Charges against Kenneth Walker, the boyfriend of Breonna Taylor, were dropped on Friday. The announcement came one day after the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had opened an investigation in the fatal shooting of Taylor by three officers in Louisville, Ky., reports The New York Times.
“I believe that additional investigation is necessary,” Thomas B. Wine, the county prosecutor in Louisville, said at a news conference on Friday. “I believe that the independent investigation by the attorney general’s office in Kentucky, the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney’s office must be completed before we go forward with any prosecution of Kenneth Walker.”
Wine dropped Walker’s charges after his attorney Rob Eggert filed a motion to dismiss the case. Authorities charged Walker for attempted murder after he shot one of the officers in the leg during their late-night, no-knock warrant at Taylor’s home. Wine said Friday that a grand jury did not have sufficient evidence to indict Walker.
A judge must approve prosecutors’ requests to drop the charges. Wine does not rule out the possibility of filing charges again after the F.B.I., and other agencies complete their investigation of the shooting. Some legal observers feel like the decision to drop Walker’s charges suggest prosecutors have found potentially serious problems in the officers’ conduct.
Around 1 a.m. on March 13, Louisville Metro police were working on a narcotics investigation when they knocked on Taylor’s door despite their no-knock warrant, both authorities and Walker himself testified. Walker said he and Taylor heard someone knocking at their door, but police did not identify themselves. However, police say they did.
“First thing [Taylor] said was, ‘Who is it?’ No response. ‘Who is it?’ loud, at the top of her lungs, no response,” Walker told police in audio released Friday. “So I’m like what the heck? So I grab my gun, it’s legal, I have a license to carry, I’ve never even fired my gun outside of a range. There’s another knock at the door, she’s yelling at the top of her lungs, and I am too, at this point, ‘Who is it?'”
Police claim they knocked several more times and announced their presence before using a ram to break down the door. Officers were immediately met by gunfire, and fired back, killing Taylor, 26.
Walker, 27, is licensed to carry and said he feared for his life. He did not know it was police officers at the door that night; therefore, he grabbed his gun and fired.
Wine believes there may have been a miscommunication that turned deadly. “It’s very possible there was no criminal activity on either side of the door because neither could hear what the other party was saying,” Wine said at the press conference.
Eggert says they’re happy that the case is dismissed. “He [Walker] always said that he didn’t know these were police officers, and they found no drugs in the apartment. None. He was scared for his life and her life.” Eggert cited Kentucky’s stand-your-ground laws as an early reason to dismiss the charges.
When asked Friday if that law makes it dangerous to serve no-knock warrants, Wine said the potential conflict between the two would have to be considered, Huff Post reports. “That’s the great debate,” Wine said. “It certainly does create a problem.”
However, he disagrees with Eggert’s contention that prosecutors acted unethically, but agreed that more information should have been presented to the grand jury that indicted Mr. Walker on March 19, including Walker’s statement to the police in the early morning hours after the shooting.
Wine says it has been his practice to allow defendants to present evidence that they were acting in self-defense during a shooting. “I’ve allowed that for police officers in shooting cases,” Mr. Wine said, “and it should be allowed for civilians.”
The local newspaper, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that police were targeting two men who were believed to be selling drugs out of a house more than ten miles away from Taylor’s apartment. A judge, however, signed off on a warrant that allowed officers to search Taylor’s home, and enter without a warning because a detective said one of the men used Taylor’s apartment to receive a package.
Taylor’s family has filed a lawsuit against the department for the wrongful death of their daughter, and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has called for an investigation in her death.