The only police officer to face charges over the killing of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky in March 2020 was acquitted on Thursday, after a dramatic trial which saw Taylor’s mother storm out of the court when the former officer broke down in tears on the stand.
Brett Hankison, 45, was on Thursday afternoon found not guilty of three counts of wanton endangerment for firing shots that ripped into a neighboring apartment.
The killing of Taylor loomed over the trial, though prosecutors insisted in opening statements that the case wasn’t about her death or the police decisions that led to the March 13, 2020, raid.
The panel of eight men and four women on the jury heard five days of witness testimony, and delivered its verdict about three hours after it took the case following closing arguments from prosecution and defense attorneys.
‘Justice was done. The verdict was proper and we’re thrilled,’ said defense attorney Stew Mathews, speaking outside the courthouse.
‘He was doing his job as a police officer.’
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, accompanied by and a group of friends and family, left the courthouse without commenting after the verdict.
Hankison was tried for firing shots during the raid that went through a sliding-glass side door and a window of Taylor’s apartment, and into a unit next door, where a couple lived with their five-year-old son.
The raid left Taylor, 26, dead.
The defense never contested the ballistics evidence presented to the court, but said he fired 10 bullets because he thought his fellow officers were ‘being executed.’
Had Hankison been found guilty, he faced one to five years in prison for each charge.
Brett Hankinson, 45, is seen on Wednesday, questioned by his defense attorney. On Thursday the jury in Louisville found him not guilty of wanton endangerment for shooting through the walls
A jury has found ex-Louisville police officer Brett Hankison not guilty on all three counts of felony wanton endangerment in the botched raid that left Breonna Taylor dead. He is pictured speaking his attorney Thursday following his acquittal
Hankison, center, is pictured in court Thursday as he awaits the juries verdict in his wanton endangerment trial. The panel of eight men and four women delivered its verdict about three hours after it took the case following closing arguments
Hankison was tried for firing shots during the raid that went through a sliding-glass side door and a window of Breonna Taylor’s (pictured) apartment and into a unit next door where a couple and small child lived
‘Justice was done. The verdict was proper and we’re thrilled,’ defense attorney Stew Mathews told reporters at the courthouse Thursday. ‘He was doing his job as a police officer’
In the early hours of March 13, 2020, Louisville police officers entered apartment 4 of 3003 Springfield Drive, firing 32 times. Breonna Taylor was shot six times, but only one was determined to be fatal
Hankison did not appear outside the courtroom after the verdict was read, although the defense noted they were pleased with the outcome.
When asked what might have swayed the jury, Mathews replied: I think it was absolutely the fact that he was doing his job as a police officer.
‘The jury felt like you go out and perform your duty and your brother officer gets shot, you got a right to defend yourself. Simple as that.’
Barbara Maines Whaley, the assistant Kentucky Attorney General, told reporters at the courthouse she respected the jury’s verdict but had no further comment.
Mathews did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment. Nor did attorneys for Taylor’s family or her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was with her during the raid.
‘Ms Taylor’s family, she didn’t need to die that night’: Hankison broke down in tears on the stand while giving evidence
Breonna Taylor’s mother stormed out of the court room on Wednesday as Hankison sobbed on the stand while giving evidence.
He outlined the events of the botched no-knock warrant raid, saying officers were told Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was alone in the apartment at the time of the raid. They were trying to arrest him for a drug crime.
Hankison added that he was shocked to learn the 26-year-old woman was in the apartment after the gunfire had broken out.
‘He was supposed to be alone. There wasn’t supposed to be a girl inside,’ Hankison said as he started to cry.
Addressing Palmer and Taylor’s other relatives, a tearful Hankinson said: ‘Ms. Taylor’s family, she didn’t need to die that night.’
The prosecution cut him off. Palmer then stormed out of the courtroom.
Hankison also broke down in tears as he testified that he believed Walker was armed with an AR-15 rifle when he fired at police officers, thinking they were introducers.
Walker was not armed with a rifle but instead fired at officers with a 9mm handgun.
Hankison said that because of the poor visibility, Walker’s pose, and the bright flash of the gun, he believed the officers were being shot at with a rifle.
‘It appeared to me like they’re being executed with this rifle,’ Hankison said, as he started crying once more, recalling the moment Walker shot Sgt. Jon Mattingly in the leg.
When asked how he responded, Hankison said he ran to the side of the house and returned fire through sliding glass doors.
‘I felt helpless that I had a handgun fighting against a rifle,’ he said.
He said that due to the darkness and the fact that the sliding glass doors had blinders on them, he fired his weapon at where he believed Walker was in order to assist his fellow officers.
He said the chaotic shootout, where six stray bullets fired by Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove struck and killed Taylor, lasted between five to ten seconds.
Hankison added that the incident was the first time he ever fired his weapon while in the line of duty since joining the police department in 2003.
Although the former officer fired 10 shots near the side door of the Louisville apartment complex, prosecutors said the bullets also endangered Taylor’s neighbors, including a couple and their unborn child.
Hankison (pictured during his trial Wednesday) called the shooting of Breonna Taylor a ‘tragedy’ that ‘didn’t have to happen’ as he took the stand
Hankison (pictured Wednesday) testified that he believed Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend was armed with a rifle when he fired at police during the chaotic raid at Taylor’s apartment on March 13, 2020
He started to break down in the courtroom as he recalled the hectic shooting that killed Breonna and left a fellow officer injured
Hankison said the incident was the first time he ever fired his weapon while in the line of duty
But in closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutors cast doubt on what Hankison said he saw, challenging whether he could have looked through Taylor’s front door when police broke it open with a battering ram.
Hankison breaks down during testimony
Former Louisville cop Brett Hankison broke down during his testimony Wednesday, telling Breonna Taylor’s family was shocked to learn the 26-year-old woman was in the apartment after the gunfire had broken out.
‘He was supposed to be alone. There wasn’t supposed to be a girl inside,’ Hankison said as he started to cry.
‘Ms. Taylor’s family, she didn’t need to die that night’ he said, addressing her mother, Tamika Palmer, who was in court, before the prosecution cut him off.
He also shared how he believed Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was armed with an AR-15. He was actually armed with a 9mm handgun.
Hankison said that because of the poor visibility, Walker’s pose and the bright flash of the gun, he believed the officers were being shot at with an rifle.
‘It appeared to me like they’re being executed with this rifle,’ Hankison said as he started crying recalling the moment Walker shot Sgt. Jon Mattingly in the leg.
When asked how he responded, Hankison said he ran to the side of the house and returned fire through sliding glass doors.
‘I felt helpless that I had a handgun fighting against a rifle.’
‘He was never in the doorway,’ Assistant Kentucky Attorney General Barbara Maines Whaley told the jury.
Referring to Taylor she added: ‘His wanton conduct could have multiplied her death by three, easily.’
Whaley also reminded the jury that none of the other officers who testified recalled Hankison being in the doorway before the gunfire began.
All the shells from his weapon were found in the parking lot, among a row of cars.
She said while other officers were in the line of fire of a single shot fired by Taylor’s boyfriend, Hankison was ‘over here, shooting wildly through sliding-glass doors covered with vertical blinds and drapes.’
Defense attorney Stewart Mathews told the jury in his closing argument on Thursday that Hankison thought he was doing the right thing, and was not a criminal who belongs in prison.
‘He did what he thought he had to do in that instant. This all happened in such a short span,’ Mathews said.
During his testimony, the former narcotics detective admitted to firing through Taylor’s patio doors and bedroom window, but said he did so to save his fellow officers.
Asked if he did anything wrong that night, he said ‘absolutely not.’
Hankison also explained that officers are trained to get out of tight spots during shootings, known as a ‘fatal funnel,’ in order to secure their safety and put them in a better position to remove a threat.
He denied the possibility that he could have shot fellow officers when he was firing at the location of the gunfire he saw inside the apartment, adding that as the situation calmed, Walker stepped out of the apartment with his hands up.
Hankison instructed him to come closer as he questioned the man about the police shooting.
Hankison claimed Walker denied firing at police and instead blamed Taylor, saying she was the one to fire at the officers.
‘That kind of shook me,’ Hankison said, as he explained that the raid was supposed to take place when Walker was alone, to arrest him on drug trafficking charges.
He also addressed Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer (pictured attending the trial on Tuesday), saying: ‘Ms. Taylor’s family, she didn’t need to die that night’
Hankison (pictured Wednesday) explained that he was at the doorway (beneath the stairs) when the raid began. He quickly ran to the side by the sliding glass doors as the shootout began and he fired at where he believed the gunman was
Defense argued Hankison followed police training during raid that took Breonna Taylor’s life
Defense attorney Stewart Mathews argued Brett Hankison’s shooting was justified during the March 2020 raid that ended in Breonna Taylor’s death.
Once the gunfire began, Hankison ‘was attempting to defend and save the lives of his fellow officers who he thought were still caught in that fatal funnel inside that doorway,’ Mathews told the courtroom last week, recalling the chaotic scene lasting just 10 to 15 seconds from when Taylor’s door was breached to when the shooting stopped.
The lawyer claimed Hankison was doing what ‘he was taught to do – he was taught to shoot until the threat is stopped.’
Hankison echoed his counsel’s claim during his own testimony.
The former officer explained that officers are trained to get out tight spots during shootings, known as a ‘fatal funnel,’ in order to secure their safety and put them in a better position to remove a threat.
When asked by the prosecution if he did anything wrong that night, Hankison said ‘absolutely not.’
Hankison, who was fired by Louisville Metro Police for shooting blindly during the raid, added that the incident was the first time he ever fired his weapon while in the line of duty.
He joined the police department in 2003.
A 20-year veteran K-9 officer assigned to handle a drug-sniffing dog during the raid, Hankison said he was positioned behind an officer with a battering ram, and could see the shadowy silhouette of a person ‘in a shooting stance’ with what looked like an AR-15 rifle as Taylor’s door swung open.
No long gun was found – only the handgun of Walker, who told Louisville Police investigators he thought intruders were breaking in.
Investigators determined Walker fired the shot that passed through the leg of Sgt. John Mattingly, who along with officer Myles Cosgrove, returned fire.
A total of 32 rounds were fired by police. Walker wasn’t hit.
Whaley said other officers next to Cosgrove and Mattingly chose not to fire, and there was no evidence of any shots from a long rifle at the scene.
‘Nobody got shot with an AR because there never was one,’ she said.
Breonna Taylor’s terrified neighbor described how he and his pregnant girlfriend narrowly escaped bullets that came through the drywall of his apartment
Last week, on the trial’s opening day, the first witness, Cody Etherton, described how he and his expectant girlfriend Chelsey Napper were jolted awake that night by the sound of Taylor’s door being breached.
Thinking someone was breaking down his door, Etherton said he jumped out of bed to investigate, and barely dodged bullets that penetrated a wall they shared with Taylor’s apartment.
‘I pretty much knew it was gunfire going through the wall. I do remodeling for a living, so when drywall started hitting my face, I pretty much knew. I hit the floor and went back into the bedroom,’ he said.
‘I don’t even remember how many shots I heard because it was so chaotic.’
Etheron added: ‘Another one or two inches and I woulda gotten shot. I would have never gotten to meet my son.’
He said he went outside after the shooting stopped, looked through Taylor’s open door and heard a man saying ‘breathe, baby, breathe.’
Police then ordered him back into his apartment, but he said he kept watching through his peephole and could see a black man being arrested.
Later, Etherton said he and his girlfriend looked through Taylor’s door, and saw a body covered in a white sheet.
Taylor’s neighbor Cody Etherton described in a court in Louisville last week told the court how he barely dodged bullets during the deadly shootout.
Chelsey Napper, the next door neighbor of Breonna Taylor, holds up an exhibit during questioning from the prosecution Tuesday
Chelsey Napper, who was pregnant at the time, called 911 twice after bullets pierced a wall she shared with Taylor and shattered her apartment’s glass patio door.
‘It was so scary and crazy I didn’t know what was going on,’ Napper testified on Tuesday. She lived in the apartment with her boyfriend and her 5-year-old son.
It ‘sounded like somebody set off a bomb or something’ outside their apartment, she testified.
Napper said she and Etherton were stuck for hours in the apartment and at one point police aimed guns at Etherton when he looked out the shattered glass door.
She said she learned days later that it was the police who shot into their apartment and a battering ram knocking down Taylor’s door that had startled her.
In giving his evidence on Wednesday, Hankison apologized to the couple.
‘I saw Ms Napper and Mr Etherton up here for the first time, and I felt sincere empathy for them,’ he said.
‘If my daughter was shot at and bullets came into our house, that would be very concerning, and I apologize for that.’
Hankison testified during his trial that officers were told Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was alone in the apartment at the time of the raid as they were trying to bust him for a drug crime. Walker and Taylor are pictured together
Taylor’s death was deliberately not the focus of the trial.
Jurors were shown a single image of her body, barely discernible at the end of the hallway.
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician who had been settling down for bed when officers broke through her door, was shot multiple times and died at the scene.
Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron’s prosecutors asked a grand jury to indict Hankison on charges of endangering Taylor’s neighbors, but declined to seek charges against any officers involved in Taylor’s death.
Protesters, who had walked the streets for months calling for justice, were outraged.
Taylor’s name, along with George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery – black men who died in encounters with police and white pursuers – became rallying cries during racial justice protests seen around the world in 2020.
The jury of 10 men and five women was selected after several days of questioning from a pool expanded to about 250 people.
Before deliberations, the jury was reduced to eight men and four women after three alternates were dismissed.
The judge declined to release details about their race or ethnicity.
The city of Louisville, the largest in Kentucky, settled a wrongful death suit with Taylor’s family for $12million in September 2020.
How the botched raid unfolded
Bodycam footage released in October 2020 by Louisville police shows the moment the officers told SWAT team officers they believed Taylor was dead – but said they weren’t ‘rushing in to check’, moments before they cleared her apartment as she lay motionless on the floor.
The videos were included in a trove of investigative documents released by the police department following the controversial grand jury ruling that saw no officers directly charged with Taylor’s death.
The footage shows the moment officers find Taylor without a pulse in the hallway after she was killed in a hail of bullets on March 13, when her boyfriend Kenneth Walker and cops exchanged fire in a drug raid gone wrong.
As the SWAT team prepares to enter the apartment, an officer is heard briefing the squad on the incident and says Taylor was allegedly the one shooting and was ‘down’ inside.
At the time, Walker, who had actually fired at police first, was already in police custody meaning Taylor’s bullet-riddled body was inside the apartment alone.
‘He [Walker] said she’s down in there. He said she’s dead, she’s down – but we weren’t rushing in there to check,’ the cop tells Sergeant Brandon Hogan.
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The footage shows the moment officers find Taylor pulseless in the hallway after she was killed in a hail of bullets on March 13, when her boyfriend Kenneth Walker and cops exchanged fire in a drug raid gone wrong
One of the officers is heard asking, ‘Ma’am, can you hear us?’ to her lifeless body. The team then hovers over Taylor as one of the cops checks her pulse
Members of the team were seen inspecting the rooms of the apartment as a group of cops examined Taylor’s lifeless body
‘We just literally hit the door and there was shooting. We announced, we waited,’ he adds.
The team of officers then make their way inside and survey all the areas of the apartment to ensure it is secure.
The police are seen inspecting the rooms of the home for several minutes while Taylor’s body lies on the floor in the hallway, untouched.
As the officers examine her bedroom, one of the cops tells the team: ‘We still gotta check the bed.’
‘Check her. We’ve gotta check her, make sure she’s good,’ Sergeant Hogan responds, referring to Taylor.
He is then heard asking, ‘Ma’am, can you hear us?’ to her lifeless body. The team then hovers over Taylor as one of the cops checks her pulse.
The officers eventually determine she’s ‘done’ and prepare to head out.
‘Let’s go ahead and move out. Alright, she’s done. We’ll keep one person here on her. She’s done,’ he says.
As the SWAT team prepares to enter the apartment, an officer is heard briefing the squad on the incident and says Taylor was allegedly the one shooting and was ‘down’ inside
At the time, Walker, who had actually fired at police first, was already in police custody meaning Taylor’s bullet-riddled body was inside the apartment (pictured) alone
In an interview with the police department’s Public Integrity Unit months after the shooting, a member of the SWAT team told investigators they refrained from touching Taylor’s body and let the medical unit take care of her.
‘We just kind of pulled security on her meaning we’re just watching her and we know that we have EMS right outside the scene. So rather than us mess with her, we’re not medical professionals in anyway, we called for our temps to come up and then I believe he kind of lifted her up and he checked her pulse and looked to see where her injuries were,’ Sergeant Joel Casse said.
‘And I do remember him saying she had multiple gunshot wounds to the chest. No sign of a pulse and he said: “Yeah, you know, she’s – she’s gone”.’
Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend told police they were ‘scared to the death’ when they heard banging on the door because they thought it was her drug-dealing ex
The new documents also reveal that police insisted that they knocked and announced themselves, but that Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker said that they only heard the knocking, and did not hear police identify themselves.
