Day 6: Brett Hankison testifies in federal trial
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On day six of the Brett Hankison trial, Hankison took to the stand to testify.
Hankison is facing federal civil rights charges for the role he played in the raid of Breonna Taylor’s apartment in March 2020.
The first witness called on Thursday was Aaron Sarpee, who was at the apartment complex at the time of the raid. In the past, Sarpee has gone on record saying he heard police officers announce themselves. On Thursday, he claimed otherwise.
Sarpee, a veteran of the U.S. Army, said he heard gunshots and that he was “shaken”. The prosecution tried to argue the gunshots triggered some kind of emotional response.
Next to the stand was John Mattingly, the officer shot by Kenneth Walker during the raid. The defense asked about Mattingly’s relationship with Hankison. Mattingly qualified Hankison as a “work friend”.
Mattingly followed by re-telling his side of the story. He said multiple times officers yelled “police search warrant” outside the apartment.
From the time he was shot to the end of the gunfire, was about 12 seconds, Mattingly said.
During cross-examination, Mattingly told the prosecution he didn’t want to see Hankison get “railroaded”.
Mattingly described the shooting toward the flash he saw from Kenneth Walker’s gun, but not being able to see much else other than two figures in the hallway. He said he remembers hearing gunshots from the parking lot.
The prosecutor asked if officers are trained to shoot blindly, and Mattingly said it varies. Training in the academy was, “do whatever it takes to get home to your families,” Mattingly said.
The prosecutor asked if the reason Mattingly didn’t shoot back after getting shot was because he couldn’t see where the shooter was. “That’s part of it,” he said.
In a redirect from defense, Mattingly said he didn’t see Hankison in the parking lot.
During his testimony, Hankison was asked about his training in the academy. He said, “you have to be able to articulate” why you fire your weapon, and why your target was a threat.
Hankison explained to the jury what a no-knock warrant is, saying police can ask for the no-knock exception if the execution of the warrant presents a danger to officers. He said that even though they were granted a no-knock warrant, they were told by a commanding officer to knock and announce.
Hankison said he doesn’t remember hearing the name Breonna Taylor during the briefing before the raid, and that that is normal during that kind of briefing. He said he never saw an officer shining a flashlight into or near any windows, and that that wouldn’t make sense in a narcotics raid.
Hankison said they knocked on the door at Taylor’s apartment, calling it a “normal knock,” adding that they were told a heavy-set woman lived there and could take some time to get to the door. The knocking got “dramatically louder,” and a neighbor came out, agitated, he said.
Police told the neighbor to go back inside. He said the knocking lasted about 45 seconds before the door was broken down.
“Longest I’ve ever waited for a search warrant,” he said.
Hankison said he was in a vestibule outside the apartment when the door was breached. The doors open to complete darkness, Hankison said. That’s when he said he saw a flash coming from an AR-15 in the dark.
The muzzle flash lights up the hallway and Hankison said he saw a large silhouette.
Hankison said he never made his way all the way into the apartment and decided he couldn’t move further. He said he identified a threat and immediately ran out the way they came. Hankison said he headed back out where he could get a shot to “return fire”.
Hankison became emotional during the testimony.
He said that’s when he heard Sgt. Mattingly say he was shot and then heard additional gunfire. Hankison said it sounded like “regular gunfire” and different shooters “exchanging” gunfire before the gunfire intensified. Again in tears, he says he felt his officers were “trapped.”
He said he saw the muzzle flash inside the window and knew the shooter had moved up, as gunshots got louder. He said he thought Walker was executing them.
“I had to react,” Hankison said. H recalled firing his weapon five times through the sliding glass door. Some shots he said went through the bedroom window.
“It’s hard to explain the helplessness I felt,” he said. “I felt the fun in my hand was useless.” All the shooting lasted up to 10 seconds, he said. “I didn’t have time to think about policy. People were going to die.”
“Come with long guns,” Hankison described calling for help on the radio as Mattingly was being triaged nearby.
Hankison told the defense attorney he did not know if there was another apartment behind the one he was shooting into. He says Walker told him his girlfriend shot Mattingly and was dead inside.
Hankison says he then went to the hospital to see Mattingly, before heading to PIU, responsible for investigating officer actions.
“Horrible,” Hankison describes how he feels about that night. Being in a place they “shouldn’t have been in the first place.”
Hankison says he would have done the same thing if it happened again, saying he was trying to save lives.
During cross-examination from the United States, the prosecution used pictures of the whiteboard from the briefing room from before the raid, pointing out there are five targets listed on the board, none of them are Breonna Taylor or Kenneth Walker.
Hankison says there were no signs anyone was awake inside the apartment, no light, no noises.
The prosecution asked Hankison about the use of deadly force and asked if in his training, he was ever told to shoot at “flashes of light.”
Hankison said it’s not part of the training.
Cross-examination will continue Monday.
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