PAR uncovers new information on the dangers of serving no-knock warrants and analyzes the raid that killed 26-year-old EMT Breonna Taylor. Cop watcher Kenneth Dunham alleges continued intimidation from local Oregon police.
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.
Taya Graham: Hello. My name is Taya Graham and welcome to the Police Accountability Report. As I never get tired of saying, this show has a single purpose; holding police accountable. And today we’re going to do so by delving deeper into a controversial no knock warrant that led to the death of a young woman and to reveal some of the critical details of the case the mainstream media has ignored. Then we’re going to check in with a police auditor who has had yet another fraught encounter with police, which led to some questionable charges.
But before I get started, I want you watching to know that if you have evidence of police misconduct, please email it to us privately at firstname.lastname@example.org. And of course you can message me directly @tayasbaltimore on Facebook and Twitter. And please like, share and comment on our videos. You know I read your comments and I appreciate them. Now that we have that out of the way let’s get started.
Now on our last show, we reported on the tragic case of Breonna Taylor. Breonna Taylor was a 26 year old emergency medical technician, a frontline worker at two hospitals in Kentucky. Taylor was asleep in her Louisville, Kentucky home last month when police executed, according to a lawsuit filed by her family, a no knock warrant. It was the last in a series of warrants. Louisville police had served related to a drug investigation in which Taylor was not a suspect. Nevertheless, they used a battering ram to break down her door.
According to Taylor’s family, neither she nor her boyfriend Walker heard police announced themselves. After the plain clothes unit busted down the door, Walker fired a single shot, striking the Louisville police officer, Sergeant John Mattingly, several officers on the scene returned fire, unloading roughly 24 rounds and striking Taylor eight times killing her almost instantly. Since then the raid and killing of Taylor has raised serious questions about the use of no knock warrants. And this week Louisville prosecutor, Thomas B. Wine asked a judge to drop the charges against Walker who had been charged with attempted murder. In a video press conference, Wine said that he believed neither party had committed a crime. That the killing of Taylor was simply a matter of miscommunication. Let’s listen.
Thomas B. Wine: But you know, sometimes when you look at it and you think what separated these two parties was a door, and it’s very possible that there was no criminal activity on either side of that door because people couldn’t hear what the other party was saying.
Taya Graham: But along with the statement, Wine released audio recordings made by Walker and one of the officers who shot Taylor. And it’s the details of both pieces of evidence which we’re going to focus on now. That’s because there are details of the case that the mainstream media missed and could shed a critical light on the case. To discuss the evidence I’m joined by my reporting partner, Stephen Janis. Stephen, thank you for joining us.
Stephen Janis: Thanks Taya. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Taya Graham: Now, Stephen, you analyzed the recordings. What did you learn?
Stephen Janis: Well, there’s entirely different stories based upon this raid, which came from the recordings of interviews with Walker with the police officer was shot just after the shooting occurred. And what I think is most distinct is the timeline, how much time the police spent outside their door. The police talk about spending 45 seconds to a minute outside the door versus Walker’s story, where he said they barely had time to put on something like pajamas and get out of the hallway. They didn’t have time to get to the door.
Walker: First day. She says, “Who is it?” No response. So we’re like, “What the heck?” We both get up. Start putting on clothes, another knock at the door. She’s like, “Who is it?” Loud at the top of her lungs. No response. So I’m like, “What the heck?” So then I grabbed my gun, which is legal. I’m licensed to carry, everything. I’ve never fired my gun outside of a range. I’m scared to death. So she says… There’s another knock at the door. She’s yelling at the top of her lungs. And I am too at this point. “Who is it?” No answer, no response, no anything. So we like, “What the heck?” We both just… You see what I have on. When we get out of the bed or whatever, walking towards door, the door comes off the hinges.
So I just let off one shot. Like I still can’t see who it is or anything. So now the door’s like flying open. I only have shot. And then all of a sudden there’s a whole lot of shots. And we both just dropped to the ground and the gun fell right over there. And because I’m like scared to death, now we’re seeing lights and stuff. So I was talking saying, “Okay, it’s the police.” And there’s lot of yelling and stuff. So there’s just shooting, we’re both on the ground and then when all the shots stop, I’m panicking, she’s right there on the ground bleeding and [inaudible 00:04:52].
Speaker 5: Banged on the door, no response. Banged on it again, no response. At that point, we started announcing ourself, “Police. Please come to the door. Police, we have a search warrant.” And we banged. I probably bang on the door, six or seven different time periods. Not six or seven times, but six or seven different times. What seems like an eternity when you’re up at a doorway. It probably lasted between 45 seconds and a minute.
