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Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend says he thinks officers wanted him dead

Man in red jacket with the hood pulled up stands in front of a painting of Breonna Taylor
J. Tyler Franklin
Kenneth Walker stands in front of a memorial to his girlfriend Breonna Taylor on the second anniversary of her death, March 13, 2022.

Kenneth Walker, the boyfriend of Breonna Taylor, testified in open court Monday for the first time since the botched raid on Taylor’s apartment in 2020. Walker described their fear and confusion as police busted down the front door and killed the 26-year-old emergency room technician.

Walker’s testimony came as the federal criminal trial of former Louisville Metro Police detective Brett Hankison entered its second week. Hankison is facing two civil rights charges for allegedly shooting blindly through Taylor’s covered patio door and window, endangering her and other people living in the apartment building. He was acquitted on similar charges in state court last year.

In testimony spanning more than two hours, Walker told jurors that he initially thought someone was trying to break into Taylor’s home when police banged on the door in the middle of the night on March 13, 2023.

“We both looked at each other like, ‘OK, are you expecting anyone? It’s late,’” he said.

Walker said he and Taylor both screamed, ‘Who is it?’ in response to the sound at the door. He said they didn’t hear police announce themselves before they opened the door with a battering ram.

Walker, who legally owned a handgun, fired one shot at the doorway as police attempted to enter, striking an officer in the leg. That’s when officers returned fire, killing Taylor.

“It sounded like a war,” he said. “There were so many shots, I was just hoping to live at that point.”

Jurors, and those sitting in the gallery, were shown graphic pictures of Taylor’s body lying motionless on the floor, right outside her bedroom. Blood spatters were visible on the wall and carpet.

Walker cried as he listened to his own 911 call that night, desperately asking for help and confused about who shot Taylor. He said he was on the phone with her mother, Tamika Palmer, when officers forced him out of the apartment at gunpoint. And he described an interaction he had with an officer once he was in cuffs:

An officer asked him, “Are you shot?” When he said no, the officer responded, “Well, that’s unfortunate.”

“And that’s when I’m thinking, ‘Oh, these people want to kill me,’” Walker said.

Walker said he doesn’t live in Kentucky anymore and is trying to “find a little bit of peace.” The attempted murder charges against him for shooting the officer were dismissed in 2021, and he received a $2 million dollar settlement from the city last year.

From Walker’s perspective, the events of March 13, 2023 are simple: “Some people broke into my house and they killed my friend, my girlfriend, someone who was really important to me. And they tried to kill me, too.”

Walker told jurors he met Taylor in 2012 and they began an on again, off again relationship a few years later. Before she was killed, he and Taylor spent the day together, had dinner at Texas Roadhouse and returned home to watch the movie “Freedom Writers.” He said they were falling asleep in bed when police arrived.

On cross-examination, Hankison’s defense attorneys tried to poke holes in Walker’s story.

Attorney Stew Mathews asked whether Walker never heard police say who they were “because you couldn’t hear it over the TV or because it didn’t happen, do you know?” Hankison and other officers in the raid have insisted they announced their presence at the door, but none of them wore body cameras that night so there is no audio or video evidence.

Mathews also brought up the fact that Walker initially lied to police about who had fired from inside the apartment. At the scene, he told officers that it was Taylor who shot down the hallway. Later, when questioned at the police precinct, he said he had fired the shot.

Walker said he felt bad about lying initially but said he did it “to live and help her live, too.”

“The first chance I got, when there were no guns pointed at me, I told them,” he said.

Prosecutors also called LMPD officers and forensics experts from the FBI and Kentucky State Police to the stand on Monday. The officers described the use-of-force training they undergo, continuing a line of testimony that began Friday. They said officers must have “target identification and isolation” when using deadly force and are taught never to fire blindly into a home. The forensics experts tied Hankison to ten bullets recovered from Taylor’s apartment and a neighboring unit.

The trial continues Tuesday, with prosecutors expected to rest their case at the end of the week.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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