Editor’s note: This story contains offensive language. Obscenities have been edited in writing, but are audible in the embedded media.
After videos of an incoming student discussing Breonna Taylor’s death were circulated on social media, the University of Kentucky will review the videos in light of its student conduct code.
Taylor, a UK alumna, was killed by Louisville police in March. Police entered her apartment, where Taylor and her boyfriend were sleeping, with a no-knock warrant. Taylor was shot at least eight times.
The controversial statements were made by an incoming UK freshman, Kendall Johnson, in an Instagram LIVE, a type of streaming video where other users can watch and comment.
Her LIVE was recorded by other users and reposted on social media platforms like Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter. Some of the posts, from multiple separate accounts, have over a thousand views and likes.
According to recordings obtained by the Kernel, Johnson commented on Breonna Taylor’s death and the following protests.
“Y’all want to kinda like, bring light to Breonna Taylor, like yes, she was killed innocently and she shouldn’t have died but – there was a complete but to this situation – because the police had a warrant, one. They had a non-knock warrant. They could have walked in and said ‘what’s up b—-es’ and then they’re there. It doesn’t matter, that’s the type of warrant that they f—ing have, it doesn’t f—ing matter,” Johnson said.
An unidentified friend in the background of Johnson’s video interrupted her when Johnson continued to talk about the details of Taylor’s death.
Johnson. “So my thing is is like, if you’re going to shoot at the cops, don’t not expect them to shoot back! and like yes – “
Friend: “OK Kendall, stop.’
Johnson: “No no, shut up – sorry. Yes, Breonna was killed in cold blood and she should have not died like literally at all but from a cop’s perspective – “
Friend: “I don’t think you remembered she was shot eight times.”
Johnson: “Yeah that’s bad, that’s bad, they should have not done that.’
Friend: “So obviously she was shot in cold blood.”
Johnson: “They should, they should, they should have not shot her.”
Friend: “One time in the leg is one thing but eight times is a lot.”
Johnson: “But eight times? That’s a lot. That’s way too much.”
Johnson started the LIVE late Saturday night, the third night of nationwide protests over the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. In one video, Johnson comments on Floyd’s death, saying no one knows the entire story.
“I’m not going against it, but I don’t think that all of you really have the entire situation figured out. And I don’t think any of us really do, cause like the entire George Floyd thing, no one videoized him resisting arrest for 30 minutes. No one, no one videoized that,” Johnson said in the video.
By Sunday afternoon, multiple recordings of Johnson’s LIVE had been posted on Twitter and Instagram by various users.
“The thing is, is like yes, I do support Breonna and I do support her, like, justice and like the fact that she was killed in cold blood, but like the fact that people feel the need to loot and riot in the incorrect periods – like that’s not ok, like these businesses have done nothing to Breonna or even to the black community,” Johnson said in one video segment.
After the initial recordings were posted, social media users screen-shotted her other posts and tweets, including a Snapchat where Johnson appears to say the n-word while singing and a tweet also using the n-word.
Through the duration of the LIVE, Johnson sometimes shared the screen with other individuals, including current UK student Jimmy King.
At one point, King told Johnson “Let’s get talking about protesters! Come on!”
“You know what I’m here for it, like these motherf—ers are literally f—ing psycho, like,” Johnson responded.
In another exchange, Johnson and King appeared to be discussing Trump’s tweet about protesters being thugs.
“That only makes you look more of a thug. Donald Trump said it first. Obama said it! Thank you!” said Johnson.
Johnson also shared the screen with a person named Kenna Mink. It is unclear how the two know each other, but they spoke several times over LIVE.
Johnson asked Mink why people were setting things on fire.
Mink said it was because it was the only way people would be heard.
“Do you not see these protests are now all over every social media platform because things are being looted, things are being set on fire, things that they actually care about? They don’t care about our lives. They care more about money than they care about our lives,” Mink said.
Johnson responded, “What I’m saying is like, these protesters, black, white, purple, whatever the f— you are – like cool, yeah, protest, please do, but do it peacefully. Whenever you start looting and ruining businesses for no reason like literally at all, just for what, just to get clout on like CNN?”
In another recording, Johnson asked why the police did not shoot Taylor’s boyfriend, who was in the apartment with her when the police entered.
“Like that’s my thing. Like why did they not shoot the boyfriend, the person that was actually like harming them?” said Johnson.
As the videos circulated online, many people tagged UK under posts with the recordings.
The university then issued a statement on Twitter, saying that UK was aware of the issue and would be reviewing it.
“Let us be clear: our community stands for diverse inclusion. We aim to be a community where everyone belongs and feels safe,” read the post. “Racism will find no welcome with us.”
Along with tagging UK, many commenters suggested the university rescind Johnson’s admission.
There is no precedent for such an action at the University of Kentucky.
Harvard has previously rescinded admissions offers because of racist statements in online posts. In 2019, Harvard rescinded the admission of prominent Parkland shooting survivor Kyle Kashuv after his text messages showed racist and anti-Semitic language. Two years earlier, Harvard had withdrawn admissions offers from 10 students who had posted anti-Semitic and sexually explicit memes in a Facebook group chat.
UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said the Office of Student Conduct and Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity were notified of the videos and would review the matter.
The Office of Student Conduct handles violations of the student conduct code, which includes a clause about behavior conducted online.
It is unclear if the student conduct code applies to Johnson, who graduated high school this year and is scheduled to be a member of UK’s class of 2024.
The OIEEO handles instances of discrimination and harassment. That office investigates violations of Administrative Regulation 6:1, which prohibits “offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling; physical assaults or threats; intimidation, ridicule or mockery; insults; offensive objects or pictures.”
The OIEEO website says that after the initial report, the office will conduct an investigation that considers the “nature of the alleged conduct and the context in which the alleged conduct occurred.”
Johnson posted an apology video to Twitter on Monday afternoon, tagging UK in the post.
“As I woke up this morning with reflection and understanding of how my conversations have escalated emotions in such an emotional time in this country, I am frustrated with myself,” Johnson said. “I didn’t show up the best that I could have.”
Johnson then addressed the family of Breonna Taylor before concluding the video.
“The details of her death should have not been discussed with such smugness or callous. She was a human who was taken too soon, brutally. I am sorry for hurting you and the community as a whole. I added to the injustice in this community instead of trying to heal it,” said Johnson.
There is no timeline on when the investigation into the videos will be concluded.
Kendall Johnson declined to be interviewed by the Kernel.
Jimmy King did not respond to the Kernel’s request for comment.
The Kernel has reached out to Kenna Mink for comment.