LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Members of the Louisville Metro Police SWAT unit condemned the planning and execution of the March raid on Breonna Taylor’s home, with one saying it was an “egregious act.”
Lt. Dale Massey and other members of LMPD’s SWAT team told the Profession Integrity Unit in interviews after Taylor’s death the three officers involved violated a basis rule of policing — identifying your target and what’s in the background before you shoot.
Sgt. Brandon Hogan called that “basic academy stuff,” according to interviews obtained by The Louisville Courier Journal as part of LMPD’s investigative file.
Members of the highly trained team who responded to Taylor’s apartment after the fatal police shooting also told investigators SWAT didn’t know about the search of her residence, despite being briefed on other simultaneous warrants that night.
In fact, according to the accounts given by four members of the SWAT response, the team didn’t learn about the search at Taylor’s home until they heard over their police radios that an officer had been wounded.
“We’re like, ‘What are you talkin’ about?'” Massey recalled in an interview first reported by WDRB. “You know, again, back to the point that we had no idea they were doin’ a warrant.”
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Massey also told investigators serving multiple warrants at once is inherently dangerous, calling them “bad business,” and the search of Taylor’s residence was never mentioned in a briefing a month earlier on a larger narcotics operation centered elsewhere in Louisville, on Elliott Avenue.
Sgt. Jason Vance with the Public Integrity Unit asked Massey if he would have recommended officers not serve the warrant in the early morning hours of March 13.
“I would’ve advised them 100 percent not to do it until we were done doin’ what we had to do,” Massey said. “I most definitely would have told them, ‘Hey, wait until we’re done and can move some armor to you.'”
LMPD declined to comment for this report, citing an ongoing internal investigation.
Taylor was killed when Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and detectives Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison fired 32 rounds after her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired what he later called a “warning” shot.
Walker has said he didn’t know police were at the door and thought someone was breaking in.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office said Mattingly and Cosgrove were acting in self-defense. A grand jury indicted only former Hankison, charging him with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing into an occupied apartment next to Taylor’s.
No one was charged directly in Taylor’s death.
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SWAT wasn’t looped in
Massey’s account lays out concerns shared by other members of the police department about the raid. He told investigators at a meeting about a month before the warrant was served, SWAT team members told officers to “take this slower,” and that they wouldn’t be willing “to do eight warrants in one night.”
A week before the March 13 raid, Massey said SWAT received two addresses and discussed them at a briefing the night they were served. It wasn’t until they heard of Mattingly’s injury that they realized officers were on-scene to serve a warrant at Taylor’s apartment.
Sgt. Michael Burns told investigators that Detective Joshua Jaynes, who had obtained all the warrants for that night and briefed SWAT for the March 13 raids, never mentioned, “‘By the way, we’re doing this tonight, simultaneous with you guys.’
Burns said the SWAT team was “unaware” that the raid was happening that night.
“(That warrant) was mentioned in our brief, but it made it seem like it was gonna be down the road and it was a low-risk search warrant,” he said.
While en route to Taylor’s apartment, Sgt. Joel Casse knew an officer had been shot and a 26-year-old female had been shot, he told investigators in March.
“I thought the officer was the 26-year-old female, and that’s who was shot,” he said. “You know at some point, I believe on the radio they said that she’s still inside. So in my mind, I’m thinking that we have an officer that’s actually down inside the apartment at that moment.”
‘Pointin’ a gun to point a gun’
When Massey and other SWAT officers arrived after the shooting, he described a chaotic scene.
Patrol officers stood outside the apartment pointing long rifles at the building.
He said he told them to stand down because they were ‘literally just pointin’, uh, and they don’t know what they’re pointin’ at.”
“I mean, the target identification, there’s — there’s nothin’ to point at because there’s cars and everything else, you’re just pointin’ a gun to point a gun,” he said.
He also said he was startled to see Cosgrove wandering about, despite a department policy requiring officers in shootings be isolated.
“I remember saying — I believe it was to Lt. (Shawn) Hoover, ‘Man, you need to have him separated.’ He was too involved with what was goin’ on when we got there.”
Hankison remained on scene after firing his weapon, seemingly alone, an apparent violation of policies intended to separate officers in police shootings from the active crime scene.
Three Louisville Metro Police Department officers fired their guns into Breonna Taylor’s apartment: Brett Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove. (Photo: LMPD)
After clearing the apartment, Burns said Hankison approached him and asked if anyone inside was dead. The conversation was captured on body camera video.
Sgt. Casse also remembered Hankison trying to come into the scene while SWAT was still taking control.
“‘Man, is there a gun in there?'” he said Hankison asked. “And I blurted it out, ‘Yeah, man, there’s a gun in here. Get out of our scene.’ Like, ‘There’s a gun here. Go.’ Like, ‘Get away from the scene.'”
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‘Just an egregious act’
Massey said both LMPD’s Criminal Interdiction Division and SWAT were criticized by department commanders for poor communication.
He said when he was debriefed, he concluded the raid was “just an egregious act.”
Massey said if SWAT had served the warrant, its officers would have taken cover and ordered the occupants of the apartment to come out one at a time.
“Our ultimate goal is we don’t want us to get hurt” or “innocent people and even the bad guys,” he said.
“Any amount of dope’s not worth it,” he said in a 30-minute interview May 9.
Massey told investigators he hadn’t received any matrix or operations plan in advance of officers serving the warrant on Taylor’s apartment.
Moreover, Massey said he has “never received a matrix from CID that we had to do the warrant on” — suggesting that the LMPD’s Criminal Interdiction Division, which investigates a range of crimes from narcotics to gangs to violence-prone areas, regularly fails to comply with department policy.
A SWAT matrix, or risk assessment matrix, is designed to evaluate factors that could create danger during the execution of a search warrant. Department policy calls for such a matrix to be completed before applying for any search warrant.
“I never received (matrices) on the work that they do, only the ones that we do for ’em,” Massey said.
The matrix for 3003 Springfield Drive #4, where Taylor was fatally shot, is undated and did not score high enough to require SWAT to serve it or to require a SWAT consultation. It, however, does not include that the warrant for the apartment had a “no-knock” provision.
Massey also said the Criminal Interdiction Unit that carried out the shooting violated another safety principle by have three officers deploy in front of Taylor’s door — all in the line of fire.
“Is it common for three people to be in what we consider the fatal funnel?” asked Sgt. Jeremy Ruoff of the Public Integrity Unit, referencing Mattingly, Cosgrove and Officer Mike Nobles, who broke down the door with a battering ram.
“Absolutely not,” said Massey, who has worked for LMPD for 20 years.
“Have you ever seen anyone on a police department do that?” Ruoffasked.
“No,” he replied. “No.”
Officers ‘cannot fire into an unknown’
Asked to elaborate about training on identifying targets before firing, Massey told investigators that identification and knowing your backdrop are the “two most important things” when you shoot.
“Like, you have to know, A, what you’re shooting at, B, what’s in front of it and B, what’s behind it,” he said. “And there’s no other way you can operate.”
Hogan, too, said officers are taught to be “accountable for every round” fired.
“If you do not have good target ID, identification and ID that they are a threat, you cannot shoot,” he said. “Whatever position you may be in, you still cannot fire into an unknown.”
Hankison was fired from the department in June for shooting “blindly” into Taylor’s apartment from outside.
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