Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine has called for charges against Kenneth Walker to be dismissed, but is leaving the door open to future prosecution.
Walker was charged with first degree assault and attempting to murder a police officer after he shot at police officers who entered his girlfriend’s apartment by force, believing them to be intruders. Police fired back and struck Breonna Taylor eight times, killing her.
Rob Eggert, Walker’s attorney, has said his client was acting in self-defense.
“I am directing that our office file a motion and present it to Judge Olu Stevens, the presiding judge in this case, that this case, the pending indictment, be dismissed,” Wine said at a news conference Friday. “I believe that the independent investigation by the Attorney General’s Office of Kentucky, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office must be completed before we go forward with any prosecution of Kenneth Walker.”
The FBI announced its investigation on Thursday.
Wine said if those reviews produce evidence to present the case to a grand jury, his office would do so. He said if Walker wishes to testify before a grand jury in that case, he would be able to.
Eggert praised Wine’s decision.
“I’m pleased the Commonwealth has dismissed the case. Kenneth Walker is grateful to everybody that stood by him, now he just wants to resume his life. We’re also grateful to Judge Olu Stevens who had the courage to release Mr. Walker before the case went viral, and was criticized for that,” Eggert said.
During Friday’s news conference, Wine played audio from interviews with Walker and the officer shot in the incident in which each said there were knocks on the door, and enough time for Walker and Taylor to get dressed before the door was broken down. Still, Walker said he could not hear whoever was speaking on the other side, and did not know they were police.
“When you look at it and you think what separated these two parties was a door, 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,” Wine said.
Ben Crump, a civil rights and personal injury attorney hired by the family of Breonna Taylor, welcomed the decision but delivered harsh criticism of Wine and LMPD.
“Today, Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine announced that the charges against Kenneth Walker have been dismissed — charges that never should have been filed. This is a belated victory for justice and a powerful testament to the power of advocacy,” Crump said in a press release.
Crump claimed that Walker and Taylor did everything right the night of the raid. He said Walker “fired a non-lethal warning shot from a legally registered gun.”
Outgoing LMPD Chief Steve Conrad expressed frustration with Wine’s decision in a statement directed to officers on the department’s Facebook page.
“I am frustrated by this decision and I know you are as well, especially since we know how seriously our sergeant was injured. But I still respect Mr. Wine’s integrity and judgment. We will have to let the process continue to play out and see if the case goes before a grand jury again,” Conrad wrote.
On Thursday, Conrad announced his retirement at the end of June. In his Facebook statement on Friday, he appeared to praise Wine for the release of information that had not been shared publicly about the raid.
“Much of that information contradicts major points in the narrative being shared in the public. But ultimately, Mr. Wine is correct – a jury would have to decide which version of the events they believe. And we will continue to let the investigations progress.”
Public outrage over Taylor’s killing has reached national and even international proportions, according to Metro Council members who said they’ve recently received calls on the matter from all over the world.
Several of them had called for Walker’s release, including Keisha Dorsey (D-3).
“What I’m saying is if there is any flaw in that warrant, all charges need to be dropped,” she told WFPL earlier this week.
According to Eggert, flaws exist in the grand jury testimony that led to Walker’s indictment.
On Thursday, he filed a motion to dismiss the case against Walker, arguing the testimony presented to the grand jury that indicted his client was incomplete and misleading.
“The picture presented to the grand jury completely mischaracterizes the events that took place at Ms. Taylor’s apartment that resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death – in fact, they completely omit the existence of Ms. Taylor at all,” he wrote. “The grand jury was not told that the police shot and killed Ms. Taylor while trying to enter her apartment, nor was the grand jury told that Mr. Walker never stated that he knew that he fired a shot at police officers.”
An audio recording of the testimony provided by Eggert’s office lasts just over two minutes.
Wine referred to that testimony as “bare bones” during the Friday news conference.
Sgt. Amanda Seelye testified that detectives knocked and announced themselves multiple times before breaking down the door. That has been disputed by neighbors of the apartment, according to Eggert.
“As soon as the apartment door was open, detectives were met with gunfire,” Seelye said.
One of the three officers executing the warrant, Sgt. John Mattingly, was struck in the leg. He was later operated on and recovered. Wine said Friday Mattingly’s injury was more serious than previously reported by the media, saying the femoral artery in his left leg was pierced and he could have bled out.
Eggert responded to Seelye’s comment in the motion, writing, “The ‘gunfire’ referred to by
the officer was a single shot fired by Mr. Walker in protection of himself and Ms. Taylor when
the officers burst into the apartment.”
In late March, Stevens released Walker to home incarceration, a move that angered the police union and Chief Steve Conrad.
Conrad told WDRB he was “frustrated” by Walker’s release.
“Judge Stevens’ actions are a slap in the face to everyone wearing a badge, and places our community at risk of further violence,” said Ryan Nichols, president of River City FOP 614, in a statement at the time.
Yesterday, Nichols called for Councilwoman Jessica Green (D-1) to apologize for comments she made Wednesday during a meeting of the Public Safety committee, which she chairs. She called for Wine to free Walker.
“I think that he’s a hero. He’s not a criminal. He doesn’t need to be locked away,” she said at the meeting. “And I would also call for our law enforcement to have compassion. I have been called pro police and I am pro police. But I’m also pro community and pro compassion. I don’t believe that those are different positions and that you cannot be both.”
Following Nichols’ comments, Green clarified that she was not excusing violence against police but rather praising Walker’s attempt to protect himself and his girlfriend. She did not apologize.
This story has been updated.