breonna taylor

More Than a Year Before Breonna Taylor's Death, Some of the Same Cops Were Involved in Another Home Invasion Based on Dubious Evidence

The overlap suggests a pattern of shoddy investigation and reckless paramilitary tactics in Louisville.


Brett Hankison, the Louisville, Kentucky, detective who was fired because of his role in the fruitless drug raid that killed Breonna Taylor last March, was also involved in a botched 2018 home invasion that terrified a family wrongly suspected of growing marijuana. So were at least four other Louisville police officers who participated in the case that led to Taylor's death, which has figured prominently in nationwide protests against police brutality. The overlap suggests a pattern of shoddy investigation and reckless paramilitary tactics that could have been detected before it killed an innocent woman.

In both cases, police broke into people's homes based on dubious evidence, and the residents initially thought they were being robbed. In Taylor's case, her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, grabbed a gun and fired at the intruders, injuring one of them in the leg. Police responded with a hail of more than 20 bullets, at least eight of which struck Taylor, who was unarmed. According to the acting police chief, Hankison "displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life" when he "wantonly and blindly fired 10 rounds" into Taylor's apartment. So far no criminal charges have been filed against Hankison or the other officers. While no one died during the 2018 marijuana raid, things easily could have turned out differently.

Detective Joshua Jaynes obtained the no-knock warrant to search Taylor's apartment, which Hankison and two other plainclothes officers, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, executed in the middle of the night on March 13, based entirely on guilt by association. Because Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT and aspiring nurse, remained friendly with a former boyfriend suspected of drug dealing, who sometimes received packages at her apartment, Jaynes suggested that she was involved in the illegal activity. But a local postal inspector later said there was nothing suspicious about those packages, which reportedly contained clothing and shoes.

The warrant to search the house where Mario Daugherty and Ashlea Burr lived, which police executed on the morning of October 26, 2018, was based on a tip about a prior tenant, who allegedly was growing marijuana there. According to a lawsuit that Daugherty and Burr filed a year later, 14 SWAT officers stormed into their home without warning, breaking the front door, tossing flash-bang grenades, and shouting commands while threatening them and their three teenaged children with "assault rifles."

Although the warrant ostensibly required the cops to knock and announce themselves, body camera footage shows they shouted "Police! Search warrant!" at the same moment they used a battering ram to force the door open. As that detail suggests, there is often little practical difference between a no-knock search and a knock-and-announce search. In Taylor's case, police had a no-knock warrant, but they nevertheless banged on the door for 30 seconds or so, and they claim they announced themselves—a point disputed by her boyfriend and her neighbors. Even if the cops did say something as they broke down the door, that announcement could easily have been missed by Taylor and her boyfriend, who were sleeping at the time of the raid.

During the 2018 raid, the residents clearly did not realize the people invading their home were police officers. According to the lawsuit, one of the couple's daughters, Zariyah, who was 14 at the time, "ran through the back door and into the yard in an effort to reach her grandmother's house next door." The cops pursued her.

"Officers drew their assault rifles on her, yelling commands at her to get on the ground," the complaint says. "[Zariyah] was extremely frightened, began crying and submitted [by kneeling on] the ground. It was cold and rainy, and [Zariyah] was not wearing any socks, shoes or a jacket. She repeatedly requested to be taken to her grandmother's next door, but the Officers refused the requests, kept her in the cold, wet conditions, and kept their rifles on her."

Zariyah can be heard sobbing in a video of the raid's aftermath. "Hold on, hon, we're almost done, OK?" says one of the officers. "We'll get you back inside. You're not hurt, right? You're just scared? I'm sorry."

The police should be sorry, especially given the lack of probable cause for the search.

In his application for a warrant to search the house, Detective Joseph Tapp said police received a tip from someone who reported that "a black male named Anthony McClain is growing marijuana and has multiple bags of marijuana packaged for sale in the front bed room." According to Tapp, the tipster "also stated a white female named Holly was [McClain's] girlfriend and owned the house."

If Tapp had bothered to look up the property records, he would have seen that the house is in fact owned by a man named Kevin Hyde, who was renting it to Daugherty and Burr. The lawsuit also notes that "nobody named Anthony McClain or Holly lived at the house at or near the time of the raid," that "Ashlea is not white," and that "nobody in the house was growing marijuana or had multiple bags of marijuana packaged for sale."

