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'You do not see, you do not shoot.' | Former interim police chief testifies at Myles Cosgrove's merit board hearing

Cosgrove was fired earlier this year for his role in Breonna Taylor's death in March 2020.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Myles Cosgrove, the former Louisville Metro Police (LMPD) detective who fired the shot that killed Breonna Taylor in March 2020, is fighting to get his job back.

Cosgrove is making his case before the Metro Police Merit Board during hearings scheduled for two days in November and three days in December.

Former Interim LMPD Chief Yvette Gentry fired Cosgrove earlier this year for his role in Taylor's death. In his termination letter, Gentry said he did not properly identify a target when he fired 16 times into Taylor's Louisville apartment.

In violation of standard operating procedure, Cosgrove also failed to activate his body camera prior to executing the search warrant.

The attorneys during the November hearings are Brendan Daugherty for LMPD and Scott Miller for Myles Cosgrove.

Wednesday, Nov. 10

The first witness on the stand Wednesday morning was Yvette Gentry, the former interim LMPD police chief who oversaw Cosgrove's termination. Gentry told Daugherty she lost confidence in Cosgrove as an officer due to his actions and his responses during interviews following the incident.

She said, based on his interview responses, Cosgrove had not properly identified a threat before he fired his weapon.

"You did not hear, you do not see, you do not shoot," she said. "I have to believe if I put someone out there with a gun and a badge and ability to take a life that they are prepared."

Miller's questioning focused on LMPD policy and the specific rules Cosgrove violated that resulted in his firing.

Gentry defined identification and isolation of a target, two concepts brought up in Tuesday's investigator testimony. She said LMPD officers are trained to only shoot when they've done both, but admitted the wording doesn't specifically appear in LMPD's use of force policy. 

"I don't think he took responsibility for where they all went," she said of Cosgrove's 16 shots, noting that for months after the incident, he said he believed he only fired four times. "I don't think they were properly articulated, I don't know if the shadowy figure, if that was Breonna Taylor and she was the target, and he accidentally shot her but I was left with not being comfortable."

Gentry said officers' ability to identify threats is crucial. She said the concept also explained the differences between her decision in Cosgrove's case and that of Officer John Mattingly

Mattingly also fired shots on the night Breonna Taylor died but wasn't terminated. Gentry said she had to consider how reasonable an officer's actions were, and she believed Mattingly did not violate policy. 

Miller also asked if Gentry was aware "the Mayor wanted these officers fired." Gentry said she "heard a lot of things," but said Mayor Greg Fischer didn't say anything to her directly.

The board members asked about pressure from Fischer too, questioning whether the Mayor asked her to fire Cosgrove. 

"I can emphatically tell you nobody including him was going to tell me to do something I didn't think was legal appropriate or right," she said. 

After cross-examination from LMPD's lawyers, the defense called for a directed verdict, saying LMPD didn't meet the burden of proof required. Daugherty disagreed. 

Ultimately, the counsel for the Merit Board said they didn't have that authority under state law. In order to call for an earlier verdict, they would have to end the hearing and go to executive session. That would have meant Cosgrove's defense giving up their chance to call witnesses.

Miller said he didn't want to do that and said the hearing should continue. 

Cosgrove's witnesses will testify starting Dec. 14. 

Tuesday, Nov. 9

At Tuesday's hearing, LMPD attorney Brendan Daugherty said the department and Cosgrove's attorneys agreed that Cosgrove violated protocol by not activating his body camera during the raid on Taylor's apartment. However, that violation on its own is not a fireable offense.

During the opening statements, both sides presented their arguments for whether Cosgrove acted reasonably on the night of Taylor's death. 

Daugherty said Cosgrove never proved that he identified and isolated a threat before firing his weapon into Taylor's apartment. 

“Not once did Myles Cosgrove articulate perceiving a threat that would justify his use of deadly force,” he said. “Cosgrove didn’t and couldn’t articulate his perception of a specific threat that justified firing one shot into Breonna Taylor’s apartment much less 16.”

Cosgrove's attorney, Scott Miller, argued that Cosgrove saw a muzzle flash and a fellow officer was down, so his response was reasonable and accurate. 

Miller said while Breonna Taylor's death was tragic, Cosgrove's actions did not violate LMPD policy.

“LMPD has that benefit of 20/20 hindsight,” Miller said. “LMPD was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole while they dissected this 5 second incident into microseconds. They failed to refer to any training records, failed to review any application and failed to consider the physiological principals that provide us all with guidance on why an officers performance deteriorates in a high stress situation.”

Tuesday, the merit board also heard from the first witness, Sgt. Andrew Meyer with LMPD's professional standards unit. 

Meyer's testimony focused on the investigation into the incident, and subsequent interviews with Cosgrove about what he heard and saw. 

He said there was no indication Cosgrove know when he started firing or what he was firing at on the night Breonna Taylor died. 

“It is important that when you make the determination that I have to use force on this person that this person is the one who caused the threat," he said. 

Daugherty asked Meyer several questions about Cosgrove's interviews and whether Cosgrove knew for certain that John Mattingly had been shot. 

In cross examination, Miller asked whether Cosgrove maintained through all his interviews that he believed the "bright flashes" were gunfire, though he didn't initially identify them as muzzle flashes. Meyer said that was true.

Cosgrove's attorney's argued LMPD use of force policy doesn't technically include requirements to identify and isolate a threat. They questioned whether or not Cosgrove knew there was a second person in the apartment during the incident. 

Merit board members themselves focused on the physiological reaction of an officer in a high stress environment. 

“When this is going on be aware that this is the time to make the most sound decisions," Meyer said of those instances. 

Meyer said LMPD officers are trained in stress management tactics for critical situations. 

After questions from the board and cross examination, the hearing ended for the day. Board members will continue hearing LMPD's case Wednesday, when former Chief Yvette Gentry goes before the panel at 10 a.m. 

Cosgrove is the second fired officer involved in the Breonna Taylor case to get a merit board hearing.

Case Background

Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot and killed on March 13, 2020, when officers executed a no-knock search warrant at her apartment as a part of a drug-trafficking investigation.

According to an arrest report, LMPD Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Detectives Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove entered Taylor's home and were met with gunfire after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker shot Mattingly. The officers fired back, striking Taylor.

Taylor's death sparked more than 100 days of protests and demonstrations in Louisville, calling for justice and police reform.

Six months after the deadly shooting, Attorney General Daniel Cameron released the results of his office's investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor. Cameron said Mattingly and Cosgrove were "justified" in their use of force the night Taylor died, saying they were responding to Walker's shot.

In June, the board upheld the termination of Joshua Jaynes, who got the warrant for Taylor's apartment. Brett Hankison is the only officer facing criminal charges and is also appealing his termination. Sgt. Mattingly retired from the department in June.

   

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