If you have a social media account, chances are your feed has been filled with misinformation about the death of Breonna Taylor. The 26-year-old black woman was shot and killed by plainclothes police officers who raided her Louisville, Kentucky home in March. As local, state, and federal officials continue to investigate the shooting death, former first lady Michelle Obama has already concluded that Taylor was murdered. International pop icon Beyoncé wrote an open letter demanding criminal charges be brought against the officers involved, but did not specify which crimes she thinks they committed. All the while, a single tweet from attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Taylor’s family, has contributed to several false narratives that continue to be amplified by blue checkmarks on Twitter.
On May 11, the nationally known civil rights lawyer tweeted: “Louisville Police fatally shot #BreonnaTaylor. They had the wrong address AND their real suspect was already in custody. 2 months later, no one has been held accountable for her death…but we will change that! #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor #SayHerName
Louisville Police fatally shot #BreonnaTaylor. They had the wrong address AND their real suspect was already in custody. 2 months later, no one has been held accountable for her death… but we will change that! #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor #SayHerName pic.twitter.com/wytTAozY5l
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) May 11, 2020
The tweet included an image of a press release from Crump’s law firm announcing that Taylor’s family had retained him as legal counsel. Together, the post contained at least four incorrect or misleading statements about the case that still influence the national discussion today.
Here are the seven most common misconceptions surrounding the death of Breonna Taylor:
1. Myth: The officers that raided Breonna’s home were at the wrong address.
Perhaps the most prevalent false belief held by the general public is that the officers who served the search warrant at Taylor’s home were at the “wrong address.”
Police had obtained warrants for multiple locations linked to Jamarcus Glover, an alleged crack cocaine dealer. One of them included Taylor’s apartment, where she lived with her younger sister. Law enforcement believed Glover was using Taylor’s apartment as his current address and had been receiving mail and packages there.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, “Taylor’s name, birth date and social security number are listed on the warrant.” The outlet also reported it “includes her street address, apartment number and photos of her apartment door, which police later broke using a battering ram.”
Still, the “fake news” continues to permeate social media. For example, Pennsylvania State Senator Katie Muth, a Democrat, is currently using the false claim to push police reform legislation.
Breonna Taylor was taken from her family far too early. On March 13th, Breonna was shot & killed by police officers executing a "no-knock" warrant. Not only were the officers at the wrong address, but the person that they were looking for had been captured earlier in the day. pic.twitter.com/RGAhAA7V8U
— Senator Katie Muth (@SenatorMuth) August 26, 2020
2. Myth: It wasn’t necessary for law enforcement to raid Taylor’s apartment because the main suspect was already in custody.
Both Sen. Muth and Crump say law enforcement did not need to serve the warrant at Taylor’s apartment because police had already arrested Glover in an earlier raid carried out by a different team of officers. Glover was reportedly captured around midnight; then, authorities executed the warrant at Taylor’s home at 12:40 am.
“Their real suspect was already in custody,” Crump wrote in his tweet from May.
While that fragment of his post appears to be accurate, it is also misleading.
The purpose of the raid at Taylor’s apartment was to find evidence, not to arrest Glover. Police said they thought Taylor was home alone at the time and were unaware that her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was visiting.
Did this form originally said "12" or "1240"?
Attorneys for Breonna Taylor's family allege that Louisville police altered this document to make it appear as if they raided a suspected trap house the same time they hit Taylor's apartment.
— Tessa Duvall (@TessaDuvall) July 6, 2020
WAVE 3 News recently reported, “mail addressed to Glover was among the items seized from Taylor’s apartment following the shooting,” citing a document obtained by the outlet. Multiple reports indicate that no drugs were found inside the home.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Taylor has no history of drug offenses.
3. Myth: Police raided Taylor’s apartment without knocking.
Even though police had obtained a no-knock warrant, they knocked before entering Taylor’s apartment. No one involved disputes that account.
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT and aspiring nurse, was murdered by Louisville police officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove when they entered her apartment without knocking or announcing themselves as police on March 13https://t.co/PXNZeNaAn3
— Vulture (@vulture) July 30, 2020
“Our intent was to give her give plenty of time to come to the door because they said she was probably there alone,” said Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, who was one of the three officers who discharged their weapons inside Taylor’s home.
As CNN reported:
Taylor’s apartment, according to police, was considered a less volatile, “soft target.” As such, police commanders decided in advance to have officers knock and announce their presence before entry. That decision was communicated in a pre-operational briefing, according to a source familiar with the details of the operation who requested anonymity due to the ongoing investigation…
When there was no answer after repeated knocks, Mattingly said, he announced he was a police officer there to serve a search warrant…
Taylor had been watching a movie in bed together with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker when she drifted off to sleep beside him. Walker told investigators he heard banging at the door after midnight and his first thought was that it was Glover. He said he knew Taylor had dated the accused drug dealer during their on-and-off seven-year relationship. He was concerned there might be trouble.
