Brett Hankison found not guilty of wanton endangerment during Breonna Taylor raid
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The sole Louisville Metro Police Department officer criminally charged after the drug raid that left Breonna Taylor dead on March 13, 2020 will walk free.
A jury found Brett Hankison not guilty of three counts of wanton endangerment after a three-hour deliberation, removing the possibility of a maximum sentence of 15 years. The former LMPD detective’s charges did not directly relate to Taylor’s death, but rather to shooting into Taylor’s apartment and into the adjacent unit, which was occupied by a couple and their young child.
Taylor was killed in the shooting between the officers and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who told investigators he opened fire first because he thought the officers were intruders.
Hankison explained details of the raid to jurors on Wednesday, breaking down in tears at times as he claimed he did no wrong that night while defending the lives of his fellow officers.
During closing arguments Thursday morning, the lawyers made their final pitches to the jurors on how they should interpret the law. According to the judge, wanton endangerment requires the jury to find Hankison’s actions demonstrated extreme disregard for human life. Hankison’s attorney argued the jurors should consider what Hankison told them, that he was shooting at the muzzle flashes he mistook for the execution of his fellow officers.
“He did what he had to do that day,” Stewart Mathews, Hankison’s attorney, said. “The fact that his bullets traveled through apartment four, through the drywall common, into apartment three is a terrible thing, but its not criminal.”
The prosecution team with the Kentucky attorney general’s office argued that evidence showed Hankison was a 20-year officer who fired erratically and could have killed any of the three people living in the apartment next door.
“One tragic death, Breonna Taylor — his wanton conduct could have multiplied her death by three,” Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley said.
After hearing instructions and closing arguments in the morning, the jury began deliberations shortly before noon. There were no questions directed to the judge during deliberations, and the jury returned promptly at 3 p.m. to read the verdicts.
As the verdicts were read, there were no outbursts in the courtroom. Taylor’s family, who were present, immediately left and told WAVE News that they did not want to comment.
Following the announcement of Hankison’s innocence, former LMPD Det. John Mattingly, who was shot during the raid, tweeted, “Not guilty! Jesus, thank you!” Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove were the other two former officers who fired their weapons during the raid. They did not testify in Hankison’s trial after pleading their Fifth Amendment rights.
The officers were not wearing body cameras during the raid.
On May 28, 2020, droves of people took to the streets in Louisville to demand justice for Taylor, and more demonstrations, marches, and protests followed for weeks, then months, resulting in hundreds of arrests and pockets of violence and rioting.
Hankison was fired from LMPD in June 2020, three months after the raid, and was indicted by a grand jury in September 2020 for “blindly” firing 10 rounds from outside of Taylor’s apartment.
This story will be updated.
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