Lawyers: Breonna Taylor Warrant Connected To Gentrification Plan
Above photo: Family members of Breonna Taylor attended the unveiling of a mural on West Main Street that prominently depicts her and other African Americans who have died at the hands of law enforcement on July 5, 2020. Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal.
Breonna Taylor’s shooting was the result of a Louisville police department operation to clear out a block in western Louisville that was part of a major gentrification makeover, according to attorneys representing the slain 26-year-old’s family.
Lawyers for Taylor’s family allege in court documents filed in Jefferson Circuit Court Sunday that a police squad — named Place-Based Investigations — had “deliberately misled” narcotics detectives to target a home on Elliott Avenue, leading them to believe they were after some of the city’s largest violent crime and drug rings.
The complaint — which amends an earlier lawsuit filed by Taylor’s mother against the three Louisville officers who fired their weapons into Taylor’s home — claims Taylor was caught up in a case that was less about a drug house on Elliott Avenue and more about speeding up the city’s multi-million dollar Vision Russell development plan.
“The execution of this search warrant robbed Breonna of her life and Tamika Palmer of her daughter,” Florida-based attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the family, told The Courier Journal on Sunday.
“Its execution exhibited outrageous recklessness and willful, wanton, unprecedented and unlawful conduct.”
A spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Fischer said the allegations are “outrageous” and “without foundation or supporting facts.”
“They are insulting to the neighborhood members of the Vision Russell initiative and all the people involved in the years of work being done to revitalize the neighborhoods of west Louisville,” Jean Porter said in a statement. “The Mayor is absolutely committed to that work, as evidenced by the city’s work to support $1 billion in capital projects there over the past few years, including a new YMCA, the city’s foundational $10 million grant to the Louisville Urban League’s Sports and Learning Complex, the Cedar Street housing development, new businesses, down payment homeownership assistance, and of course, the remaking of the large Beecher Terrace initiative.”
Louisville Metro Police did not respond to Courier Journal requests for comment Sunday night.
Accusations contained in lawsuits do not constitute evidence in a court of law and represent only one side of the argument.
Lawyer: Breonna Taylor’s death totally avoidable
The warrants carried out in the narcotics investigation on March 13 were meant to target one of the “primary roadblocks” to the development: A man named Jamarcus Glover, according to the complaint.
Glover rented a home in the 2400 block of Elliott Avenue in the Russell neighborhood, the filing alleges, placing it squarely in the area of the planned redevelopment.
Glover is an ex-boyfriend of Taylor’s with whom she maintained a “passive” friendship, Sam Aguiar, one of the attorneys, has previously said.
In the affidavit seeking the no-knock search warrant for Taylor’s Springfield Drive apartment, Detective Joshua Jaynes wrote that he had seen Glover leave Taylor’s apartment in January with a USPS package before driving to a “known drug house.”
The detective wrote he then verified “through a US Postal Inspector” that Glover had been receiving packages at Taylor’s address.
A U.S. postal inspector in Louisville, however, told WDRB News that LMPD didn’t use his office to verify that Glover was receiving packages at Taylor’s apartment and that a different agency had asked in January to look into whether Taylor’s home was receiving suspicious mail. The office had concluded it wasn’t.
Jaynes is now on administrative reassignment until questions about “how and why the search warrant was approved” are answered, interim Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert Schroeder said last month.
It is that tenuous connection to Glover that led police to Taylor’s apartment on March 13, Aguiar and his co-counsel, Lonita Baker, say in the complaint.
“Breonna’s home should never have had police there in the first place,” the attorneys wrote in the filing. “When the layers are peeled back, the origin of Breonna’s home being raided by police starts with a political need to clear out a street for a large real estate development project and finishes with a newly formed, rogue police unit violating all levels of policy, protocol, and policing standards.
“Breonna’s death was the culmination of radical political and police conduct.”
According to the police department’s organization chart, the Place-Based Investigations squad was created to address “systemically violent locations” and help existing crime deterrence efforts.
