Breonna Taylor worked two jobs in the healthcare field. She was a highly praised EMT and also worked in a local hospital. She was saving money to go back to school so she could become a nurse and serve her community further.
But all her aspirations and life plans came to a crashing halt when on March 13, the 26-year-old was killed after police opened fire on her Louisville apartment. Police were armed with a no-knock warrant, which is a search warrant approved by a judge that permits police to enter a home without knocking or announcing their presence. Following Taylor's death, such warrants have since been banned in Louisville.
The killing of Taylor has also made international headlines, sparked protests across the country and added to the conversation around the #SayHerName movement online. But Taylor was as inspiring in life, as well.
“Breonna, she's always been full of life. Even as a kid, I always said she had an old soul. She just kind of always seemed to be ahead of her age group,” her mother, Tamika Palmer, told Inside Edition Digital in June. “She just was fun and loving and helpful to anybody around her, her friends, her family, her boyfriend. She just had a nurturing spirit, so it really didn't get no better than her. She just was all around this person everybody wanted to be around.”
Taylor's spirit and joy was “infectious,” Palmer said, adding, “she would light up a room. It's hard for me not to smile when I talk about her just because she'd make you smile, even if you wasn't having a good day. She'd make sure before she left you'd be smiling.”
The family moved from Michigan to Kentucky when Taylor was a teenager for a fresh start. While many in her home took a little while to adapt, Taylor found herself at home in Louisville right away.
“I would mess with her sometimes, like, ‘We may have to move back home.’ She'd be like, ‘I'm not going. Can I stay?’” her mom joked. “Like, ‘who you staying with?’ She didn't care, ‘I got friends,’ [she'd say.] She loved it.”
Lonita Baker, an attorney representing Taylor’s family, described Louisville to Inside Edition Digital as “the best of both worlds of being a city, so having the art, the eating, but also having that small-town feel.
"We're right there on the Mason-Dixon line," Baker added. "There are racial tensions, but we're working on it.”
As the coronavirus pandemic took shape across the globe, Palmer worried about her daughter working in healthcare. But for Taylor, helping others was a calling from which she could not step away.
“I said to Breonna, ‘You need to be careful because you at the ER, and these people are coming here first.’ She said, ‘Mama, I'm going to be okay. I got to do what I got to do. People need help,’” Palmer said.
“I was just like, ‘Wash your hands!’ Never in a million years did I think I'd have to be worried about the police killing her.”
Palmer last spoke to her daughter on March 12. They spoke of the usual things, like work, and her mom repeated to her daughter to “wash her hands.” They also spoke of another of Taylor's passions in life— family. Taylor urged her mother to have their relatives over. Palmer declined to have people over, so Taylor and her live-in boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, went out to dinner, came home, watched a movie and went to bed.
As an exhausted Breonna Taylor slept, during the early hours of March 13, police used a battering ram to enter Taylor's apartment at around 1 a.m. as part of a narcotics investigation, according to court documents.
Taylor's family has filed a lawsuit against three officers with the department, alleging Taylor and her boyfriend were home in bed and thought they were being burglarized when officers showed up at their home after midnight. Walker allegedly opened fire on cops with his licensed weapon and one officer was shot in the leg, police said. The lawsuit says police then fired more than 20 rounds into the home “blindly.”
There has been nothing filed in response the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Breonna Taylor's family, the Jefferson Circuit Court told Inside Edition Digital.
Louisville police claimed they knocked on Taylor’s door several times while executing their warrant before entering and identified themselves as police before they were “immediately met by gunfire,” according to Lt. Ted Eidem.
Neighbors of Taylor and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker, however, said police did not identify themselves, according to the family’s lawsuit.
“It's not a situation where you had people who just were not coming forward. They wanted to tell the truth,” Baker said of the neighbors.
Walker called 911 during the ordeal and police informed him he’d shot an officer.
After calling 911, Palmer says Walker had called her and told her Taylor had been shot. As Palmer pressed him for more details, the line went dead, she said. She called her daughter and no one picked up. Palmer raced to her daughter’s apartment, where she came upon a swarm of cop cars and ambulances.
“When I got there, there were some officers standing there, and I tell them who I am. That I needed to get into their apartment,” Palmer recalled.
She was then told to go to the hospital. She says she waited there for two hours before a detective spoke to her. "He asked me if Breonna or Kenny had any enemies, or if anybody would want to hurt them," she said. "[I said] No, of course not. Hurt them for what?”
The detective told her to “hang tight" before coming back with another line of questioning.
“He comes back a little bit later and asks, could Breonna and Kenny had been having any problems, if anything had been going on between them, and I said, ‘Are you insinuating Kenny did something to Breonna? Because he would never,’” she said. "He tells me that Kenny's at one of their offices helping them piece together what happened there that night.”
It wasn't until 11 a.m. that Palmer finally learned her daughter was dead.
"They come back over and say that they were almost done and that they would be getting out the way in a little bit. I said again, ‘Where is Breonna? Somebody needs to tell me where Breonna is.’ That's when he says, ‘Well, Breonna's in the apartment.’ I knew what that meant at that time.”
Still, Palmer at the time did not know her daughter died in a police raid, she said.
Neither Taylor nor Walker were the investigation's target. Police said had suspected, though, that Taylor’s home was used by another person to receive drugs. Neither Taylor nor Walker had any criminal history and no drugs were located in the home.
Walker, 27, was charged with assault and attempted murder on a police officer. Walker had previously pleaded not guilty and been released to "home incarceration” before a judge dismissed his case in May.
“[Police] had painted this picture, and all along, again, it wasn't a true statement,” she said of the charges levied against her daughter's boyfriend. “They couldn't dig his name into the ground. Here you are with these two people who don't even have a criminal record. Now, you want to charge him with attempted murder and call her a suspect?”
It was announced in May that the FBI is now investigating the death of Taylor. In June, Officer Brett Hankison was fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department. Officer Myles Cosgrove and John Mattingly have been reassigned. None of the officers have been arrested or charged in Taylor’s death.
Palmer is furious to see no charges against the men she says are responsible for her daughter's death.
“I mean how is that you can do this? If you're not doing your job correctly at any other job, you'd be fired,” she said. “Like, okay, ‘we're investigating,’ but while we're doing that, they're still getting paid. You're still calling yourself a police officer. You failed at that.”
Taylor was a young woman who had hopes and dreams like everyone else on Earth. She and her boyfriend were deeply committed to each other and after years together, knew they'd one day marry.
“[It was] hilarious to watch the two of them. Breonna bosses everybody around. Not just Kenny, everybody. I was saying to Kenny, ‘Don't let her boss you around. Don't let her talk to you like that.’ He said, ‘Oh, I'm [going to] marry her one day.’ I'm like, ‘Okay, if that's the punishment you want,’ but he absolutely adored her, and that's all he would say,” Palmer recalled.
Walker is “heartbroken” and “lost” without his soulmate, but is “doing the best he can," Palmer said.
On June 5, Taylor would have turned 27. In her honor, her family had a big balloon release. It was one of the many ways in which Taylor's birthday was commemorated in her honor, an outpouring of support which has touched Palmer.
“I'm here. I'm maintaining. I'm busy a lot, so it helps me get through," said Palmer, who works in dialysis, of the spotlight she now finds herself in.
Taylor's family gathers as often as they can to support one another. They share stories of Taylor, laughing and crying and hoping justice prevails, which is what Palmer hopes others will continue doing in her daughter's name as well.
“Continue to say her name," Palmer said. "Continue to demand justice. Continue to do exactly what they're doing, coming together and demanding justice."