On March 13, Breonna Taylor was shot at least eight times in her home by police

By Christine Pelisek
June 10, 2020 11:59 AM
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Breonna Taylor had her life mapped out.

The 26-year-old Louisville, Ky. emergency room technician planned to take nursing classes in the fall to become a neonatal nurse. She had also recently bought the car of her dreams: a Dodge Charger.

She had a serious boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who she had known since high school, and they planned to get married one day.

“They already had a kid's name picked out,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, tells PEOPLE. “It was a terrible name. She said they were going to name their baby Kenbre, for Kenneth and Breonna. I'm like, ‘No, no you're not.’ That is too much!”

breonna taylor
Tamika Palmer

On March 12, Taylor -- who loved weekly family barbecue nights and road trips with her girlfriends -- stopped by her mother’s house to coax her into cooking for her. “I said, ‘Listen, it's not happening.’ We were going back and forth,” recalls Palmer. “But then her and Kenny ended up going out to dinner. Just going out, having a good night. And then they went home.”

Later that night, at 12:30 a.m., while Taylor was asleep in bed and Walker was watching a movie beside her, they were both startled by pounding on the front door.

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Breonna Taylor
Breonna Taylor
| Credit: Breonna Taylor/instagram

Walker says he yelled, "Who is it?" multiple times. When nobody answered, he grabbed his licensed handgun.

"There was a loud banging, then the door flies off the hinges," says attorney Lonita Baker, who represents Palmer in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the police officers. The officers were investigating a drug dealer when they arrived at Taylor's door.

Although the dealer didn't live there (and had, in fact, just been arrested at a different location), officers alleged that he had once picked up a package at Taylor's residence. The officers had secured a “no knock” search warrant, allowing them to enter without warning.

Breonna Taylor
A demonstrator holds a sign with the image of Breonna Taylor
| Credit: JASON CONNOLLY/Getty Images

Walker, who said he thought it was a break-in, fired a shot, hitting one of the officers in the thigh. The police fired back more than 20 shots, hitting Taylor at least eight times.

Walker was arrested for attempted murder of a police officer, but those charges were dropped on May 22, after the FBI opened an investigation.

The three white officers, Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, were placed on administrative reassignment. None has been criminally charged.

Palmer hopes that will change. She also wants the use of no-knock warrants to be restricted, and for all officers to wear required body cameras. [The three officers were not wearing body cameras.]

“I feel like they took a part of me,” Palmer says in the new issue of PEOPLE. “This should never have to happen to anyone else again.”

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Taylor's name is being echoed in protests across the country following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died May 25 in police custody.

“I'm so grateful for people wanting justice, and just standing up and trying to be a voice for her,” Palmer says. “She's becoming a part of history. She was amazing. She really was -- not because she was my daughter, but because of the person she was. ... To know her is to love her.”

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<em><strong>• Campaign Zero (<a href="https://www.joincampaignzero.org/">joincampaignzero.org</a>) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.</strong></em>

<em><strong>• <a href="https://colorofchange.org/">ColorofChange.org</a> works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.</strong></em>

<em><strong>• National Cares Mentoring Movement (<a href="https://caresmentoring.org/">caresmentoring.org</a>) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.</strong></em>