“PBI focuses on identifying and disrupting crime place networks,” the police department’s website says. “These networks include crime sites but also places used by offenders that do not typically come to the attention of police. PBI will collaborate with other government and community partners to identify and eliminate violence facilitators.”
Narcotics targets were ‘not violent criminals,’ lawyer says
Court records show Jaynes sought five warrants on March 12, including one for Taylor’s apartment, a suspected drug house in the Russell neighborhood at 2424 Elliott Ave., two vacant homes nearby on Elliott Avenue and a suspected stash house on West Muhammad Ali Boulevard.
Glover and a man named Adrian Walker were named on all five search warrants and were among the night’s primary targets.
“The reality was that the occupants were not anywhere close to Louisville’s versions of Pablo Escobar or Scarface,” the court complaint says. “And they were not violent criminals. They were simply a setback to a large real estate development deal and thus the issue needed to be cleaned up.”
Glover was arrested on Elliott Avenue that night for trafficking and firearm offenses. The case remains pending in Circuit Court.
Glover, 30, has faced drug charges before and had pending drugs and weapons charges against him at the time of the March 13 warrant.
Jaynes also requested a warrant for the Elliott Avenue home on April 21, with Glover again listed as a target. Glover was arrested a second time on April 22 after the warrant was executed, court records show, for additional drug and trafficking charges. The detective signed off on the executed warrant as “J. Jaynes of the LMPD PBI.”
The case remains pending.
According to the complaint, LMPD’s Criminal Interdiction Division executed a search warrant on 2424 Elliott Ave. and an adjacent home Dec. 30, 2019. Both would be searched again on March 13.
Police found drugs and eight guns in the search, according to court documents. Officers wrote that he was seen driving away as SWAT approached the home, and Glover was subsequently arrested related to the warrant on Jan. 3.
City purchases alleged drug home for $17,000
The Jefferson County property value administrator’s website shows after police arrested Glover the second time, the city moved to purchase the property on Elliott Avenue.
Land records show Metro Government bought the home for around $17,000 in June.
In a three-week span earlier this year, eight homes on Elliott Avenue were demolished by the city’s contractor, the complaint alleges. Only nine homes total had been demolished on Elliott Avenue in the past 16 years combined, it says.
Fischer’s administration has been promoting “Vision Russell” since 2016 as a plan to stimulate affordable housing and economic growth in the West End and bridge a racial and economic gap that has been Louisville’s defining divide for decades.
His top economic development official called the accusations “a gross mischaracterization of the project.”
“The work along Elliott Ave is one small piece of the larger Russell neighborhood revitalization and stabilization work we’ve been doing for years, including the transformation of Beecher Terrace through Choice neighborhoods grants,” Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, Louisville Forward chief said in a statement. ” We have partnered with a community organization to understand community needs and wants, and the public land bank has been acquiring properties through foreclosure, donation, and some sales; less than half the homes there are occupied. We have also been in conversation with nonprofit housing interests about using the publicly acquired properties to create Louisville’s first community land trust to ensure investment without displacement. Our goal is to provide a safe, clean, desirable, and affordable neighborhood for the residents of Russell.”
Louisville was among five finalist cities that ultimately won a nearly $30 million in federal grants in the final months of the Obama administration to pay for the plan, which included demolishing the Beecher Terrace public housing development.
Those funds were part of an overall $200 million pot raked in by the Fischer administration from private, foundation, nonprofit and public sources.
City leaders have boasted about how “Vision Russell” aims to bridge the divide between downtown and its adjacent West End neighborhoods, where it was known to have low-income and crime-scarred streets spanning from Ninth to 32nd streets between Broadway and Market streets.
“Life does not present us with many opportunities like this,” Fischer said in December 2016, “and it’s our duty to make the most of it.”
Part of the larger “Vision Russell” plan was a smaller project called the “‘Keeping It Real’ Elliott Street Redevelopment,” according to previously released city plans, which is where the alleged Glover drug house that the city bought is located.