Stephen Janis: So there’s this great discrepancy. And what I think is interesting is I remember watching a trial one time as a reporter where a witness described standing outside a minute, watching a fight that went on for a minute. And the lawyer in the case said, “Well, why don’t you count out what a minute is like?” And he went, “One, two, three, four.” And it’s the same thing. It seems to me highly unlikely if you’re serving a no knock warrant that you’re going to be standing out there for a minute. It seems much more likely the story of Walker holds weight, where they barely had time to get in the hallway. So those conflicts between those two stories really stands out in contrast.
Taya Graham: But Stephen, there was also something striking in the visual that Wine put up on the screen, which showed how the officer’s planned the raid. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Stephen Janis: Yeah, what’s really interesting is that he showed a whiteboard that these taskforce, I guess, had used to plan out these raids. And it showed that there were already two other no knock warrants that had been served that evening. And we just found out that the reason that they came to her home, Breonna Taylor’s home, is because she had had a previous relationship with the only suspect that’s been arrested in this case. But it did show that they’ve actually executed other no knock warrants. So they were doing this risky behavior over and over again. And what the prosecutor used it to do was to demonstrate that they had said they weren’t going to do a no knock at this house, but of course they’d already executed at least one, if not two more. So it just shows how dangerous this entire investigation was.
Taya Graham: So finally, there was an interesting moment in the press conference when Wine talked about how no one’s life is worth any amount of heroin. But it raised an important question. Exactly what was this case? What was the underlying crime that warranted three raids?
Stephen Janis: It’s really interesting because it took me a while to get some information on what happened. There was one suspect arrested, which is now a district court case for trafficking in some heroin and some synthetic drugs, which I don’t know what that means. I guess it could be benzodiazepine. But it’s clear, because I asked, I said, “What was the quantity? How much heroin were you going after? What was this big drug conspiracy?” And they didn’t have an answer. The prosecutor themselves don’t seem to know what this was about. So when you think about it, you have a woman dead, a man charged with murder, a police officer shot. And the question is over what? This is the existential question about in American policing, “Over what?”
Taya Graham: So it’s clear, there are many questions regarding the death of Breonna that remain unanswered, but there’s one thing we know; she is another innocent victim, a casualty of the war on drugs. Perhaps it’s why the Louisville prosecutor made the comment comparing the value of a life to a stash of illicit narcotics. As The New York Times reported, between 2010 and 2016, 81 civilians were killed during what’s known as dynamic raids. Not just no knock, but raids where the police announced themselves and quickly broke down the door. Since nearly 88% of all police raids are related to narcotics, according to the same article, it’s clear the toll of the war on drugs is real and substantial.
But that troubling tally leads to a question. If halting the spread of illicit drugs is such a pressing priority, why do police ignore the mass distribution of large quantities of opioids into communities across the country by pharmaceutical companies? As has been well-documented by investigated news organizations like ProPublica, billions of opioid pills flooded communities suffering from rising overdose deaths. Executives were actually aware that the onslaught of pain pills was causing a serious addiction crisis across the country. Granted, the sales were technically legal. However, when the Justice Department and DEA became alarmed at the quantity and divergence of this massive influx of pills, they backed off prosecuting the drug companies, despite the aforementioned emails later revealing executives knew the flood of pills were wreaking havoc on the health and wellbeing of our citizens.
Apparently no knock warrants don’t apply to CEOs and profitable corporations. But from our reporting, we do know one situation where police apparently don’t hesitate to use the power to arrest and detain. I’m talking about our ongoing dialogue with cop watchers and auditors working across the country, who are holding police accountable through citizen journalism and self produced YouTube videos. Earlier this year, we spoke to an auditor in Oregon named Kenneth Dunham. He recounted how he was arrested for filming the exterior of a police station in Pendleton, Oregon. Since then his case was tossed. But last week we learned that he has been charged again. Here to talk about it is Kenneth Dunham. Kenneth, thank you so much for joining us today.
Kenneth Dunham: So thank you for having me. I’m glad to be here.
Taya Graham: So tell us, what were you filming when you were told you were under arrest for jaywalking and interfering with a police officer? Tell us what we’re seeing in the video.
Kenneth Dunham: I had been driving around earlier that night, just filming incidents involving the police. And my wife was driving me around and they pulled us over because they were upset with us following them from scene to scene. And because of that, I went to go make a complaint. I know it was [inaudible 00:10:17]. So I went straight to the police department and asked to see the supervisor and they instead gave me attitude, started yelling at me from the building. Wouldn’t come down and say nothing. Started yelling at me and telling me that I was subject to arrest. And that didn’t sit well. So I told him that I wanted to just speak to somebody.
