Breonna Taylor’s mother was left waiting for 11 hours before being told by police that her daughter had been shot, she has revealed in a new interview.
Speaking to Vanity Fair, Tamika Palmer recalled the gut-wrenching moment that Breonna’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, phoned her in the middle of the night to say that her daughter had been shot, after ‘somebody kicked in the door’ to their Louisville apartment.
But Tamika then faced an agonizing wait for information, revealing that police kept her in the dark for hours on end, refusing to tell her where Breonna was, and only delivered the devastating news of her death by telling Tamika 11 hours after the shooting that her daughter ‘was sill in the apartment’.
Heartache: Breonna Taylor’s mom Tamika Palmer has recalled the night her daughter was shot dead by cops, revealing police left her waiting for 11 hours before revealing she’d been killed
Speaking out: Tamika wrote a first-person piece about her daughter’s death for Vanity Fair, which featured a portrait of Breonna on the cover of its September issue
Breonna was shot dead by police officers in her home on March 13 during a no-knock search warrant – but Tamika didn’t learn that her daughter had been killed at the hands of the cops until days later, when a friend told her to turn on the news.
Tamika – who also opened up to the publication about her own childhood, and Breonna’s youth – says police also refused to let her see her daughter’s body until more than 24 hours after her death, when Breonna was taken to a funeral home.
In her candid first-person op-ed for the publication – which featured a portrait of Breonna on the cover of its September issue – Tamika writes that she was awoken in the middle of the night on the day of her daughter’s death by Kenny, who phoned her to say that Breonna had been shot.
‘Kenny calls me in the middle of the night,’ she recalled. ‘He says, “Somebody kicked in the door and shot Breonna. I am dead asleep. I don’t know what he’s talking about. I jump up. I get ready, and I rush over to her house.’
After arriving at Breonna and Kenny’s apartment, Tamika was told by an on-duty officer to go to the hospital, where one injured cop and another injured person had been taken.
Tamika waited at the hospital for two hours, before being told that her daughter’s name was not in the system, and that staff had ‘no recollection of this person being on the way’.
When she returned to Breonna’s apartment, she spoke to a detective who grilled her about her daughter and Kenny, asking ‘if she knew anybody who would want to hurt’ them, and whether Tamika though either of them ‘were involved in anything’.
‘And I go, “Absolutely not.” Both of them got jobs. They go to work. They hang out with each other. That’s about it.’
When Tamika asked where Kenny was, she was told to ‘hold on’. The detective – whose name she cannot remember – then left her for another hour, before returning to ask her mother questions about Kenny and Breonna, this time questioning whether the couple ‘had been having any problems’.
After once again shutting down the detective’s line of inquiry, Tamika is finally told that Kenny has been taken to the police station, where he was ‘trying to help [officers] piece together what happened’.
Gut-wrenching: In her piece, Tamika recalled the moment that Breonna’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker (pictured) phoned her in the middle of the night to say her daughter had been shot
Agonizing: Despite several attempts to get information from the police, Tamika (pictured on August 13) was left waiting for 11 hours before officers confirmed Breonna had been killed
She was then left to wait for ‘a number of hours’, until ‘about 11 in the morning’ when an officer told Tamika that police were done with the scene, and that she would be given access to the apartment as soon as they had left. The cop did not give her any information about her daughter until Tamika pressed him.
‘I say, “Where’s Breonna, why won’t anybody say where Breonna is?” He says, “Well, ma’am, she’s still in the apartment.” And I know what that means.’
But Tamika admits that she thought to herself, ‘Maybe it’s not Breonna,’ for hours after that because she was not actually allowed to see her daughter’s body, explaining: ‘The police never let me see her. But I know it’s her house, you know what I’m saying? But just the fact that I physically haven’t seen her….’
Tamika recalled her confusion over the circumstances of her daughter’s death, writing that she spent hours trying to work out who had kicked in Breonna’s door, because the police ‘weren’t talking to her or telling her anything’.
She added that she spent much of the day crying and ‘trying to figure it all out’, revealing that she had no idea cops had been responsible for her daughter’s death until the following day, when a friend told her to turn on the news.
‘…The police aren’t talking to me or telling me anything. My daughter’s dead and they’re not telling me anything. And I keep wondering, “Why would somebody do this?” Until I actually learn on the news that the police did this.’
She also discovered that Kenny had not been at the station assisting officers with their inquiries, but that police had initially attempted to charge him with attempted murder after he fired his gun at the cops who broke down their door without warning in the middle of the night.
Tamika lashed out at the police over their handling of the case, questioning how officers could have grilled her about about whether anyone would have wanted to hurt Breonna and Kenny, and asking if the couple might have been fighting, when all along her daughter had been killed at the hands of their colleagues.