Aside from this obviously erroneous or outdated tip, the search warrant was based on three brief visits to the house. During his first "surveillance," on October 5, Tapp saw "a Black male" enter the house and leave 10 minutes later. Tapp then "approached the house to conduct a knock and talk." When he "stepped on the open porch," he said, "the smell of fresh marijuana could be smelled." He knocked on the door, but no one answered, so he left.

During his second "surveillance," on October 22, Tapp saw "a black male" arrive in a "gray Jaguar" with an Indiana license plate and enter the house. The car was registered to Daugherty, whom WDRB, the Fox TV station in Louisville, describes as "a local artist whose work has been featured at the Kentucky Derby Museum and on local news." The car was not registered to "a black male named Anthony McClain" or to a woman named Holly, which really should have given Tapp pause. The next day, three days before the raid, Tapp "approached the house and again was hit with a strong smell of fresh marijuana coming from within the house."

Tapp argued that the tip, "the witness of the short stay," and "the strong fresh smell of marijuana on separate occasions," combined with his "training and experience," provided probable cause for a search. Yet the tip was demonstrably false, visiting a house for 10 minutes is not inherently suspicious, and apparently there is something wrong with Tapp's nose, since police found no evidence of marijuana cultivation or drug dealing at the house, just a small amount of cannabis. No charges were filed against Daugherty or Burr.

Vice News reports that "at least five of the officers involved in the raid"—Hankison, Jaynes, Cosgrove, Mike Campbell, and Mike Nobles—also took part in the case that resulted in Taylor's death. "Daugherty and Burr didn't realize the overlap in officers until recently, when they were watching the news," Vice says. "They recognized Hankison, looked back at some of the paperwork LMPD had left behind, and noticed two familiar names: Hankison and Cosgrove."

Daugherty and Burr's lawsuit, which they filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court, alleges that the Louisville Metro Police Department "fails to adequately train its officers regarding obtaining search warrants in order to protect citizens' Fourth Amendment rights." While they asked for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and legal fees, Daugherty says their main aim was to publicize this sort of abuse in the hope of protecting other potential victims.

"We just wanted to get our story out there because we didn't want this to happen to anybody innocent and anybody innocent's life to get lost," he told Vice. "I feel like after it happened to us, if the leaders would have stepped out and tried to assist us, I feel like we could have gotten a change way before Breonna's death. I feel like her death could have been avoided."

NEXT: Remember When a Democratic Polling Firm Fired the Guy Who Thought Violent Protests Could Backfire Politically?

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  1. The solution is simple, end drug prohibition.

    1. Exactly. Sure, no knock raids are awful and we know better than anyone that they need to stop, but even regular policing can result in outcomes like this. The larger problem is that an innocent person was investigated for marijuana and nothing else. Legalize it federally and that will dramatically cut down on these types of situations.

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    6. You got to it before me, so I’ll just have to second this.

  2. This seems like an appropriate thread to post this:

    Additionally, “State and Local Policies to Support Government Workers and Their Unions” describes how progressive leaders can strengthen public sector unions, for instance, by modernizing union communications and dues collection.

  3. It’s almost like this is a systemic problem in the whole police agency and just punishing the one guy that pulled the trigger won’t fix it.

    1. Well, it would help if they did fuck all to the guys involved in it. Firing one guy doesn’t make up for it. They need to be charged.

      1. It’s really a union arbitration matter. Stay out of it.

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  4. The Republicans who run Louisville should be held accountable.

  5. Tapp argued that the tip, “the witness of the short stay,” and “the strong fresh smell of marijuana on separate occasions,” combined with his “training and experience,” provided probable cause for a search. Yet the tip was demonstrably false, visiting a house for 10 minutes is not inherently suspicious, and apparently there is something wrong with Tapp’s nose, since police found no evidence of marijuana cultivation or drug dealing at the house, just a small amount of cannabis.

    Oh there’s nothing wrong with this fuckwit’s nose. He’s just a lying piece of shit.

    1. This is the entire reason why constitutional law makes one of the foundational requirements for a warrant to be issued, that there be a verified “injured party”, which is NOT the government or any government agent.
      This primary tenant of a valid warrant has been completely subverted by statutory regulations, propagated by the worst terrorist organization on this planet, the B.A.R. Association. NONE of this could be happening without them. NONE!