Walker said the couple had awoken but did not know who was at the door. As they scrambled to get dressed, Walker grabbed his gun, which he was reportedly licensed to carry.
“She’s yelling at the top of her lungs – and I am too at this point – who is it?” he recalled. “No answer. No response. No anything.”
4. Myth: Police shot Breonna while she was in her bed.
Walker said both he and Taylor were walking down a hallway of the apartment toward the front door when it flew off the hinges. He said he feared for his life and thought the plainclothes officers who broke down the door were intruders unlawfully entering his girlfriend’s home.
Police said they “forced entry into the exterior door and were immediately met with gunfire” at 12:43 am.
Walker shot Sgt. Mattingly in the leg, severing his femoral artery. Three cops returned fire, shooting more than 20 rounds into Taylor’s apartment. All of the officers who fired are white. More from CNN:
Inside the apartment, Walker was unharmed. But Taylor lay on the ground beside him, bleeding profusely. There were bullet holes everywhere, including in a neighboring apartment where a young child lived.
Walker punched 911 into his cell phone. His voice sounds distraught as he tells the dispatcher someone had kicked in the door and shot his girlfriend. As the operator peppered him with questions, Walker repeatedly moaned his girlfriend’s nickname – “Bre” – and the word “help.”
Multiple sources confirm Taylor died in the hallway of her apartment, but rumors still circulate alleging she was shot and killed by police while in her bed.
It’s been 160 days since Breonna Taylor was killed in her own bed. No officer has been arrested as Kentucky AG @DanielCameronAG levies attacks on those protesting the crisis of police violence. #RNC2020 #RNCConvention2020
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) August 26, 2020
One of the officers, Brett Hankison, was fired in June for violating procedures, accused of demonstrating “extreme indifference to the value of human life” by “wantonly and blindly” shooting into Taylor’s apartment. He is appealing his termination. The other two have been placed on administrative leave.
Walker was arrested after the incident, then indicted by a grand jury six days later for the attempted murder of a police officer. However, the indictment was later dismissed.
“It’s possible there was no criminal activity on either side of that door because no one could hear what the other party is saying,” said Tom Wine, Louisville’s top criminal prosecutor, at a news conference in May.
The police incident report contained several errors, according to the New York Times.
5. Myth: The officer shot during the raid at Breonna’s home was hit by “friendly fire.”
Shaun King, an activist often associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, claims to be collaborating with Crump on the Taylor case. King has a massive social media presence with millions of followers on multiple platforms.
On May 14, three days after Crump’s erroneous tweet, King alleged: “It is now believed that the police officer who got shot in the leg in the shooting of Breonna Taylor was shot by ‘friendly fire’ from his own officers. His partners were haphazardly emptying their clips and fired shots into 3 different apartments. They shot him.”
BREAKING: It is now believed that the police officer who got shot in the leg in the shooting of Breonna Taylor was shot by “friendly fire” from his own officers.
His partners were haphazardly emptying their clips and fired shots into 3 different apartments.
They shot him.
— Shaun King (@shaunking) May 14, 2020
A CNN investigation quoted Walker admitting to firing at the officers.
“So I just let off one shot,” he said. “I still can’t see who it is or anything.”
The outlet reported that Sgt. Mattingly “could make out a man and a woman in the darkened hallway” and saw the flash of the muzzle before the bullet struck his leg.
According to the Courier-Journal, “No evidence has been presented indicating that Mattingly was shot by anyone other than Walker, and attorneys for Walker and Taylor’s family haven’t disputed that it was Walker who shot Mattingly.”
6. Inaccurate claim: Police shot Breonna eight times.
In April, attorneys for Taylor’s family filed a civil lawsuit against the three policemen who fired their weapons inside Breonna’s home. The court document said Taylor had been “shot at least eight times by the officers’ gunfire and died as a result.” Crump’s tweet from May 11 repeated this claim, as has almost every news organization that covered the tragic episode.
A Louisville police officer involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor has been fired. Taylor, who was Black, was shot eight times after Brett Hankison and two other officers burst into her apartment in March using a no-knock warrant. (Fixes link.) https://t.co/RAB53lTpti
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 24, 2020
But according to the Courier-Journal, Taylor’s death certificate from the State Registrar of Vital Statistics records her cause of death as “multiple (5) gunshot wounds of the body.”
The outlet noted that “neither ballistics reports nor Taylor’s autopsy have been released publicly.”
The coroner’s office listed her time of death at 12:48 am.
7. Inaccurate claim: Breonna worked as an EMT at the time of her death.
A press release issued by Crump’s law firm identified Taylor as an “EMT,” an acronym for an emergency medical technician.
A fact-check from the Courier-Journal concluded that Crump’s description of Taylor was “partially true,” finding:
Taylor joined the city as an EMT recruit in January 2016, became a full EMT by June and left the Metro Government in November 2016.
Local attorneys for Taylor’s family have clarified that she was working as an ER technician at two area hospitals at the time of her March 13 death, with aspirations of becoming a nurse.
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