She also expressed her hurt and upset over how the case was initially portrayed on the news, recalling how frustrated she was at seeing her daughter and Kenny described as ‘drug dealers’, with her daughter labeled as a miscreant who had been killed in a ‘drug raid gone bad’.
Controversy: The three officers involved (from left, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detectives Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove) have not been charged in the shooting despite protests
‘I am pissed off because I know how hard Breonna worked,’ she wrote. ‘I know that Breonna ain’t about that life. Breonna couldn’t tell you where to buy a dime bag of weed. She isn’t that person on the news. Neither is Kenny.’
Tamika was not able to see her daughter’s body for 24 hours after the shooting, explaining that the funeral home finally phoned her after midnight the following day, and told her she could come and see Breonna.
‘The funeral home calls me when they get her body,’ she recounted. The police never let me see her. They aren’t talking to me.
‘It’s after midnight [the day after Breonna’s death] when I get the call. And they say I can come see her.
‘Everybody is with me. My whole family — my four sisters, my dad, my daughter Juniyah, my sister’s boyfriend, my boyfriend, the kids, a couple of close friends. Nobody wants to be left out.
‘And when we see her body, it’s just tears and screams. I walk out the home because everybody is just crying. And I am just so pissed off that she is lying there.’
Tamika went on to explain how she and her family began campaigning to earn justice for Breonna, confessing that, at least initially, she felt as though she was screaming into a void – revealing that it ‘took about two months before people really started paying attention’.
By that point, the family had laid Breonna to rest and had long-begun their furious fight to see the officers responsible for her death arrested and charged with her murder. It was only when Tamika filed a lawsuit against the Louisville police that she heard from the city’s mayor, Greg Fischer, who phoned to offer his condolences in the wake of mounting public outrage over Breonna’s death.
After the death of George Floyd, Breonna’s case gained fresh public interest – and prompted even more anger, with thousands of people using her image as a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement. When riots broke out in Louisville, Tamika revealed that Fischer phoned her again, but only – she believes – in an attempt to quell the public fury over her daughter’s death.
However she writes that she refused Fischer’s request to speak to protesters, insisting that it was ‘his fight’ and not hers.
‘People are getting real antsy, and he doesn’t want them to set the city on fire,’ she recalled.
Damage control: Tamika says she received a call from Louisville mayor Chris Fischer after protests broke out in the city (pictured) – recalling that he asked her to ‘tell the people to stop’
Refusal: ‘They are tearing up the city, and he wants me to come and tell the people to stop. But I don’t do it. Because I know the people don’t want to hear from me,’ she wrote
‘They are tearing up the city, and he wants me to come and tell the people to stop. But I don’t do it. Because I know the people don’t want to hear from me. They want to hear from him. They aren’t looking for me. They want to talk to him. That’s his fight, not mine.’
If anything, Tamika says she feels reassured by the protests; although she was advised not to attend any of the demonstrations out of fear that she might be seen to be ‘condoning’ any violent behavior, she wrote in Vanity Fair that she is moved by the albeit delayed response to her daughter’s death.
‘I felt like with the whole pandemic, Breonna would be forgotten, and we would just get swept under the rug,’ she added.
But the public fury over Breonna’s death at the hands of the police has not taken away the devastation that her family feels, with Tamika writing that the EMT’s younger sister Juniyah struggling with depression, while her father – Breonna’s granddad – cannot turn on the television because he ‘can’t stand’ to see reports about her death.
‘Breonna is like the family glue — even at 26 years old, she is pretty much the glue,’ she said.
As well as featuring Tamika’s piece, Vanity Fair also paid tribute to Breonna by featuring a portrait of the EMT on the cover of its September issue. The image, which shows Breonna in a blue dress, was painted by Amy Sherald, the artist who created the image of Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery.
And Breonna’s family is still continuing to speak out against the three officers involved in her shooting, saying earlier this month that they expect charges to be filed ‘sooner rather than later’ against the officers who shot her dead in her apartment in March.
But the family’s lawyer said they were ‘not going to wait forever’ after learning that the state’s Attorney General is still conducting witness interviews and waiting on ballistics reports from the FBI, 150 days after the killing.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump and co-counsel Lonita Baker stood outside the Kentucky federal courthouse with Breonna’s mother Tamika and her aunt Bianca Austin on August 13 to discuss meetings they had had with city officials and prosecutors.
Crump said that following the meeting, he expected charges to be filed against the three plainsclothes officers who shot dead Breonna inside her home while carrying out a no-knock search warrant.
Crump also urged Mayor Fischer to take more action and be aggressive in his pursuit of justice.