  6. I can’t see the line for people who are surprised

  7. Well, at least Sullum is still doing some honest reporting here, good for him digging this story out.

  8. It’s called Municipal Terrorism and it’s as rampant and wide spread across this entire country as any disease could ever be. It’s sprung from the roots of a horrific B.A.R. Association infestation and their attempts to monopolize and pervert our system of LAW, into their system of C_odes O_rdinances P_olicies & S_tatutes.
    If you want to put a stop to it then learn constitutional law.

  9. Here are a few propose rules for the execution of search warrants.

    1. Absent very limited extenuating circumstances, all search warrants must be executed in daylight hours between 9 AM and 9 PM.

    2. They must knock and announce and then wait at least a specified amount of time (five minutes) for someone to answer the door. If no one answers, they must repeat the above procedure. They may break down the door if and only if on one answers the door before the second wait period has expired.

  10. Why is it the extremely less reliable cop smelling marijuana is constitutional but the K-9 is not?

    “The other case, Florida v. Jardines, involved canine officer Franky, who was accompanying his partner after police received a tip about an alleged marijuana growing activity inside a house. Franky was on the house’s porch when he alerted to the presence of marijuana. The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that Franky’s sniff was a Fourth Amendment violation, since a search warrant was needed before Franky’s talents were deployed. ”

  11. The whole good cop/bad cop question can be disposed of much more decisively. We need not enumerate what proportion of cops appears to be good or listen to someone’s anecdote about his Uncle Charlie, an allegedly good cop. We need only consider the following: (1) a cop’s job is to enforce the laws, all of them; (2) many of the laws are manifestly unjust, and some are even cruel and wicked; (3) therefore every cop has agreed to act as an enforcer for laws that are manifestly unjust or even cruel and wicked. There are no good cops.” ~Robert Higgs

  12. “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply

  13. Warrants don’t grow on trees for the cops to go pick at leisure, they’re issued by judges based on sworn testimony of the cops. Now, do cops lie in their sworn testimony? Since all cops are liars, obviously they do. However, given the factually weak basis for warrant described in this article, one has to wonder if the judges in Louisville are competent enough to issue warrants. The root cause likely lies in the judiciary. If the judges are going to present a low bar, they should be making the cops limbo, not pole vault.

  14. No knock search warrants are extremely problematic and should be limited to very rare cases, not including ones where cops are afraid drug evidence is going to be flushed down a toilet. And the whole problem of a community regularly bearing the brunt of government incompetence is one we had better fix.
    But I question whether the appropriate targets for punishment are the ones being targeted even if they are the ones that are most proximate to things and make the victims feel the best.
    Looking at the Breona Taylor killing, I see a family that wants all three officers arrested. I also read that the warrant was based on an unwarranted suspicion by a detective who was not one of the three conducting the raid. As far as a I can tell, the judge who issued the warrant was not lied to but issued it on the cop’s suspicion. And, from what I can tell, the officer who was fired for shooting Ms Taylor was not the one who pulled the warrant. He was fired for blindly firing his weapon several months after the fact. But I cannot help thinking that absent the riots and link with the killing of George Floyd such a shooting in response to being shot at would never have been prosecuted.
    I guess my point is that the whole system, DA, judge and head detectives are part of a toxic and inept system; the actual grunt who was sent to do the job may be a scapegoat.
    As far as blaming drug laws on this, I think that this strains logic. Yes, if there were no drug laws, there would have been no arrest. But if there were no laws against passing counterfeit money, George Floyd would be alive. And if cops did not have to enforce domestic crimes, it would remove a type of arrest most liable to turn bad (witness Kenosha). Drug laws should stand or fall on their own merit.

    1. Drug laws have no merit.

    2. You know who else was just following orders?

      1. Beetle Bailey?

  15. The only one guilty of Breonna Taylor’s death is her boyfriend, who opened fire at the police on the ridiculous claim that he thought they came to her home to rob him.

    1. Go back to whatever communist shithole you came from.

      1. Well, that was relevant from one of the resident nutters.

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  19. Even if the cops did say something as they broke down the door, that announcement could easily have been missed by Taylor and her boyfriend, who were sleeping at the time of the raid.

    If I was a home invader, I’d be screaming “police, search warrant” as I was blasting through the door. We train people to be sheep, the wolves reap the rewards.

  20. Shortly before protests against police brutality erupted across the nation, now-vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris and Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the raids on Taylor and Daugherty’s homes. They cited “troubling parallels between these cases” and requested an independent investigation…

    She’s a slimy one.

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