Brett Hankison delivers tearful testimony in trial, says Breonna Taylor ‘didn’t need to die’

Former Louisville Metro Police Department Officer Brett Hankison testified in Jefferson County Circuit Court on Wednesday as he stands trial for three counts of
Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 11:37 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2022 at 12:18 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Former Louisville Metro Police Department Officer Brett Hankison testified in Jefferson County Circuit Court on Wednesday as he stands trial for three counts of wanton endangerment in connection to the LMPD drug raid that left Breonna Taylor dead in March 2020.

His charges are not directly connected to Taylor’s death, but instead his firing through Taylor’s apartment and into the neighboring unit, where a couple and their young child were. The neighbors were not injured but Taylor was killed in the shootout between the officers and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who told investigators he fired the first shot because he believed the officers were home intruders.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: The Breonna Taylor case

Hankison walked jurors through the details of the night of the raid, at times becoming emotional.

He said he did nothing wrong that night as he attempted to defend the lives of his fellow officers.

Hankison described to jurors what he heard, how it felt, and what he saw when a muzzle flash lit the dark hallway of Breonna Taylor’s apartment.

“I could see a subject and I could not tell if it was a male or a female in a shooting stance,” Hankison said.

Choking back tears, Hankison described what happened next.

“I knew Sergeant Mattingly was down, and I knew they were trying to get to him, and it appeared to me they were being executed with this rifle,” Hankison said.

Hankison ran from the doorway and shot through the side patio door, as well as a bedroom window of Breonna Taylor’s apartment, toward the muzzle flashes.

Three of his shots entered the neighbors’ apartment. There was no evidence of a rifle at the scene.

While looking at a picture of the breezeway, the prosecutor pointed out to jurors Hankison didn’t shoot toward the muzzle flashes when he saw them through the front door.

“You knew you had to respond, but you didn’t respond while seeing the direct threat right in front of you, the active threat,” prosecutor Barbara Whaley said.

“Like I said, I didn’t respond because we were in that funnel,” Hankison said.

Hankison testified he did nothing wrong, but apologized to the family in the apartment next door.

“I saw Ms. Napper and Mr. Etherton here for the first time and I felt sincere empathy for them,” Hankison said of Taylor’s neighbors, whose apartment his bullets pierced. “That was something — if my daughter was shot at or if bullets came into our house, that would be very concerning and I apologize to her for that.”

Hankison also began to apologize to Taylor’s family before he was objected to. Taylor’s mother was once again in the courtroom.

“She didn’t need to die that night,” he said.

WAVE’s legal analyst, Leland Hulbert said putting Hankison on the stand was a calculated risk by the defense, and it could have a major impact on the verdict.

“When a defendant testifies in a criminal trial, it’s I think 90% or more about his believability,” Hulbert said. “Does the jury believe he’s telling the truth? The prosecutors, their cross examination of Mr. Hankison will be critical in his believability, because if he answered questions truthfully and the jury believes he’s being truthful, I think it’s more likely they will favor him,” he added.

The defense now can call witnesses; the prosecution rested its case yesterday.

The other two officers who fired their weapons during the raid, Myles Cosgrove and John Mattingly, will not be testifying in Hankison’s trial. They have pleaded their Fifth Amendment rights.

The jury will be given instructions and hear closing arguments Thursday.

Hankison faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on all three counts.

Watch Hankison’s testimony below.

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