoing. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is investigating the incident, but said Sunday he would not announce his decision this week. A representative for the FBI, which has a separate investigation for potential federal civil rights charges, said that agency’s work is ongoing and could not provide a timeline for its conclusion.
New Legal Action
In a civil complaint filed Tuesday, attorneys argued Walker is immune from being arrested, detained, charged and prosecuted again due to Kentucky’s “stand your ground” law, which provides for immunity in cases of permitted force.
They also claimed unspecified monetary relief for assault, battery, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and negligence related to the March 13 raid.
“Plaintiff is entitled to compensatory damages for the trauma, humiliation, indignity, physical pain, mental suffering, or mental anguish he suffered, including the negligent infliction of severe emotional distress as a result of witnessing the shooting and death of Breonna Taylor,” they wrote in the complaint.
At the news conference, attorney Frederick Moore addressed Walker’s emotional distress. He said the love of Walker’s life died in his lap, but that wasn’t the only traumatic aspect of that night.
“Let's also talk about the potential psychological effects of being shot at that many times in the dark, and the trust or lack thereof now for the criminal justice system and how they treated him,” Moore said.
Walker fired one shot at officers who broke down Taylor’s door after midnight on March 13, which police say struck Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg. Mattingly subsequently underwent surgery and recovered. Walker told investigators he did not know who was forcibly entering the apartment, and shot to scare them away. Three police officers returned fire, striking Taylor five times and killing her.
On Tuesday, attorney Steve Romines cast doubt on whether it was Walker’s gunshot that hit Mattingly. He said the 911 calls from neighbors as well as police transmissions indicated there were two “volleys of gunfire” that night, and that the report of the officer shot came after the second volley. He pushed back on the police’s contention that Walker shot Mattingly.
“We absolutely do not concede that fact,” Romines said. “It is obviously possible, but until we see the ballistics report and [it] reflects that, then we think it is much more likely that one of the 35 to 45 shots fired by LMPD is what struck Officer Mattingly.”
In the complaint, attorneys wrote Walker “did not in fact know, nor should he have known, that Louisville Metro Police officers were present when they broke down the door” and that he “fired a single shot downward to scare away intruders.”
While officers have claimed they knocked on Taylor’s door and said they were police, Walker told investigators he and Taylor heard the knocking but did not hear the officers saying who they were.
Kentucky’s “stand your ground law” says a person is justified in using force and immune from criminal prosecution and civil action “unless the person against whom the force was used is a peace officer, as defined in KRS 446.010, who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law, or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a peace officer.”
Charges Against Walker
A grand jury indicted Walker on charges of first degree assault and attempt to murder a police officer on March 19, following about two minutes of testimony by Louisville Metro Police Department Sgt. Amanda Seelye. She was one of two officers who interviewed Walker after the incident, but did not include the details of what he told her when she addressed the grand jury.
In late March, Walker was released to home incarceration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Kenny was confined to jail while COVID-19 raged, but he was eventually ordered to home incarceration,” attorneys wrote in the complaint. “Ryan Nichols, President of the River City Fraternal Order of Police, issued a statement to all LMPD officer members and nearly 3,000 Facebook followers describing Kenny as an active ‘threat to the men and women of law enforcement.’ Nichols also said that Kenny ‘poses a significant danger to the community we protect!’”
Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine, who is named in his official capacity as a defendant in the suit, called Seelye’s testimony “bare bones” when he announced his plan to move to dismiss Walker’s charges on May 22, after the case had gained national attention and sparked outcry.
At the time, Wine said other criminal investigations into police actions that night “must be completed before we go forward with any prosecution of Kenneth Walker.”
The charges were officially dismissed without prejudice by Judge Olu Stevens on May 26. Efforts by Walker’s defense counsel beginning in June to have them dismissed with prejudice, which would prevent re-indictment, were not successful, according to court documents.
“We have always been concerned that they might recharge him and if we brought this [lawsuit], this could be the impetus of them recharging him,” Romines said at the news conference.
He said if that happens now, they’ll deal with the criminal case. But he said he sees a problem with letting the police essentially get away with wrongfully charging someone.
“He's supposed to just say thank you and walk away,” Romines said. “No, there has to be consequences to what they did.”
Romines also criticized the officers for poor surveillance, which led them to believe Taylor was alone that night, and a raid he described as negligent, reckless and sloppy.
“There's this six-three gentlemen who had been there all day. I mean, there could absolutely have been children or there could have been anybody there,” Romines said. “And when you're executing a no-knock search warrant and you've got guns and all these type things, you better know who is there.”
Louisville banned no-knock warrants in June as a result of Taylor’s killing. The legislation also expanded rules for body cameras, requiring all officers to wear and activate them when executing a search warrant. The plain-clothes officers who fired at Taylor were not wearing body cameras, in accordance with department policy at the time.
Romines acknowledged the officers had the right to self-defense, but said, “where that goes awry for them is when they recklessly are executing the warrant, then they don't have that right.”
He mentioned Brett Hankison, a detective who was fired in June for his role in the shooting, who interim police chief Robert Schroeder wrote “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he shot 10 rounds through a covered window of Taylor’s apartment.
Defendants named in the complaint include Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, as well as Wine, Louisville Metro Government, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, Schroeder and former police chief Steve Conrad.
In an email, Cameron spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuhn said the Attorney General was never asked to investigate Walker and has not been involved in that case.
"The Attorney General was incorrectly named as a party in the lawsuit filed by Mr. Walker today, and we will be filing a motion to have our office dismissed from the case," she said in the email.
In a statement, Wine said, “The first I learned of the lawsuit was the press conference today. Neither I nor or the Office of Commonwealth’s Attorney have been served. When the complaint is received we will respond within the appropriate time frame established by the Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure.”
The lawsuit also names several other members of the police department, including Detective Joshua Jaynes — who Schroederplaced on administrative leave in June amid questions about the affidavit he used to secure the search warrant for Taylor’s apartment — as well as Mattingly, Detective Myles Cosgrove and Hankison. Mattingly and Cosgrove remain on administrative leave.
A representative for LMPD declined to comment, due to a policy of not commenting on pending litigation. Fischer, when asked for response, said he had not yet seen the lawsuit. A representative for Cameron did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This story has been updated.