The only charges to come out of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s investigation into the police killing of Breonna Taylor are three wanton endangerment charges for one of the three officers involved in the shooting.
Former Louisville Metro Police Officer Brett Hankison has been charged with showing “extreme indifference to human life” by shooting into an apartment where three people lived in Taylor’s complex.
Hankison was one of the officers that went to Taylor’s apartment on March 13 to serve a search warrant. Taylor’s boyfriend said he believed they were intruders, so he fired one shot at them, striking Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg.
In returning fire, Hankison shot through Taylor’s sliding glass door and window, Cameron said. Some of those bullets went into a neighboring apartment, endangering the residents who lived there. That is what led the grand jury to charge him with wanton endangerment.
Hankison has turned himself in to the Shelby County Detention Center and made his $15,000 bond. His lawyer said they plan to enter a plea of not guilty once they are given an arraignment date.
Who Is Hankison?
Former LMPD Detective Brett Hankison had issues even when he served as a Lexington police officer from 1992 until 2002, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
When Hankison left Lexington, his supervisor wrote that he “would not recommend him for reemployment at any time in the future,” due to a habit of violating orders, refusing to accept supervision and a generally poor attitude, according to the newspaper.
He started in Louisville in 2003. He rose up through the ranks to become a detective and served on LMPD’s narcotics squad since 2016.
Hankison has been accused in a federal lawsuit of harassing and concocting reasons to repeatedly arrest a man who he knew through his second job as bar security.
After the Taylor case became national news, two women came forward on social media to accuse Hankison of sexual assault. According to the Courier Journal, Hankison was twice reported to LMPD for attempting to trade sex for police favors.
In 2008, he was accused of not arresting a women because she instead gave him oral sex; the woman denied the claim.
In 2015, a parole officer reported that Hankison had made offered to take care of a ticket for a parolee in exchange for sex. She later recanted the allegation.
In both cases, LMPD found no evidence of wrongdoing on Hankison’s part.
Hankison also served as the union representative on Louisville’s Police Merit Board, which hears appeals of officer discipline. He remained on that board until he was terminated in late June.
Hankison is the only officer involved in the Taylor shooting to be fired. He was found to have violated LMPD’s “obedience to rules and regulations” and “use of deadly force” policies when he shot into Taylor’s apartment without a clear line of vision.
Acting police chief Robert Schroeder wrote in the pre-termination letter that “your actions displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life when you wantonly and blindly fired ten (10) rounds into the apartment.”
Schroeder said that he found Hankison’s actions to “a shock to the conscience” that “severely damaged the image of our department we have established with our community.”
He has appealed that termination to the Police Merit Board.
What Is Wanton Endangerment?
The grand jury agreed with Schroeder’s assessment, it seems. He has been indicted on three charges of wanton endangerment for shooting into a neighbor’s apartment while attempting to shoot into Taylor’s apartment.
The officers arrived at Taylor’s apartment in the middle of the night to serve a no-knock warrant — although Cameron said Wednesday that evidence shows they did both knock and announce themselves before entering the apartment.
When Walker shot at the officers, they returned fire. According to Cameron, Mattingly and Detective Miles Cosgrove shot 26 rounds down the hallway where Taylor stood. She was struck six times; once fatally.
Cameron said Hankison fired 10 rounds from outside, through a sliding glass door and a bedroom window. Some of those bullets went through Taylor’s place into a nearby apartment occupied by a couple and their child.
It’s those gunshots into the neighboring apartment that resulted in the wanton endangerment charges announced Wednesday.
Wanton endangerment is a Class D felony that brings one to five years in prison per charge. That means if he’s found guilty, Hankison could face anywhere from three to 15 years in prison.
No one was charged with anything directly related to Taylor’s death. A federal probe is ongoing.
Hankison’s attorney, Stu Matthews, said he believes none of the officers should have been charged at all, and Hankison’s actions are “absolutely defensible.”