Investigating the ‘Truth About Breonna Taylor’ Meme

Fabricated criminal activities, distorted employment history, and conflicting reports emerged after the police shooting of a Black woman in Kentucky.

  • Published 14 October 2020

Since the March 13, 2020, shooting of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, at the hands of police officers in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, protests against police brutality have grown across the U.S. Out of the three white police officers involved in the shooting, Brett Hankison, Jon Mattingly, and Miles Cosgrove, only Hankison was charged, not with Taylor’s death, but with “wanton endangerment” for firing into her neighbor’s apartment.

It is common after a police-involved shooting, to see rumors spread about the victims, often in an attempt to rationalize the actions of police officers. One such meme made a range of claims in the wake of Taylor’s death:

This meme is credited to Corinne Tatum, a right-leaning media personality who has shared it on her Instagram page. The meme has also been shared by her husband Brandon Tatum, a former police officer, and self-described “Black conservative” who runs his own media company. We have previously covered his views on Snopes. 

Another story being shared by LawOfficer.com — a media organization that covers law enforcement and claims to be “a true advocate for the profession” — said Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend who was present during the police raid on the apartment and who fired one shot from his handgun, told the police that Taylor shot at them, and not him, before he changed his story in subsequent interviews.  

In October, nearly seven months after Taylor’s death, the city’s mayor revealed hundreds of documents, footage, and evidence from the police investigation into the case, resulting in outrage over the circumstances that led to her death, and throwing doubt on online rumors about Taylor’s past, including employment history, alleged drug dealing, and events the night of the shooting.

These rumors impugned Taylor’s character, specifically her work credentials, accused her without evidence of being involved in criminal activities, and even speculated about the events on the night she was killed from gunfire. We will break down these claims one by one below. Here’s what we know.

Was Taylor an EMT and Was She Terminated in 2017?

Through public records available from the city of Louisville, the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services (KBEMS), and the lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family, we gathered information about Taylor’s credentials as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). KBEMS is responsible for initial and continuing certification of EMTs in the state of Kentucky.

Based on personnel files we obtained from the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, we learned that from January to November 2016, Taylor worked for the city of Louisville, becoming an EMT in June of that year. An email in her personnel record stated that Taylor had resigned in November 2016. The termination form had a box checked saying, “Do not rehire” but did not give a reason why. The city also did not share that information with the media. But The New York Times reported that Taylor had been frustrated by the long hours and low pay. In December 2017 Taylor wrote in one tweet, “I pray 2018 is a better year for me financially.”

Taylor was certified by the KBEMS on June 13, 2016. Records of her licensing file from the KBEMS show that her EMT license expired at the end of 2017. A screenshot of her account in the KBEMS system showed that Taylor received a fifth reminder in December 2017 that her license was about to expire and she had not renewed it. 

The board did not, however, have any record of disciplinary action or suspension of her license by KBEMS prior to its expiration. We know that at the time of Taylor’s death she was employed as an emergency room technician at two local hospitals, and she was certified as an EMT through 2017 but let her license expire.

In sum, we know that Taylor was a certified EMT, and there was no evidence that she had been terminated in 2017, only that her license had expired at the end of the year. This claim is thus false. 

Was Taylor ‘Knee Deep in Criminal/Drug Dealing’ Activities with her Ex-Boyfriend?

This particular claim attaches Taylor to her ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, a twice-convicted drug dealer who had been in and out of jail. We know that Taylor herself had no criminal record, was never specifically targeted in an inquiry, but had been entangled in Glover’s activities over their years-long relationship and thus surveilled by the police as detailed in their search warrant for her apartment.

In 2016, Taylor was interrogated alongside Glover by police officers after she rented a car, lent it to Glover, and he in turn handed the keys to another suspected drug dealer who was found dead in the car hours later. But the police determined that she had no foreknowledge of how the car rental would be used.

According to Glover’s case history file provided to us by the Jefferson County Office of the Circuit Court Clerk in Kentucky, Taylor paid or arranged for Glover’s bail twice in 2017. But paying for bail is not unusual behavior for partners of individuals sent to jail. According to The New York Times, Taylor had “cut ties” with Glover a month before the police raid of her apartment that ultimately led to her death. At the time of her death, she was dating Walker, who was with her the night of the raid. 

A search warrant issued to Detective Joshua Jaynes from the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) on March 12, 2020, the day before the raid, detailed how as of Feb. 20, 2020, Glover was using Taylor’s apartment as his home address. 

