A Black Man Defends Himself With a Gun and Police Shoot His Girlfriend. Why Aren’t Gun Owners Speaking Up?
Kenneth Walker is a black man who shot at police officers at 1 a.m. on March 13 when they attempted to serve a search warrant on his girlfriend Breonna Taylor. He injured one, Sgt. John Mattingly, the first officer to enter the apartment. The officers shot back, killing Taylor, reportedly hitting her eight times.
Walker maintains he shot in self-defense, because he didn’t realize that it was the police banging on the door.
The police weren’t even looking for Walker and Taylor. They were looking for a man Taylor knew. They believed he used her apartment to stash drugs or money. According to the politics reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal, the warrant was based on police seeing the suspect leave her home once several months ago. The police didn’t find anything.
The Raid and the Shooting
A grand jury indicted Walker for attempted murder. Tom Wine, the Commonwealth Attorney handling the case, held a long press conference earlier this month. He spent most of the time rebutting claims that the police had entered the apartment without knocking.
Wine also explained why he asked the judge overseeing the case to dismiss the charges. He claimed that the prosecutor and police had not misled the grand jury. However, he admitted that the grand jury should have been given more information, specifically Walker’s testimony to the police.
According to Wine, several officers said they knocked on the door three or more times. No one came to the door. After that, they used the battering ram three times to break down the door. Wine played clips from Walker’s interview and the interview with Sgt. John Mattingly, the wounded police officer. Walker waived his right to an attorney.
Walker said the knocks woke up him and Taylor. She yelled, “Who is it?” No one responded. Then another knock at the door. She yelled the same thing “at the top of her lungs.” Again, no response. She yelled again. They put on their clothes, he got his gun, and they walked into the hallway. He saw the door comes off the hinges, but he couldn’t see who was coming in. He shot a warning shot, aiming down. The police shot back multiple times.
Mattingly admitted his team of officers didn’t announce themselves the first couple of times they knocked, which was about 6 or 7 times over 45 seconds or a minute. Then they started yelling “Police! Search warrant!” Finally, they rammed the door. Mattingly said he went into the living room, looked down the hallway and saw the two. The man had a gun and shot him, hitting him in the leg. He shot back four times. He fell back and then fired two more rounds reaching around the door.
Stand-Your-Ground Laws vs. No-Knock Warrants
Wine admitted during the press conference that there can be friction between stand-your-ground laws and no-knock warrants. He says the city is considering eliminating no-knock warrants in drug cases. “There is no amount of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, any drugs, any money … is worth the life of a human being, whether it’s a civilian, like Breonna Taylor, or police officer,” Wine said. Louisville’s mayor has said that the chief of police should sign off on requests for no-knock warrants before they’re presented to a judge.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) denounced them, telling the Courier-Journal, “No one should lose their life in pursuit of a crime without a victim, and ‘no-knock’ warrants should be forbidden.” Paul has previously expressed his concern that the police are becoming militarized. In an op-ed for Time in 2014 after the Michael Brown shooting, he wrote, “There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.”
This case comes down to one question: Did Walker hear the police announce themselves when they knocked on the door? He says he didn’t, and thought it was someone trying to break in. He mentions Taylor’s former boyfriend as a possible threat. Wine said at the end of the press conference, “Whether or not you believe Mr. Walker heard [the police] is totally dependent on Mr. Walker’s credibility.”
Walker also said he had no reason to pick a fight with the police. He and his girlfriend had no criminal records. He was a legal gun owner, so it didn’t make sense for him to shoot if he knew they were police officers.
According to the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, Kentucky’s stand-your-ground laws mean that “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat.” That person
has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another. … Any person who uses a gun in self-defense has immunity from criminal and civil law.
What About the NRA
Many people on social media have demanded to know why gun rights supporters like the NRA haven’t come out in support of Walker. Liberal writers claimed the reason was racism.
Washington Post writer Radley Balko tweeted “Gun rights groups should be all over this, no? A registered gun owner defended his home from armed invaders. In return, the police killed his girlfriend, then arrested him.” In a follow up tweet, he said: “Can’t imagine a more profound violation of the right to keep and bear arms. Walker defended himself from armed men who broke into his home and killed his girlfriend. For that he was arrested. Yet the NRA has said what they always say after these raids: Not a damn thing.”
But maybe they haven’t spoken up because it’s taken awhile to get all the facts out; some of the reporting has been inaccurate and most people aren’t going to take the time to watch Wine’s 41-minute press conference. Not to mention the awkwardness of defending a shooting that triggered the death of Walker’s girlfriend. Some people believe the only reason Wine dropped the charges is because of the public outcry, not because he believed Walker.
The FBI and attorney general are now investigating the incident. There is no indication that charges will be filed against the police officers. Taylor’s family has filed a lawsuit which says the suspect who police were looking for was already in custody. Attorney Benjamin Crump is representing them. He has represented the families of other high-profile black shooting victims, including Ahmed Arbery and Trayvon Martin.