Members of the Louisville Metro Police Department SWAT team en route to the scene of the raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment. (Screen shot: Bodycamera footage, LMPD)
Two months after police killed Breonna Taylor while executing a search warrant on her apartment in the middle of the night, a Louisville SWAT commander told investigators he had serious concerns about how the deadly raid was carried out.
The comments, made by Louisville Metro Police Department Lieutenant Dale Massey in a lengthy interview with detectives from the department’s Public Integrity Unit, suggest alarms were raised by some officers before the raid, and that Massey wasn’t the only one who left the scene with serious concerns.
“We just got the feeling that night that, you know, um, something really bad happened,” Massey told investigators on May 19.
Audio of the interview, which was obtained by VICE News, hasn’t previously been made public. Neither have any of the interviews with other SWAT team members who were called to the scene after an officer was shot. The interviews were included in the investigative file that was compiled by LMPD and provided to the Kentucky attorney general’s office as part of the investigation into the police raid that led to Taylor’s death.
The LMPD’s SWAT unit, which typically executed riskier search warrants, wasn’t present for the raid. They were called to the scene after Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly was shot to help secure the scene and clear the apartment.
When Massey and other SWAT team members arrived at Taylor’s apartment complex, they were met with what Massey described as a “chaotic scene.” There were multiple reports of automatic gunfire, and officers kept saying that someone inside the apartment had a rifle. All of this led him to believe the sliding glass doors were riddled with bullets that were shot from inside.
It wasn’t until minutes later, he said, that he realized the rounds had actually come from outside, and were all fired by police. At one point, now-former LMPD detective Brett Hankison gestured to the shot-out windows, and tapped his chest — ‘“almost to say, ‘yeah that was me,’” Massey told investigators. Hankison is one of three officers who LMPD says fired their weapons that night. He was fired in July, and is appealing his termination.
Massey also makes it clear that involved officers were roaming freely on scene after the incident, despite LMPD’s explicit policy that they be separated and paired with a peer support officer. He specifically recalls seeing Detective Myles Cosgrove, who fired 16 rounds that night according to LMPD, walking around the scene with a rifle.
“While we’re on scene, we learned that Cosgrove’s involved in it. Like, I had no idea he was part of it,” Massey said.
Later, he added “I do remember saying, ‘Hey, separate him. He’s involved.’ He was way too up in the mix.”
Even after Massey raised concerns about Cosgrove’s presence on scene, Massey says he still was not removed.
Another SWAT officer, Sgt. Brandon Hogan, also saw Cosgrove walking around. While SWAT was inside the apartment, Hankison stepped inside and began asking questions about the scene. “This is a crime scene,” Hogan tells him, as another SWAT officer tells Hankison to get out. This is confirmed by body camera footage, which was also obtained by VICE News.
Hogan recalls being surprised to learn later that Hankison was involved in the shooting.
“From my experience with my officer-involved, I was immediately assigned an escort officer,” Hogan said. “They took me into my car and told me, “Hey, just chill out, don’t say nothing.’” In their own interviews with investigators, Hankison and Cosgrove confirm they were not separated from the scene.
SWAT Sergeant Joel Casse, who also helped clear the apartment, expressed similar concerns.
“You know something that came up that I wasn’t necessarily happy with myself and it — it might end up coming up later in the investigation of, while we were in there controlling the scene, there was officers that were trying to come into the scene and Sergeant Hogan was trying to keep them back out,” Casse told investigators on March 20.
But interviews with SWAT members show they had concerns with more than just what they observed in the aftermath of the raid. SWAT wasn’t even aware of the raid on Taylor’s apartment until they were radioed to provide backup for an officer-involved shooting at her address.
“My first ever notification of something going on over at Springfield is when the voice came over the radio and said, “We need help over here. We have an officer that’s been shot,” Casse told investigators.
According to Massey’s testimony, SWAT is regularly called in to execute high-risk warrants. While Taylor’s was considered lower risk, according to a risk assessment matrix filled out for her address, Massey says that neither the matrix, which is scored based on potential threats that could be present, nor a plan for the raid was ever shared with him before it was executed.
SWAT doesn’t have to be notified of raids that are considered low risk, but Massey told investigators his team should have been briefed much more extensively, given that the raid on Taylor’s apartment was part of a broader investigation that they had been called in to help with.
“We need to be briefed on everything at the same time,” he said. “There has been some understanding in narcotics and in CID [Criminal Interdiction Division] that we’re not going to rush in to get dope. We’re not, we’re not going to treat — human life is more important than any amount of dope.”
At the time of the interview, two months after the raid, Massey said he still had not received any operations plan for the raid on Taylor’s apartment.
The officers who were present for the raid, including Hankison and Cosgrove, told investigators they do remember Taylor’s address mentioned at the briefing that night, though not discussed as extensively as the addresses on Elliott. If there is audio or video of the pre-raid meeting, it does not appear to have been included in the investigative file.
Three of the officers who executed the search warrant told investigators that they intentionally planned the raid on Taylor’s apartment to be at the same time as the other raids across town; they waited at a location nearby until the SWAT team was ready to go before approaching Taylor’s apartment.
But this appears to have been news to Massey, who told investigators carrying out multiple warrants of any risk level at the same time is ill-advised, and “bad business,” because if something goes wrong at one location, other officers won’t be able to immediately assist.
“Something goes down like we just saw, who’s there to provide armor?”
Had he known the raid on Springfield was planned, Massey told investigators, “I would have advised them 100 percent not to do it until we were done doing what we had to do.”
To Massey, what he saw as the poor planning and execution of the raid suggested the officers were placing a higher priority on seizing whatever drugs or money they hoped to find over the lives of those involved — both the officers and whoever was on the other side of the door. After SWAT cleared the apartment and Massey and his officers left Springfield Avenue, they discussed as a team what they’d just seen.
“If no one’s got to die, they don’t have to die. Like, $14,000 isn’t worth it. Any amount of dope’s not worth it either. As we debriefed and kinda looked over, it was just – it was just an egregious act.”
VICE News reached out to Massey on two separate occasions by phone. Both times, he declined to comment. LMPD didn’t respond to a request for comment.