Police merit board upholds firing of former Louisville officer who shot Breonna Taylor
Former Louisville detective Myles Cosgrove, who an FBI ballistics report said fired the fatal shots during last year’s raid on Breonna Taylor’s home, will not be allowed back on the force.
The Police Merit Board voted 5-2 on Wednesday to uphold Cosgrove’s firing after a four-day employment hearing. The two police officers who serve on the board sided with the majority, who voted not to reinstate Cosgrove.
Cosgrove was fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department in January for failing to properly identify a threat before he fired 16 shots into Taylor’s apartment. In his termination letter, former interim police chief Yvette Gentry said internal investigators found Cosgrove fired in three directions during the raid on Taylor’s apartment.
Assistant County Attorney Brendan Daugherty, who represented Louisville Metro in Cosgrove’s appeal, told the board that the former detective's own statements show he had no idea who his target was when he fired his weapon.
“The muzzle flash is not the threat,” Daugherty said. “The person who shot the gun would be the threat. What was Myles Cosgrove able to say about this person? He called it a shadowy figure or a silhouette. He didn’t see a gun, he didn’t see hand raised, he didn’t see movement.”
Investigators said Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired one shot at police as they attempted to enter the apartment. Walker later said did not hear the officers identify themselves and believed they were intruders. Cosgrove and two other officers fired nearly three dozen bullets in return.
During closing arguments Wednesday, Daugherty underscored that Taylor’s tragic death occurred because of Cosgrove’s decision to fire, despite not having a clear target or threat.
“There is no dispute that this was a high-stress, rapidly evolving situation,” he said. “It’s a situation we don’t ever want an officer to be in, but they train for these situations as best they can.”
Lawyers for Cosgrove argued throughout the hearings that the muzzle flash and shadowy figure Cosgrove said he saw made him believe his life and the lives of other officers were in danger.
Scott Miller, one of his attorneys, argued that Cosgrove reacted reasonably based on his understanding of the situation at the time, which is all that is required by department policy.
“LMPD police officers are out there every day, doing their job and trying to make good faith judgment calls in what the U.S. Supreme Court says are sometimes a legally uncertain environment,” Miller told the board. “We have to give these officers the benefit of the doubt.”
Cosgrove’s lawyers argued that the apartment hallway officers stepped into was a “fatal funnel” and Cosgrove used his gun to try to save then-Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, who was struck in the leg by Walker’s bullet. Using ballistics reports and testimony from firearms and use of force trainers, his lawyers pushed back against the accusation that Cosgrove fired wildly.
Cosgrove took the stand in his own defense on Tuesday, telling the board that his statements to investigators regarding a “shadowy figure” and “flashes of light” were an attempt to put them in his shoes. Holding back tears, Cosgrove also described how the case affected him and his family.
“I’ve had to relocate,” he said. “I had to pull my kids out of school. We receive death threats to this day. We receive hate mail. My kids were stalked and the department abandoned me.”
The Police Merit Board is the first stop for an LMPD officer trying to appeal their firing. Its decision can be appealed to the Jefferson County District Court.
Joshua Jaynes, the former officer who secured the search warrant for Taylor’s apartment, is currently appealing the board’s decision to uphold his firing. It’s unclear if Cosgrove will do the same.
Former deputy chief says Cosgrove’s firing was politically motivated
Before the Police Merit Board made its decision, its members heard testimony from former Deputy Police Chief LaVita Chavous.
Chavous told the board that there was no indication during the internal investigation into Taylor’s killing that Cosgrove did not know where he was shooting.
Despite admitting that she had not reviewed all of Cosgrove’s interviews and numerous investigations, Chavous said she did not believe Cosgrove should have been terminated from LMPD.
“He fired after an officer was shot and he fired in defense of the officer and himself,” she said.
Chavous also said she believes Cosgrove’s firing was politically motivated. She recounted a meeting at the Emergency Operations Center in the midst of the 2020 protests where she said she overheard Mayor Greg Fischer say he wished he could fire the officers involved in Taylor’s killing. Chavous said she raised concerns about that to LMPD leadership.
“I was just basically saying I was surprised that he was coming to that conclusion, because the investigation hadn’t been totally completed,” she said.
Chavous told the Police Merit Board she didn’t hear Fischer refer to any of the officers by name, including Cosgrove.
Catch up on coverage of the previous days of Cosgrove’s employment hearing: