Breonna Taylor’s Boyfriend Remembers Their Love Before She Became A Hashtag


Breonna Taylor’s Boyfriend Remembers Their Love Before She Became A Hashtag By Bry'onna Mention and Melissa Noel ·Updated February 14, 2023

The month of June was special to Breonna Taylor and Kenneth Walker. With her birthday on the 5th and his on the 10th, the couple enjoyed an almost week-long celebration together every year. They loved live music and going to concerts, a good party and taking long walks—anything, Walker says, to be in each other’s presence and have a good time. “Our love was based on friendship—that’s where it all started,” Walker says, sharing that they first met online in 2012. “Friendship was how our love became what it was.” 

Walker says Breonna, at 26, had big plans for her career, working two jobs to pay for nursing school. They had big plans for a future together, too. “We were definitely talking about getting married and having a baby and stuff, just planning on being a power couple, making a whole lot of money together,” he says. 

His mother was going to give him his grandmother’s ring for Breonna when he was ready to propose. And a close friend of the two had also given them a special gift. “Our godson’s mom gave us some of his little Jordans; it was supposed to be for our kid—so we always had them sitting on the dresser, like we had a kid already,” he says, describing the red and white Retro 12s that he still holds close.  

These items are now keepsakes from a future he and Breonna had planned—but will never have. Everything changed on March 13, 2020.  

Breonna Taylor’s Boyfriend Remembers Their Love Before She Became A HashtagWASHINGTON, DC – JULY 30: A photo of Breonna Taylor is seen among other photos of women who have lost their lives as a result of violence during the 2nd Annual Defend Black Women March in Black Lives Matter Plaza on July 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Frontline Action Hub)

The night before had started out as an ordinary evening for the duo in Louisville, Kentucky. They had a date night, went out to dinner at Texas Roadhouse, came home and played a game of UNO! They planned on watching the movie Freedom Riders, but they soon dozed off, not knowing things would never be the same after the early morning hours of March 13. 

Shortly after midnight, Louisville police officers executing a search warrant used a battering ram to enter Breonna’s apartment. Walker, a licensed gun holder, said he thought someone was trying to break in. He fired a single shot, hitting an officer in the leg. The officers returned fire with a barrage of bullets that struck and killed Breonna. “When this happened, I lost everything,” says Walker. 

He was immediately taken into custody and charged with the attempted murder of a police officer. He would later learn of his girlfriend’s death from a newscast while in jail. Walker never got a chance to say goodbye, because he was locked up on the day of Breonna’s funeral.  

 “I’ve been having to fight just to live,” Walker says now. “ I haven’t even had enough time to slow down and process everything that’s happening—still to this day.”   

In the two years since the traumatic event, Walker, now 30, has been at the forefront of protests, participated in social justice panels and done countless interviews alongside Breonna’s family. He says he feels as if it’s all necessary, as they continue fighting for justice. 

Historically, Black women have fought for justice and carried on the legacies of Black men: Mamie Till-Mobley for her son Emmett Till; Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King for their husbands, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Erica Garner died fighting for her father, Eric Garner. Women like Sybrina Fulton, Lucy McBath and Lesley McSpadden—mothers of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and Mike Brown—have forged bonds from shared tragedy. Known as “Mothers of the Movement,” the latter form a heartbroken club of moms of slain Black boys. It’s a circle in which none of them sought membership that now binds them for life.  

Here, Walker stands alone. There isn’t a “Fathers, Husbands or Boyfriends of the Movement.” As the only surviving witness to Breonna’s killing, Walker shoulders an enormous responsibility for carrying the weight of Breonna’s memories.  

“I guess it just feels like I was put in this position for a reason,” he reflects. “I grew up with two sisters and a mom, so I’ve always been a protector of Black women. Who better to speak than somebody who’s lived through this, and continues to say her name.”  

Walker was initially charged with assault and attempted murder after the raid. Those charges were permanently dropped in March 2021. That month, Walker filed a civil lawsuit against the city and a number of the officers involved in the shooting, requesting punitive and compensatory damages in both state and federal court.  In November 2022, the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) settled with Walker for $2 million. 

In August 2022, the Justice Department charged four current and former LMPD officers with federal crimes related to Breonna’s death, including federal civil rights offenses, unlawful conspiracies and use of excessive force. One of the officers, Kelly Goodlett, pleaded guilty to falsifying the warrant that led to Breonna’s death—and to later conspiring with another detective to create a cover story—when her death gained national attention.  

“I will keep her name alive,” Walker vows. “I will continue to make sure people know I’m still here, and that I’m gonna keep fighting for Breonna.” 

This story appears in the Jan/Feb 2023 issue of ESSENCE Magazine

TOPICS:  Breonna Taylor kenneth walker

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