Walker said the couple was ‘scared to death’ because they feared it was her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend. He opened fire down a hallway as the door was breached, striking one officer in the leg, and cops returned fire, killing Taylor.
The raid unfolded as part of a series of simultaneous raids on multiple locations associated with Taylor’s ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, a suspected drug trafficker.
Breonna Taylor and boyfriend Kenneth Walker were sleeping in their Louisville apartment in the early hours of March 13, when police officers executed a ‘no-knock warrant’ and opened fire
Gouge marks from bullets are seen in Taylor’s home after cops fired 32 rounds
This Glock 9mm was recovered under the bed inside the apartment, where Walker said that he kicked it after opening fire on the search warrant team
Cops believed Taylor’s home was the ‘money house’ where Glover ‘housed the dope,’ the new documents state, but no significant amounts of drugs or money were found there – and investigators later raised questions about the evidence used to tie Glover to Taylor’s home.
Taylor’s name came up in the drug case at least in part because she had posted bail a few times from 2017 to January 2020 for Glover and another defendant, Darreal Forest, in amounts that went as high as $5,000, according to the police files released on Wednesday.
Taylor’s apartment was considered a ‘soft target’ by police conducting the raid, and they believed she was home alone. Walker, a licensed gun owner, was not expected to be there and his relationship with Taylor appears to have been unknown to police.
In the early hours of March 13, Louisville police officers entered apartment 4 of 3003 Springfield Drive, firing 32 times. Breonna Taylor was shot six times, but only one was determined to be fatal
The documents reveal that the cops executing the raid decided to knock and announce themselves, despite having a ‘no-knock’ warrant, because they considered the location to be low-risk.
Walker, believing it was an intruder, shot at the officers, striking Sergeant Jon Mattingly in the leg, prompting them to return fire and kill Taylor in a hail of bullets.
He was charged with attempted murder, however those charges were later dropped.
Walker has maintained that the officers did not identify themselves as police when they arrived at the apartment.
During his interview with investigators from the Public Integrity Unit, he said the couple were awoken after they heard a ‘loud thud.’
He did not mention Glover by name but said he thought it may have been a ‘guy’ Taylor was on and off with.
‘It scared her [Breonna] to death. Me too, like who is that. I was honestly thinkin’ – because we been on and off together for like, seven years, or whatever… there was a guy that she was messin’ with or whatever throughout that time,’ Walker told investigators.
‘And he popped over there once before while I was there like a couple months ago. So that’s what I thought was goin’ on.’
The report notes that Walker’s reference to the ‘guy’ showing up at the apartment months prior corresponds to the same time frame when Glover was spotted at Taylor’s home.
He also told investigators he was a licensed carrier but had never fired his gun ‘outside of a range’.
After hearing the ‘loud boom at the door’, Walker said he asked who was there and did not get a response.
He said Breonna then tried asking by screaming, ‘who is it?’ “Loud at the top of her lungs”‘, but they still did not get an answer.
Walker then described walking over to the breached door and firing one gun shot.
Police photos and video reveal Taylor’s bullet-riddled apartment in the aftermath of the fatal raid
Included in Wednesday’s document dump were photos and videos that show the aftermath of the raid that left Taylor dead.
Investigators say that police fired 32 rounds during the raid, based on a review of the bullets remaining in the magazines of the four officers who fired.
Photos also show a shattered sliding door, displaying the evidence of the alleged wild shots fired through that door by Detective Brett Hankinson
An evidence marking shows where a bullet penetrated a pantry inside the apartment
A discarded battering ram is seen outside of Taylor’s apartment following the March 13 raid
Walker claimed he only fired once as a ‘warning shot’ towards the ground, but this could not be confirmed by a review of his Glock 9mm’s magazine, which only had a few rounds remaining.
He told investigators that he had previously used the gun at a firing range and left the magazine partially empty.
Photos from the scene show the bullet-riddled aftermath inside the apartment, with bullet holes in the walls and shell casings strewn inside and outside the front door.
Photos also show a shattered sliding door, displaying the evidence of the alleged wild shots fired through that door by Detective Brett Hankinson, who was fired from the LMPD in June and charged with wanton endangerment last month.
A termination memo released on Wednesday accused Hankinson of ‘blindly firing’ 10 rounds through the sliding glass door without being able to see who was on the other side.
Three of those rounds went though the rear wall of Taylor’s apartment into the neighboring unit, which was occupied, resulting in the wanton endangerment charges against Hankinson.
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