Investigations

A lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses former Louisville Metro Police Detective Brett Hankison of violent sexual assault, and claims the department knew about his behavior and did nothing to prevent it.

Hankison is the only LMPD officer facing charges from the Breonna Taylor grand jury. This summer, as protests grew over LMPD officers shooting and killing Taylor, two women said on social media that Hankison had sexually assaulted them.

One of those women, Margo Borders, filed the lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court. She alleges that Hankison “willfully, intentionally, painfully and violently sexually assaulted” her while she was passed out drunk in April 2018. Borders alleges that after the assault, her mattress and sheets were covered in blood, but Hankison tried to convince her the sex was consensual.

“Margo was physically injured, mentally horrified and remained in extreme emotional duress over both the assault and the feeling that any efforts made to hold Officer Hankison accountable for his actions would backfire,” wrote Sam Aguiar, Borders’ attorney, in the complaint.

Aguiar also represented Taylor’s family in their lawsuit against the city, which settled for a record $12 million.

A spokesperson for LMPD declined to comment on the pending litigation. Hankison’s lawyer did not immediately respond to request for comment. Dakota Clemens, an assistant manager at Tin Roof, declined to comment.

Borders is seeking a trial to obtain damages on several counts. The lawsuit accuses Hankison of assault and battery; former LMPD Chief Steve Conrad and five other named officers of failing to report and intervene; and Conrad of negligent supervision. Tin Roof, a St. Matthews bar where Hankison worked as security, is also named as a defendant for negligent supervision and vicarious liability.

Aguiar said he and his client want to know “why LMPD tolerated this conduct.”

He hopes Hankison’s fellow officers and Conrad will testify and, in the end, they’ll uncover information to enlighten the public and hold the agency accountable.

“Why does this problem keep being so pervasive within the department?” he asked. “Why in the world was Brett Hankison allowed to keep wearing a uniform and keep wearing a badge after years of misconduct?”

The lawsuit also details what it calls “eerily similar” experiences from nine other unnamed women.

According to the complaint, Hankison used his second job as bar security at Tin Roof and and the authority of his police badge to convince drunk women to let him give them rides home, the lawsuit alleges. Then, he would grope them, sexually assault them, take and share inappropriate photos of them, or get their phone number and send them explicit photos and videos, the lawsuit claims.

Borders did not report her allegations about Hankison to LMPD. The lawsuit says that some of the other women did, and their claims were not investigated. Borders is the only plaintiff.

Some of Hankison’s supervisors and at least one his peers knew about his conduct but did not intervene, the lawsuit alleges.

Hankison was formally investigated for sexual misconduct twice. Both times he was exonerated by LMPD’s internal affairs unit. He was fired in June, and charged by a grand jury in September with wanton endangerment for shots fired into Breonna Taylor’s neighbor’s apartment.

“Conrad’s tenure [at] Louisville Metro Police Department was riddled with officer sexual assault allegations which were neglected, ignored, concealed and not properly investigated,” Aguiar argues in the filing.

Conrad was fired in early June amid protests over Taylor’s death, and following the shooting death of David McAtee.

The lawsuit also references the Explorer scandal, in which several members of the program for youth interested in law enforcement accused their LMPD supervisors of sexual abuse, and several rape allegations against LMPD officers, including Pablo Cano, who pled guilty to five counts of sexual misconduct in October 2019.

Eleanor Klibanoff is a reporter with the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.