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Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET
A court on Friday published a recorded grand jury trial for about 15 hours in the Breonna Taylor case – an extraordinary move that came after a juror denied Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s explanation of why no one this spring was directly charged with Taylor’s murder by the Louisville police force.
Before the lunchtime deadline, Cameron’s office submitted an edited version of the recording to the court, removing social security numbers and other personal information from people involved in the case. In these changes, three minutes and 50 seconds of footage were removed, according to court records.
The recording is now published online in 14 different audio files. It features at least two interviews with Detective Myles Cosgrove, whose gun an FBI forensic lab identified as the gun that fired the bullet that killed Taylor in March. A state forensic laboratory disagreed, saying the evidence was inconclusive.
Detective describes entering the apartment
In one recording, Cosgrove says the police knocked on Taylor’s door for 2 or 2 1/2 minutes before making the decision to open the door. As they continued knocking, one of Taylor’s neighbors showed up and started yelling at the officers, he said.
“This is not a quote, but I hear something like,” Leave the girl alone “or” There’s a girl, “says Cosgrove in the recording.
Shortly after this interaction, he said, the order comes to break through the door.
The audio provides rare public access to more than two days of grand jury trials in a case that sparked widespread protests against racial injustice and the use of deadly force by the police against blacks and other minorities. It could also answer questions about how prosecutors handled the case.
“I am confident that once the public hears the tapes, they will see that our team has submitted a thorough case to the Jefferson County Grand Jury,” Cameron said in a statement. “Our presentation followed the facts and evidence, and the grand jury received a complete picture of what happened around Ms. Taylor’s death on March 13th.”
The records focus on statements and evidence presented to the judges – however, they do not document any of the guidelines or statements that the prosecutors gave to the grand jury. Cameron said it was customary not to record matters that include prosecutor’s recommendations and statements or jury considerations “as they are not evidence”.
A neighbor also called 911 and said to the dispatchers, “The police are here, our glass door is broken … I understand something is wrong, but I have a 5 year old here so something needs to be explained to me.”
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith instructed prosecutors to file the tape during a trial Monday for Brett Hankison, the former Louisville Metro Police Department detective. He is the only officer charged since the night in March when police shot and killed Taylor.
Hankison has pleaded guilty to three cases of wanton endangerment – he is not accused of contributing to Taylor’s death, but of indiscriminately firing his gun and sending bullets into a neighboring apartment. Cameron said his office determined that the other two officers in the case, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Cosgrove, were not breaking the law when they fired multiple shots at Taylor’s apartment during a botched drug attack.
A ‘blinding, living white light’
Mattingly was the first officer to enter the apartment when the door was broken, and Cosgrove says he walked close behind to provide cover. Here’s how Cosgrove described what happened after the door opened and he could see inside:
“I am immediately overwhelmed by this darkness. It is extremely dark in this apartment. Since Jon Mattingly is more or less just over the threshold of the door frame, the door, I see dazzling, vivid white light. And I see blackness at the same time flashes that dark, dark, deep black and that vivid white.
“At the same time as I see these lightning bolts, I know that Jon Mattingly is at my feet. I don’t hear anything either. It’s completely silent.
“Those lightning bolts go on, those white, vivid lightning bolts in this darkness. And I know someone is at my feet and I’m still on the threshold of that door … the welcome mat area of that door. And Jon, that person below me shuffle around me, move around me and I think at some point I’ll get on top of this person who is below me.
“I know someone was shot, Jon was injured.
“I keep seeing this blinding light, these brilliant white flashes, and I see this darkness before me, followed by, and it’s hard for me to explain, but I see this distorted, shadowy mass, this one [inaudible] Figure in front of me, that is, it comes and goes because of the blinking light.
“It all happens again in seconds. Seconds. I’m still in more or less the same place on the threshold.
“Again, I can’t hear anything. It’s complete, it’s completely muted, there is no sound.
“I turn around and see Jon Mattingly being dragged or sneaked backwards and backwards somehow.
“I know, or I’m pretty sure, before I turn to see that he’s gone or know he’s being moved, I am almost certain that I shot, or shot during those flashes and along the way got vivid, those vivid white, black, and gray colors that I’ve seen. “
Officers took Mattingly away from the door, Cosgrove said, and he walked away from the door with them. He still saw white flashes – which only subsided as he approached the parking lot in front of Taylor’s apartment. When he reached a police car there, Cosgrove asked other officers to reload their weapons.
“I said, ‘Loosen up and reload because I knew I had to,” he said in the recording.
Cosgrove and the other officers thought a threat might still be emerging from the apartment and took cover behind a car on the property. Cosgrove then pulled his AR-15 rifle out of his car and returned to a position near Mattingly and another office to cover the apartment Taylor had lived in.
It was Hankison, said Cosgrove, whom he heard arguing with the man who lives upstairs at Taylor, and added that Hankison had told the neighbor to go back to his own apartment.
The jury also heard the 911 call from Taylor’s friend Kenneth Walker, the member station’s WFPL reports. Walker called the emergency number after the shooting when officers withdrew from the apartment.
“I don’t know what is going to happen,” he said. “Somebody shot my girlfriend.”
When Cameron announced the charges in the case, he stressed that a large jury is working independently of the prosecutor to avoid any outside influence.
“This independence is necessary to ensure that justice can be done to both the victims and the accused,” said Cameron. He then said that after hearing all of the evidence, the grand jury voted to indict Hankison.
Regarding criminal murder charges, Cameron said:
“While there are six possible charges of murder under Kentucky law, those charges do not apply to the facts before us because our investigation found and the grand jury agreed that Mattingly and Cosgrove were entitled to fire their guns.”
Taylor’s family and supporters sharply criticized Cameron after the charges against Hankison were announced, saying they do not believe the Attorney General stood up for Taylor. For example, they found that Taylor’s name was not on the indictment.
“I never had faith in Daniel Cameron from the start,” Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer said in a statement after the charges were announced last week. Her family and their lawyers and supporters have urged prosecutors to release the minutes and other information related to the case.
An anonymous grand juror asked Smith to release the record of the trial and allow the jurors to speak publicly about their experience of a trial the secrecy of which is normally considered sacrosanct.
Cameron said this week that the only criminal complaint his office recommended to the jury was a willful compromise – but he only gave that clarification after Smith’s arrest warrant. Indeed, Cameron’s refusal to provide details of the grand jury’s options was highlighted in the anonymous grand judge’s request.
The file alleged that the Attorney General went too far in describing the role of the grand jury.
“It is obviously unfair that the jury should be accountable to the prosecutor general,” he said after the indictment was announced in the jury’s records.
“The full story, and the absolute truth of how this matter was handled from start to finish, is now a topic of great public concern and has become a large part of the discussion about public confidence across the country,” reads in the judge’s file.
In addition to the state proceedings against Hankison, the FBI is investigating the police shots in which Taylor was killed.