On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove. Plain-clothed officers Mattingly, Hankison, and Cosgrove used a battering ram to enter Taylor’s apartment in the execution of a no-knock warrant at her residence shortly after midnight. Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, who was in the apartment at the time, stated that he believed the officers were intruders. In response to the officers’ entry, Walker fired one shot. Officer Mattingly was struck in the leg by Walker’s lone shot. Law enforcement then fired twenty rounds into the apartment. These shots littered the apartment, striking objects in the living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, bathroom, and two bedrooms. Walker was unharmed. Taylor was fatally shot eight times.
Despite the public outcry, it is unlikely that LMPD officers Mattingly, Hankison, or Cosgrove will face criminal charges in the murder of Taylor. In the execution of a no-knock warrant, or any warrant, officers who believe themselves to be in imminent danger can legally respond with lethal force. Officers commit no crime in doing so. In Taylor’s apartment, officers, reportedly, believed they were in imminent danger when Walker fired at them.
The problem here seems strikingly clear. No-knock warrants are home invasions. Civilians and officers are both increasingly more likely to die in a no-knock warrant execution than the execution of any other type of warrant. For most, the problem in the Taylor case is the warrant itself and the legislation that permits such warrants. The no-knock warrant, in this case, directly led to Taylor’s murder. However, by saying so, we, perhaps, unknowingly, oversimplify her death. Taylor was, by all accounts, a law-abiding citizen on the night of March 13, 2020. Legally, she had been a law-abiding citizen for twenty-six years. It seems unimaginable that Taylor, given this information, could have a no-knock warrant issued for her residence.
In fact, the primary targets of the LMPD investigation were Jamarcus Glover and Adrian Walker. According to reports, Taylor had a prior relationship with Glover. Glover had used Taylor’s address to receive drugs and a vehicle registered to Taylor had been seen at Glover’s residence on several occasions. And yet, there is no indication that Taylor ever consented to Glover using her address. To date, no evidence exists that indicates that Taylor was complicit in any criminal activity whatsoever.
Glover, by using Taylor’s address, committed address fraud against her. Address fraud, in this instance, occurred when Glover used Taylor’s address for illegal activity with the intention of concealing that activity from law enforcement. Address fraud is a form of domestic violence. In many cases, address fraud takes the form of identity theft. It can range from opening credit cards in a partner’s name without their consent to stealing a partner’s identity altogether. Yet Taylor’s case demonstrates the fatal consequences of address fraud when it is used to obscure a former partner’s illegal activity. Before Taylor was fatally shot eight times in her apartment, she was a victim of address fraud, a type of coercive control in domestic violence rarely discussed.
Taylor would still be alive today had Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mary M. Shaw seen the address fraud and coercive control written in the law enforcement representations presented before her. Shaw’s willingness to issue a no-knock warrant for Taylor’s residence, in the absence of any previous criminal history, illuminates the problems that have plagued victims of domestic violence in the criminal justice system. In too many cases, domestic violence victims are held legally responsible for crimes despite the violence perpetrated against them that may cause them to become entangled in the commission of those crimes. Victims who experience coercive control in domestic violence are often forced to unwittingly engage in criminal activity. From the information available about Taylor’s case, it seems likely that she was a victim of Glover’s coercive control. Coercive control can play a role in the commission of misdemeanors as well as much more serious crimes like sexual assault, child abuse, and homicide.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in the U.S., four in ten women and men have experienced some form of coercive control from a partner. Coercive control is not criminalized in the U.S., but is increasingly becoming criminalized in the U.K. Opponents in the U.S. assert that the criminalization of coercive control is complicated because law enforcement often have difficulty determining which parties are victims and which are perpetrators of coercive control. Opponents also argue that fewer victims are likely to get help where there is more domestic violence legislation in place because things like immigration status, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class influence a victim’s willingness to become involved in the criminal justice system.
The problem with the latter, of course, is that domestic violence victims become unwitting participants in the criminal justice system when, like Taylor, charges and warrants are issued against them. Domestic violence victims can no longer decide if they want to be involved in the criminal justice system at the point of issuance of formal charges and warrants. Instead, they become participants in a system that does not acknowledge that they are, first and foremost, victims themselves.
We can no longer turn a blind eye to coercive control. We can no longer remain uneducated about the role it plays in criminal activity. The problem with domestic violence that includes coercive control is that so many do not see it. In Taylor’s case, law enforcement did not see it. Judge Shaw did not see it. Taylor’s family and friends did not see it. And this is the harm in the violence perpetrated against Taylor and so many other domestic violence victims. This is the harm in all domestic violence. It’s that it will happen, and no one will see it. It’s that it will happen, and others won’t even know.
If you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help. Call 1-800-799-7233.