Speaker 7: Okay. First, do you have ID with you?
Kenneth Dunham: No, I don’t.
Speaker 7: Okay. You need to provide ID.
Kenneth Dunham: No. Oregon statute says I don’t have to provide ID unless I’m being arrested. Are you arresting me?
Speaker 7: You’re being detained for jaywalking.
Kenneth Dunham: Okay. Is there a crosswalk within 100 feet of here?
Speaker 7: Yeah, there’s one right down there.
Kenneth Dunham: Yeah. That one that I use down there, yeah.
Speaker 7: No, I watched you walk right across here.
Kenneth Dunham: Yeah, I can walk right across here. Okay. Arrest me then for jaywalking.
So they had a supervisor come out whole across the street and he sat there. And while he was sitting there, one of the cars veered and tried to hit me, one of the cops with his car. And I got that on video too. And that upset me. And I went to the officer that was sitting across the street that had seen it all, the supervisor, and I asked him if I could ask him a question. And he said yeah. And I went across the street and I asked him, “Are you guys just going to let this guy try to hit me with his car and get away with that?” And he of course started explaining that from his vantage point, he didn’t see it that way. And that he believes that I was never in any danger and that should be good enough. And so I just laughed and I walked away and I walked back across the street. So I’m not sure if they arrested me for across the street to talk to him or walking across the street after I was done talking to him. But that’s what they arrested me for.
Taya Graham: Now. As soon as they told you you were detained, you gave your identification as per Oregon law. Why do you think the officers decided to go ahead and press charges?
Kenneth Dunham: Well, what they did to me, they put me in the back of the car and they told me that I was being arrested for interfering with the police investigation and for jaywalking, is what he kept saying. And I don’t think there is a jaywalking law. I haven’t found. What they actually ended up charging me with was failure to use a crosswalk and pedestrian on the highway.
Taya Graham: How many officers and police cars arrived on the scene? And how long were you detained?
Kenneth Dunham: So initially there was only a couple of officers there. And then out of nowhere, they opened the gates and they started to… And you can see in the video that they surrounded me. And I try to approach, especially when I’m doing video like that, I kind of take myself out of it and think of it like watching wildlife. And that was what it was. It was a straight intimidation factor. They were circling up on me and trying to get me to freak out and act some kind of way.
Taya Graham: They cut your clothing off, damaging your clothes and the harness rig you used for your GoPro camera. What other tactics did they use that you felt were intimidation? Wasn’t there a very unusual threat you received from the cop?
Kenneth Dunham: There was two things that happened that were very unusual to me. The first thing was when they were cutting my harness off… I don’t know if everybody’s familiar with the way a GoPro harness works, but it snaps on like this, and then there’s bungee straps behind you. So the cop went behind me to cut it. And when he did, he had his knife in his hand and I said something about it. And he made sure to point the knife straight, not in a cutting motion, but straight. He made sure that I knew that he could stick me. And I was handcuffed and he was basically said that… He whispered in my ear, “Not working out the way you thought it did, did it?” Or something like that. There was something odd they’d said there.
And then the second time… And that kind of set me off a little bit PTSD wise, just because of my issues with the cops in the past. And then the second thing was, it’s the weirdest insult or it’s the weirdest, most peculiar threat I’ve ever had. He kept rubbing my belly. I’m a big guy. And he kept rubbing my belly like a Buddha like this. I told him, “Don’t touch me, man.” Because I was in handcuffs in the back of a cop car. And then he started patting my stomach. And he says, “Every time I see you, every time I see you, I’m going to make sure that I run up your heart rate. I’m going to make sure that I exert as much energy from you as I can, so that your arteries clog and so that you end up dying of heart failure. Every time I see you, I’m going to do this exact same thing.” And they call me a fat boy and he shut the door and left.
Taya Graham: Do you think the police were taking the COVID-19 social distancing regulation seriously? This seems like a very minor arrest to potentially expose someone to the virus.
Kenneth Dunham: I know you’d asked me how many cops there were earlier, because of the excitement I want to be a conservative estimate, there’s probably a dozen of them. But realistically there was probably 18, 20 of them. And I’m going to say a third of them were masked up. I wasn’t masked up at the time. And I probably should have been, but I wasn’t masked up at the time. But neither were most of the cops there. And you can see in my video, most of them are face to face.
