Brett Hankison was acquitted of all three counts of felony wanton endangerment in the botched raid that killed Breonna Taylor on Thursday.
The only officer charged in connection with the March 2020 shooting was a former Louisville Metro Police Department detective, but the charges were not for her death.
Hankison, 45, was charged with shooting bullets through Taylor’s window and sliding glass door, which entered a neighboring apartment occupied by three people. The defense argued that Hankison acted in a chaotic situation to defend his fellow officers, including one who had been shot.
Taylor’s mother and sister were in the courtroom when the verdict was read. There was no audible reaction in the room, but some audience members wiped their eyes. Stewart Mathews, Hankison’s attorney, stated that his client was doing his job during the shooting.
“Justice was served. The decision was correct, and we are overjoyed “said Mathews. Hankison exited the courthouse without passing by the reporters’ microphones.
Prosecutors said they respected the verdict, which came after three hours of deliberation, but declined to speak to the media further.
Hankison faced one to five years in prison for each charge if convicted.
The charges stem from a botched raid in which Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, was fatally shot in her own home. Her death, along with the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, sparked widespread protests about how the legal system treats Black citizens, as well as specific criticisms about the dangers of no-knock warrants.
Prosecutors called 26 witnesses in court over the course of five days to argue that Hankison fired blindly into a window from outside the apartment in a direction perpendicular to where the shot originated. According to prosecutors, his gunfire went through Taylor’s apartment, endangering a man, a pregnant woman, and her 5-year-old son who lived next door.
“Another inch or two and I’d have been shot,” neighbor Cody Etherton testified.
During her closing arguments, Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley stated that other officers in the group, other than Mattingly and Cosgrove, who were in the line of fire, made the correct decision not to shoot. She claimed Hankison was shooting “without a target” and thus shouldn’t be firing.
“His heinous behavior could easily have multiplied one tragic death, (that of) Breonna Taylor… by three,” Whaley said.
Jurors heard a nearly hour-long taped interview with an investigator that the former officer gave on March 25, 2020, in which he described officers as “sitting ducks.”
The incident began on March 12, 2020, when a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge approved five search warrants for locations linked to Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, as part of a narcotics investigation.
The next morning, Hankison, Mattingly, and Cosgrove served a warrant at Taylor’s house and rammed in the front door, startling Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker III.
When the officers broke through the door, Walker grabbed a gun he legally owned and fired a shot, striking Mattingly in the leg. This elicited a barrage of fire from the officers, including Hankison.
Taylor was shot multiple times while standing in a hallway with Walker. Walker was not hurt.
Walker was charged with attempted murder of a police officer and first-degree assault at first, but prosecutors later dropped the charges.
Frederick Moore III, one of Walker’s attorneys, criticized the Hankison verdict on Thursday. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced in September that Cosgrove and Mattingly would not face charges, claiming that their use of force was justified because they were shot first.
Following Hankison’s acquittal, the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) issued the following statement: “The events of March 13, 2020 remain painful for many, and LMPD has prioritized rebuilding trust with the communities we serve since then. LMPD respects the judicial process and recognizes that there may be additional proceedings in this case, so no further comment will be provided at this time.”