One of the officers involved in the tragic police raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment was charged with endangering three of her neighbours by shooting rounds into their house during the bungled operation. On Thursday, the officer was found not guilty of endangering the three neighbours.
After deliberate for about three hours, jurors found the former officer, Brett Hankison, not guilty on all three charges of wanton endangerment despite the fact that his rounds did not hit anybody.
Mr. Hankison, a longtime detective for the Louisville Police Department in Kentucky, testified that he had taken part in as many as 1,000 raids during his police career, but that he had never fired his gun while on duty until the raid in March 2020, during which another officer fatally shot Ms. Taylor. Mr. Hankison was one of the officers who testified that he had never fired his gun while on duty until the raid in March 2020, during which another officer fatally shot Ms. Taylor.
This was among a series of police murders, including the death of Ms. Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who worked as an emergency department technician, that sparked a wave of demonstrations around the nation in 2020. They were especially persistent in Louisville, where demonstrators held a sit-in for more than 100 days in an ultimately futile attempt to convince the Kentucky attorney general to pursue charges against the cops who shot Ms Taylor, despite the fact that they were eventually unsuccessful.
Following Thursday’s decision, a spokeswoman for the agency said that the bureau was continuing to work with the Justice Department “to assess if any federal charges are merited,” according to the Associated Press.
The decision, according to Ben Crump, a lawyer for Ms. Taylor’s mother, is the latest indication that police officers may murder without facing any penalties.
“No-knock” warrants, which enable police to enter a property without first knocking, were asked for by Mr. Taylor, whose case included a judge who first approved a no-knock warrant, but whose instructions were subsequently altered to demand that officers knock and identify themselves.
A lawyer representing the neighbours whose apartment was targeted by Mr. Hankison’s gunshots, Jeff Sexton, also decried the jury’s decision, calling it a “knee-jerk, emotional judgement.” Mr. Hankison was found not guilty. He said that in three hours, they would not have been able to thoroughly analyse the evidence.
“There’s no way the jury approves of an officer shooting recklessly into the side of an apartment building after midnight,” he said if the case had been given more careful study.
In order to hunt for proof that her former partner had been dealing narcotics, the police obtained a warrant to raid Ms. Taylor’s apartment. However, the warrant was based on inadequate monitoring, and detectives assumed that Ms. Taylor would be alone at the time of the raid. Instead, she was fast sleeping in her bed with her current lover, Kenneth Walker, who she had met online.
Attorney General’s Office, which was in charge of Mr. Hankison’s prosecution, decided not to file any criminal charges against either of the officers who fired the shots that injured Ms. Taylor: Detective Myles Cosgrove and Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly. Mr. Cosgrove, who the F.B.I. said fired the fatal shot, was subsequently dismissed from the department, as did a detective who had worked on the search warrant that led to the discovery of the body. Mr. Mattingly, the officer who was shot by Mr. Walker, resigned from the force last year.
A small group of approximately 50 protestors gathered in Jefferson Square Park, which will serve as the focal point of the city’s protest movement in 2020, only hours after Mr. Hankison was acquitted. Before marching through downtown yelling “We won’t let this go,” the group’s leaders emphasised their displeasure, claiming that the system unjustly favours police officers.
The lawyer for Mr. Hankison attempted to transfer culpability for what transpired partially to Mr. Walker, whom Mr. Mathews characterised as the “common denominator” of the case since he shot at the cops as they entered the apartment, during the final arguments on Thursday.
He “did what he believed he had to do in that minute,” according to the lawyer, as a result of the situation. Mr. Mathews said once again that Mr. Hankison was unaware that there was another flat behind Ms. Taylor’s that his shots may have reached if they had known. He said that if Mr. Hankison was not aware of the danger, jurors would be unable to convict him.
It was necessary for jurors to find that Mr. Hankison had “wantonly” done something that placed his neighbours in a substantial danger of death or serious injury, and that he had done so with “extreme indifference to the value of human life” in order for him to be convicted of the felony crime of “wanton endangerment.”
During the prosecution’s closing statement, Barbara Whaley, an assistant attorney general, emphasised on the dread that Ms. Napper and her family experienced while sheltering in the apartment, according to the prosecution. She said that since the front door of the apartment behind Ms. Taylor’s was practically next to hers, it would have been “clear” to Mr. Hankison that there was another apartment behind hers.