Ex-officer Brett Hankison was found not guilty of endangering Breonna Taylor's neighbors in a botched raid
The former Louisville Metro Police Department detective was the only officer charged in connection with the March 2020 shooting, but the charges were not for her death.
Hankison, 45, was tried for firing bullets through Taylor's window and sliding glass door that went into a neighboring apartment where three people were present. The defense argued that Hankison acted to defend his fellow officers -- including one who had been shot -- in a chaotic situation.
Taylor's mother and sister were among those in the court for the verdict. There was no audible reaction in the room, however, some spectators wiped their eyes.
Hankison's attorney Stewart Mathews said his client was doing his job during the shooting.
"Justice was done. The verdict was proper and we are thrilled," Mathews said. Hankison left the courthouse without passing by the microphones set up by reporters.
Prosecutors said they respected the verdict -- delivered after three hours of deliberation -- but declined to speak further to the media.
Had he been convicted, Hankison faced one to five years in prison for each charge.
The charges stemmed from the botched raid in which police fatally shot Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, in her own home. Combined with the killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, her death set off widespread protests about how the legal system treats Black citizens as well as particular criticisms about the dangers of no-knock warrants.
In court, prosecutors called 26 witnesses over five days as they argued that Hankison shot blindly into a window from outside the apartment in a direction perpendicular to where the shot originated. His gunfire went through Taylor's apartment and endangered a man, a pregnant woman and her 5-year-old son who lived next door, prosecutors said.
"One or two more inches and I would have been shot," testified neighbor Cody Etherton.
Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley said during her closing arguments that other officers in the group -- other than Mattingly and Cosgrove, who were in the line of fire -- correctly chose not to shoot. She argued Hankison was shooting "with no target" and therefore shouldn't be firing.
"His wanton conduct could have multiplied one tragic death, (that of) Breonna Taylor ... by three, easily," Whaley said.
Jurors heard a nearly hourlong taped interview the former officer gave an investigator on March 25, 2020, in which he described officers as "sitting ducks."
On the stand Wednesday, Hankison denied any wrongdoing but expressed remorse for how the raid went down.
He said he felt "horrible" when he learned that his bullets had gone through Taylor's apartment and into the neighboring home. He also testified he felt empathy for the neighbor, and then spoke to Taylor's family.
"Ms. Taylor's family, she didn't need to die that night --" Hankison said, before he was cut off by an objection. The words caused some members of the public sitting in the gallery to gasp and sob.
Hankison said he did not realize at the time that there was another apartment positioned directly behind Taylor's.
Two other officers who were part of the botched raid, former Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and former Detective Myles Cosgrove, asserted their Fifth Amendment rights not to testify. They were not charged in the case but could be in an ongoing federal investigation.
How we got here
The incident began on March 12, 2020, when as part of a narcotics investigation, a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge approved five search warrants for locations linked to Taylor's ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, including at Taylor's home.
Early the next morning, Hankison, Mattingly and Cosgrove carried out a warrant at her home and rammed in the front door, startling Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker III.
Thinking they were intruders, Walker grabbed a gun he legally owned and fired a shot when the officers broke through the door, hitting Mattingly in the leg. That triggered a volley of fire from the officers, including Hankison.
Taylor, who was standing in a hallway with Walker, was shot multiple times. Walker was not injured.
"Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend," Walker said in a 911 call.
Walker was at first charged with attempted murder of a police officer and first-degree assault but prosecutors later decided to drop the charges.
In September, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that Cosgrove and Mattingly would not face charges, saying their use of force was justified because they were shot at first.
FBI ballistic tests determined a bullet from Cosgrove's gun killed Taylor, according to Cameron.
None of the officers still work for the police department. Hankison was fired in late June 2020, Cosgrove was fired in January 2021, and Mattingly retired in April 2021.
In June 2020, the Louisville Metro Council unanimously passed an ordinance called "Breonna's Law," banning no-knock search warrants. The city of Louisville also agreed to pay Taylor's family $12 million as part of a settlement.
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