Law enforcement officers involved in the case also claimed that they believed Glover was receiving packages at Taylor’s apartment. The warrant details that on Jan. 16, 2020, Glover was seen “exiting the apartment with a suspected USPS package in his right hand” and then drove to another address that was “a known drug house.” Jaynes also said they “verified through a U.S. Postal Inspector that Jamarcus Glover has been receiving packages” at Taylor’s address and “it is not uncommon for drug traffickers to receive mail packages at different locations to avoid detection from law enforcement.”

But reports from October cast doubt on whether any postal packages for Glover were in fact delivered to Taylor’s home. Jaynes himself never spoke to a postal inspector. According to the revealed internal documents, Louisville police do not have a working relationship with the postal inspector’s office “due to previous incidents.”

In transcripts released by the city of Louisville, officers from the Shively Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit told investigators in May that they had been asked by the Louisville detectives following Glover’s case to check with the postal inspector if packages for Glover had been sent to Taylor’s address. The Shively Police Department told Mattingly and other Louisville detectives on multiple occasions that their postal inspector contact had said Glover received no packages at Taylor’s address from the U.S. Postal Service. In the transcripts, a Shively officer added that he did not know if packages from Amazon were being delivered for Glover to Taylor’s apartment.

Jefferson Circuit Judge Mary Shaw, who signed the search warrant for Taylor’s home, told The Courier Journal that she was concerned Jaynes may have lied to obtain the warrant, adding that she would defer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which was investigating the search warrant application. An attorney for Jaynes has also admitted that information in the search warrant affidavit appeared to be “inaccurate.” The attorney added, in hindsight, Jaynes could have taken the line about suspected packages out of the affidavit or changed the wording. 

In an August interview with The Courier Journal, Glover, who is now facing drug trafficking charges, said that Taylor had no dealings with drugs. Court records and the inventory log from a search conducted after the shooting at Taylor’s apartment showed that no drugs or other suspicious materials had been found there. The majority of the items seized included projectiles resulting from the shooting, an iPhone, Walker’s identification, a letter from Glover, and other materials.

Thus, based on transcripts released to the media, interviews with police officers involved, and the fact that Taylor did not have a criminal record, nor were any drugs found in her apartment, this section of the claim is false.

Was Taylor on Jailhouse Recordings Running Drugs for Her Ex-Boyfriend?

A leaked internal police report reviewed by The Courier Journal showed that on Jan. 3, 2020, Glover and Taylor spoke to each other while Glover was in jail. He asked her to contact one of his co-defendants to get bail money, and she responded that the associate was “already at the trap” — slang for a house used for drug trafficking. She also told Glover that his brushes with the law worried her.

Taylor had posted bail money twice for Glover back in 2017, and a few days before the January 2020 call she posted a $2,500 bail bond for Darreal Forrest, a man charged in the same case as Glover. Between January 2016 and January 2020, the leaked report said that Glover had called Taylor’s phone from jail 27 times, including the call on Jan. 3.

Glover was arrested in another raid the night of Taylor’s death at a different address on Elliott Avenue. On March 13, in a series of calls hours after Taylor’s death, Glover told a girlfriend he had left $8,000 at Taylor’s home, though no money was found in the police search. As we pointed out earlier, in an August interview Glover said that Taylor had no dealings with drugs.

Even though Taylor was mentioned in numerous jail recordings after her death and recorded speaking to Glover during his past stints in jail, no available evidence could substantiate Glover’s early claim that she was handling his money, or the meme’s claim that she was running drugs for him. We rate this claim as mostly false. 

Was Taylor Under Surveillance for Months?

According to the search warrant, police had been surveilling Glover since at least January 2020, and Taylor and her apartment were frequently brought up in connection to his activities. Her home address was listed in the warrant. Glover was also tracked going between her apartment in January to another location that the police said was “a known drug house.”

Even though her home was under surveillance in the months leading up to the raid, we have already established that the police were not able to prove her alleged role in drug dealing activities. This part of the claim is mostly true. 

Were Taylor, Her Car, and Her Apartment Named on the Search Warrant?

Taylor was also named in the search warrant, alongside Glover and Adrian Walker (no relation to Kenneth Walker), another target of the investigation. Taylor’s birth date, social security number, and apartment address were also listed. The search warrant said: “you are commanded to search the premises known and numbered as […]” and listed Taylor’s address.

The lawsuit filed by Taylor’s mother confirmed that Taylor was residing at that address with her sister and Kenneth Walker.

The warrant also described a car that was registered to Taylor, a 2016 white Chevrolet Impala that was parked in front of one of their surveilled locations on Elliot Avenue on a number of occasions in January. The car’s Kentucky registration number was also listed on the warrant.

