Mix-up in Breonna Taylor file included wrong autopsy

Breonna Taylor / Justin Riggs
Breonna Taylor / Justin Riggs(Facebook / Family photo)
Updated: Oct. 10, 2020 at 12:16 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Seven months after her son was killed by police, a mother finally got answers in the most unlikely of places: the Breonna Taylor case files.

“You keep having these mess-ups and mess-ups and mess-ups," Tina Samolsky said. “That’s why our city’s in the place that it’s in, and then on top of that, then you mess up with the paperwork.”

It started with independent journalist Brad Harrison pouring through the Breonna Taylor files and turning to social media to find out why some details in her autopsy didn’t add up.

“The preliminary report describes a gunshot to the head and other gunshots that were not consistent with the final report,” Harrison explained.

Harrison, who works for Urban Voices Radio, realized the report belonged not to Breonna Taylor, but to a 30-year-old man named Justin Riggs.

Samolsky was sent Harrison’s Facebook post while she was carving pumpkins with Riggs' six-year-old daughter.

“I stood up and wore my driveway out, pacing back and forth,” Samolsky said. “It was like, ‘This ain’t where I wanted to see this thing.’”

Samolsky said Harrison’s discovery brought her back to the night Riggs died, breaking her heart all over again.

She said she had been calling the Louisville Metro Police Department asking for answers, but never got them.

Riggs was on home incarceration and had cut off his ankle monitor the night he died to go visit his daughter.

“He’s playing basketball with Amelia in the driveway like he don’t have a care in the world,” Samolsky said. “He was an awesome father and his little girl was inseparable.”

Samolsky didn’t deny her son had his struggles and said he couldn’t stand the separation, but his daughter’s mother had an emergency protective order against him.

“He didn’t know how to pick up the pieces,” Samolsky said. “We’ve all done wrong. Do we deserve to be shot 16 times?”

She heard the gunshots as she tried to make it to the scene. Riggs had run from police allegedly pointing a gun at officers and threatening to shoot them when cornered.

After he was shot, they found him unarmed. He had ditched the gun on the run.

Samolsky said from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., she stood there, looking at her son, uncovered in the spot where he fell and was shot dead.

“The devastation of that already and trying to heal, and then on top of it, not hearing anything for months, and then having to see his autopsy on social media, the wound that is already open, it’s just adding more salt in that wound,” Samolsky said.

Samolsky wished there had been a social worker there to talk him down.

Harrison, who made the discovery that Riggs' autopsy was in the Taylor files, said it brings attention to more concerns about LMPD that go beyond the Taylor case.

“The community does not trust the police, and when the police is taking seven months or longer not releasing any information to the public or family, people are suspicious,” Harrison said.

Samolsky was called by the detective in charge of her son’s case for the first time Friday afternoon, who apologized. She said the case is still open and the officers are back on assignment. LMPD corrected the mistake in the file online and did not respond to further questions from WAVE 3 News.

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