Taya Graham: Both the cases we covered today illustrate a stark contrast. It’s a distinction between what policing purports to be and what it actually does. It’s a divide that actually applies to an underlying principle of journalism; show, don’t tell. So in both cases, the contrast is clear because we can see it. Let’s remember that the decision to ask a judge to drop the charges against Walker came only after the family of Breonna Taylor filed a lawsuit and only after intense media scrutiny of the circumstances surrounding her death did prosecutors act.
In fact, in his statement, Wine said police officers omitted details that may have prevented Walker’s indictment when they testified in front of the grand jury. The point is, that while policing in general is categorized as public safety, the political economy that drives it gets less attention. And it’s that relationship between policing and profit that needs a full and detailed reckoning. Think about it. As we could see in the whiteboard shared during Wine’s press conference, police were willing to execute multiple no knock warrants throughout the city to confiscate an unknown quantity of drugs. All the money, over time, court time and resources targeting a drug enterprise that, to this day, remains unknown in both breadth and scope, or at least prosecutors wouldn’t tell us.
But what we do know is how many opioid pills flooded the country. Billions. In fact, the data released by the DEA can be viewed online. You can actually search to see how many pills were shipped in your community by searching this Washington Post website we’re showing you on the screen. But despite the fact the DEA was the agency that tracked this data, the nation’s drug warriors apparently were otherwise occupied. Instead they, and other local drug units, were breaking down the doors of the poor and disenfranchised. Comparatively small time drug dealers, and yes, the home of Breonna Taylor.
But of course, part of the process of reporting is taking the general and boiling it down to the particular. That is, examining the broader issues within the purview of a single life. Last week, it was a story of Lawrence Christian, the man who was tossed out of his home after a drug unit stormed into his home and arrested him for a crime he didn’t commit. The false charges left him homeless and since then he’s disappeared.
But this week we’re going to look at an act, not of commission, but omission. That is a failure to act. It’s a story of a woman named Tyra McClary, the tale of a mother who died a horrible death, but whose case was ignored as her family suffered. Tyra was found buried under a pile of mulch, partially disrobed, with a bag tied around our ankles. Police said publicly she died of an overdose. But when Stephen and I reviewed her autopsy report, we discovered something odd. Despite what police said, the medical examiner found her thyroid and adrenal glands had ruptured. A sign that she might have been strangled. Evidence police ignored despite the pleas of her daughter. Let’s listen.
Speaker 8: It clearly looks like a homicide. It smells like homicide. Why wouldn’t it be investigated as such?
Taya Graham: And so to this day, her case remains unsolved. Her death, if it indeed was at the hands of another, was just a statistic in a file folder, buried and forgotten. And yet her family is still in pain and her possible killer still at large. What better example could we show that illustrates the challenges facing policing, not just in our city, but across the country? An institution that does not have the wherewithal to pursue the most heinous crime we can imagine, but the persistence to storm into people’s houses unannounced. It’s a conscious of priorities that needs to be questioned. Not only so we don’t forget victims like Breonna Taylor, a medical technician who aspired to be a nurse. Or Tyra McClary, a loving mother and sister. But also so that the root causes of these troubling contradictions are brought into light, into full view so that all of us can have a say in what type of policing we want both now and in the future.
I want to thank my guest, Kenneth Dunham for joining me today. Kenneth, thank you so much for your time.
Kenneth Dunham: Thank you. And you guys are awesome. Every time I put up a video and something like this happens, you guys have always been there for me. And that’s great because everybody that watches you’re there for them too.
Taya Graham: And I want to thank my colleague, Stephen Janis for his investigative reporting, writing and editing on this piece. Thank you, Stephen.
Stephen Janis: Thanks for having me, Taya. I appreciate it.
Taya Graham: And of course I have to thank friend of the show [Nollie D 00:20:01] for her support. Thank you, Nollie D. And I want you watching to know that if you have evidence of police misconduct or brutality, please share it with us and we might be able to investigate. Please reach out to us. You can email us tips privately at email@example.com and share your evidence of police misconduct. You can also message us at Police Accountability Report on Facebook or Instagram or @eyesonpolice on Twitter. And of course you can message me directly at @tayasbaltimore on Twitter or Facebook. And please like, and comment. You know I read your comments, appreciate them and answer your questions whenever I can. My name is Taya Graham. Thank you for joining me for this Police Accountability Report. Please be safe out there.
Host & Producer
Before joining TRNN as an investigative journalist, Taya worked in Baltimore’s neighborhoods of color for years as an advocate and was awarded the Coalition of 100 Black Women’s Torchbearer Award and YANA’s (You Are Never Alone) “Love in Action” award. Her years of outreach to underserved communities have uniquely prepared her to connect with city residents. Now she cultivates relationships with Baltimore’s citizens to cover the stories on the ground.