A Louisville prosecutor recommended charges be dropped against Kenneth Walker, who was charged with attempted murder after he shot a police officer during the botched raid that resulted in the death of his girlfriend, Breonna Taylor.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine announced his decision on Friday, a day after Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad abruptly retired and the FBI announced it would investigate the death of Breonna Taylor.
“I believe that additional investigation is necessary,” Wine said during a press conference.
Conrad revealed his retirement plans in a letter to his staff on Thursday, per The Courier Journal. He didn’t mention the Taylor case by name, but he noted the force is going through a tumultuous time.
“You all are weathering a lot right now and I know how challenging this is,” he wrote. “Approach this as we approach all our struggles — as a team. Look out for each other. Show compassion to the community, even when it might not be shown to you. And remember what a privilege this job is.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer sang Conrad’s praises following the announcement.
“In his decades as a public servant, Chief Conrad has shown a deep commitment to justice, innovation and fairness,” Fisher said in a press release. “As our Police Chief for the past eight years, he has worked tirelessly on improving transparency and community policing. Most importantly, he has been a kind, decent, fierce advocate and protector of the city he loves, and a respected colleague. I appreciate that he is staying through the end of our fiscal year to help us ensure a smooth transition, as we continue to grapple with budget challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Louisville branch of the FBI announced its probe into the case on Thursday afternoon.
“The FBI will collect all facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner,” the bureau tweeted.
Conrad’s last day at work is on June 30 and Assistant Chief Rob Schroeder will be interim chief starting July 1. The retirement is the latest high-profile development for the troubled LMPD.
Taylor died in March after officers stormed her apartment in search of reputed drug dealer Jamarcus Glover. No drugs were found, and Glover reportedly was already in custody at the time of the raid. Taylor was shot eight times after her boyfriend Kenneth Walker fired at the officers, striking one in the leg. He was later arrested and charged with attempted murder. Walker’s defense team claimed he mistook the officers for burglars because they did not announce their presence before breaking down their door with a battering ram.
Walker and Taylor had gotten out of bed and made it to a hallway to investigate the sound of banging from the door when it burst open and he fired a shot, leading to a fusillade of return gunfire from the invading officers.
“All of a sudden there’s a whole lot of shots,” Walker said in an audio recording played by Wine during Friday’s news conference. “We both dropped to the ground and [my] gun fell. There’s the police and there’s a lot of yelling and stuff. They’re just shooting and we’re both on the ground, and when all the shots stop … she’s bleeding.”
Wine believes the information presented was not sufficient to indict Walker.
“There was no misleading testimony by the detective in this case, nor was there any ethical breaches,” Wine said . “However, I do agree with him that more should have been presented to the grand jury, including the statement of Kenneth Walker.”
If another investigation determines Walker acted inappropriately, he could be charged again.
Attorneys Ben Crump, Sam Aguiar and Lontita Baker, who represent the Taylor family, believe Conrad’s retirement and the FBI’s involvement are positive developments.
“The resignation, today, of Louisville Metro Police Department Chief of Police Steve Conrad was a significant step forward in getting justice for Breonna Taylor, her family, and the city of Louisville. But this is just the beginning of that journey,” the counselors said in a statement to WLKY.
The statement continued, “We look forward to further investigation, including by the FBI, into the chain of events that led to Breonna’s tragic and preventable death. It is our expectation that the next Chief of Police will be someone who wears the badge with honor, moves the police department forward, and nobly protects and serves the residents of Louisville.”