Taylor bought a new car in January, a black Dodge Charger that was not listed in the warrant. The Courier Journal noted that the leaked internal police report said that in February, a month before Taylor’s death, detectives watched Taylor and Glover drive up to the Elliot Avenue location in the same black Dodge Charger which was registered to Taylor.

In sum, Taylor, her apartment, and her old car were all listed on the search warrant, so this claim is true. 

Did the Officers Obtain a ‘No-Knock’ Exception On the Warrant? Did They Knock and Announce Themselves Before Entering?

Reports conflict here. According to the LMPD, and the timeline of events provided by the Louisville mayor, on March 13, LMPD officers executed a search warrant at Taylor’s apartment. Even though the warrant was a “no-knock” warrant, the police officers said they were instructed to knock and announce themselves, which they did, before breaking down the door. 

A no-knock warrant is a search warrant authorizing police officers to enter premises without first knocking and announcing themselves, often in plainclothes. Such warrants are often issued when a judge thinks announcing police presence would pose a danger to their safety. Since Taylor’s death, the Louisville City Council unanimously banned the use of no-knock warrants.

That night, Taylor and Walker were watching a movie in bed before the police tried to enter, according to The New York Times. According to Taylor’s mother’s lawsuit, the police “entered Breonna’s home without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers.” Multiple neighbors confirmed that the officers did not knock or announce themselves before entering Taylor’s apartment. One person, a truck driver returning from his shift, said he heard officers shouting and at least three loud bangs as they knocked on Taylor’s door. He emphasized that he heard them shout “Police!” only once.

According to an interview conducted with Walker by law enforcement officials after the shooting, he said he heard a bang on the door as they were watching their movie, and Taylor had dozed off: “So I’m layin’ there layin’ on her watchin’ the movie by myself. There was a loud bang at the door […].” After the first “loud boom” Taylor asked who it was and they heard another knock at the door. When they left their bed, Walker says he saw the door come “off the hinges,” and the shooting began soon after.

In sum, even though the officers obtained a no-knock warrant, accounts differ widely on whether they announced themselves before entering. This aspect of the claim is therefore partly true and partly undetermined. 

Was Taylor Asleep in Her Bed When the Police Entered? Who Shot at an Officer?

Taylor was awake but unarmed when the police broke down the apartment door, according to Walker’s interviews with investigators. His account was that Taylor fell asleep, or “dozed off” around 10 minutes before the officers tried to break down their door. They were in bed around midnight. Walker told the investigators a “loud bang” jarred Taylor awake, “It scared her to death.” She shouted “Who is it?” at the top of her lungs, according to Walker, and they jumped out of bed and rushed to get dressed. 

The lawsuit filed by Taylor’s mother also said “Breonna and Kenneth were awakened by the [officers’] unannounced entry into their home […] They believed that their home had been broken into by criminals.”

There is body cam footage of the aftermath of the shooting in which Walker is heard repeatedly telling the officers that he and Taylor did not know police were trying to enter their apartment. When asked which of them fired at the police, a visibly emotional and confused Walker said, “It was her. She was scared.” But since that night, in numerous interviews Walker has insisted that he fired his handgun.

Walker, who was a licensed gun owner and who said he had never discharged his weapon outside a firing range, grabbed his gun when he heard the second knock at the door. He later said he thought intruders, or Glover, Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, were trying to break in. As soon as the door came off the hinges, he said, “I let off one shot like I can’t still see who it is or anything […] I left off one shot and then all of a sudden there’s a whole lot of shots.” Walker’s shot hit and injured a police officer.

Mattingly, the LMPD officer who was shot in the leg, claimed that he returned fire. Behind him Cosgrove also returned fire into the apartment hallway. Another detective, Hankison, had run into the parking lot and fired through the covered patio door and window, shots that tore into another apartment where a pregnant woman and a child were sleeping, according to The New York Times.

According to her mother’s lawsuit, Taylor was struck “at least eight times” by gunfire from the police officers. The New York Times reported she was struck five times. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said she was shot six times, but only one of the shots was fatal. Ultimately, she died after bleeding out on the apartment floor. 

In sum, this part of the above meme and the claim about what Walker said in the body cam footage is mostly true, even though Walker subsequently changed his statement, thereafter consistently stating that he fired his handgun. 

Conclusion

The revelation of documents detailing the LMPD investigation and months of meticulous news reports showed the LMPD attempting to connect Taylor to the activities of her ex-boyfriend, leading to the fateful events that resulted in her death. Meanwhile a viral meme attempted to expand upon the case being constructed by the LMPD. Strikingly, the meme was circulating long before the office case documents were made public. While the meme got some details right about the night of Taylor’s death, the claims about Taylor’s record, connection to drug dealing, and employment history were completely false.