Merit Board Upholds Termination Of Louisville Detective Who Fatally Shot Breonna Taylor

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After more than three hours of deliberations, the Louisville Police Merit Board upheld the termination of former Detective Myles Cosgrove, who was fired for violating the department’s use of force policy when he fatally shot Breonna Taylor.

The seven-member board, which includes two Louisville Metro Police officers and five mayoral appointees, voted 5-2 to uphold the firing.

Cosgrove and his attorney left quickly after the ruling and without comment.

Merit board members, who heard four days of testimony, did not discuss the reasoning behind the decision but will issue an order with their findings.

The two no votes were both civilian members. The officers on the board voted to uphold the termination.

In June, the board upheld LMPD’s termination of Detective Joshua Janes, who was fired for being untruthful in the search warrant used to raid Taylor’s home on March 13, 2020. Cosgrove fired 16 bullets into Taylor’s apartment during the raid — including the shot that killed her.

Former chief Yvette Gentry fired Cosgrove in January for failing to properly “identify a target,” violating the department’s use of force policy and failing to use a body camera.

Last month, Gentry testified that in three different interviews with investigators, Cosgrove could not articulate a reason for the number of shots fired or justify that he saw a threat where deadly force was necessary, given he never saw a gun, heard a shot and only saw a shadowy figure.

“You fire 16 rounds, and they go in three different directions, and you say you don’t hear and you’re not seeing” a specific threat, Gentry told the merit board. “I didn’t have the confidence” to keep him.

Attorney Scott Miller, who represents Cosgrove, said in his closing argument Wednesday that the former detective saw a muzzle flash, former Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly falls to the ground and a figure in the hallway. He had to make a split-second, life-or-death decision, Miller said.

“He reasonably believed there was a threat,” Miller told the seven-member board. “He reasonably believed there was a target.”

And Miller noted that Cosgrove’s perception was proven correct after the investigation.

Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, fired a shot at police, hitting Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly. Walker said he believed police were intruders breaking into the apartment before 1 a.m.

“He could have taken cover” when a shot was fired, Miller said, but Cosgrove stepped up and “engaged the threat.

“… Breonna Taylor’s death is a tragedy, and Myles Cosgrove did not violate LMPD policy,” Miller concluded. “He deserves his job back.”

Police shot and killed Taylor, 26, in the hallway of her apartment during an undercover raid on her home on Springfield Drive as part of a series of raids elsewhere that targeted narcotics trafficking.

No drugs or money were found in her home.

Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Brendan Daugherty, who represented LMPD, told board members in his closing argument that Cosgrove did not initially tell investigators he saw a muzzle flash.

It was only in later interviews, after being “well prepared” by his defense, that Cosgrove linked seeing a muzzle flash and a tall shadowy figure, Daugherty said.

And Daugherty said Cosgrove fired in three different directions, with bullets flying into Taylor’s kitchen, a closet and the hallway where Walker and Taylor were standing.

“He didn’t really have any idea what he was shooting at,” Daugherty told the board. “He fired in three directions. He saw vivid flashes of light. He couldn’t hear anything. Despite those limited perceptions, he fired 16 rounds into that apartment without identifying a threat.”

Earlier on Wednesday, former Louisville police Col. LaVita Chavous testified that she believes Cosgrove should not have been terminated.

“He fired after an officer had been shot in defense,” Chavous said. “I had no issues with Myles Cosgrove’s actions not did I think he should have been fired.”

Chavous said this was the initial belief of investigating officers as well and indicated that Cosgrove’s firing was politically motivated after protests began in the months following Taylor’s death.

As protests engulfed the city in early summer 2020, Chavous told board members she overheard Mayor Greg Fischer say he wanted to find a way to fire key officers involved in the raid and shooting of Taylor.

She believes Fischer was referring to Cosgrove, Sgt. Mattingly, Det. Brett Hankison and Det. Jaynes.

Previously, during Jaynes’ merit board hearing, Fischer testified he never gave an opinion on whether the police officers involved in the raid should be fired before the investigative process was completed.

Regardless, Daugherty said the argument “falls flat,” pointing out that Gentry decided not to fire Mattingly, who said he saw someone with a gun in a shooting stance before he fired his weapon.

Mattingly shot six times, toward the target he identified. He resigned from the department.

“If it was political, Mattingly would have been fired too,” Daugherty said.

On Tuesday, Cosgrove testified that he regrets fatally shooting Taylor but knew “without a doubt” that his and Mattingly’s lives were in danger if he didn’t return a gunshot coming from “a shadowy figure” in the apartment.

“I did what I thought was right that evening,” Cosgrove told the merit board. “I was addressing the deadly threat that was in front of me.”

Asked by his attorney if he regretted Taylor being shot and killed, Cosgrove took a long pause:

“Of course I do,” he told the board. “It’s horrible. It’s made me question faith. It’s powerful to have taken a life and to have to live with that. I can’t explain to you how regretful and how much grief that has caused me.”

But Cosgrove said he saw a muzzle flash and “a form” and, while he didn’t hear a gunshot or see a gun, knew that Mattingly had been hit.

He told the board the “human figure” shooting was “directly in front of me” on the right side of the hallway.

“There’s no doubt that is the form shooting at me, directly in front of me,” he said.

The FBI determined Cosgrove fired the shot that killed Taylor.

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