Kentucky Politics

The grand jury in the Breonna Taylor case has indicted former Officer Brett Hankison with three counts of wanton endangerment, which are Class D felonies. All of the counts are for “extreme indifference to human life” when he fired his gun into a neighboring apartment. None of the counts are for firing into Taylor’s apartment, or directly linked to her death.

The grand jury presented its findings before Judge Annie O’Connell, and the hearing was broadcast remotely. Hankison was booked into the Shelby County Jail and released Wednesday afternoon. His attorney said they are awaiting information about arraignment, where Hankison will enter a plea of not guilty.

Courtesy of Shelby County Detention Center

A mugshot of LMPD Officer Brett Hankison

Grand juries do not determine guilt or innocence; only whether there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges. Typically, they hear only from the police and prosecutors to make that determination.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron held a press conference shortly after the grand jury’s announcement Wednesday afternoon.

At the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort, Cameron said his office’s job was to examine the facts, and the actions of the three officers who fired their weapons in Taylor’s apartment.

The task, Cameron said, was not to decide whether the loss of Taylor’s life “was a tragedy. the answer to that is unequivocally yes.”

He said his office’s investigation was narrow: they determined potential civil rights violations would best be investigated by federal authorities, and potential criminal violations should be examined by a state-led investigation.

Cameron said his investigation focused on the events that took place in Taylor’s apartment on March 13.

Cameron said he spoke to Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, before the announcement to share the news with her.  

The family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, shared a statement on Twitter calling it “outrageous and offensive” that none of the charges were connected to Taylor’s death.

Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police officers during a middle-of-the night raid on her apartment on March 13. Three officers fired their weapons: Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, Officer Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison.

The grand jury did not indicate they considered charges against Cosgrove or Mattingly.

In a statement, Mattingly’s attorney Kent Wicker said the grand jury’s decision showed “the system worked.”

“The death of Breonna Taylor is a tragedy,” Wicker wrote. “But these officers did not act in a reckless or unprofessional manner. They did their duty, performed their roles as law enforcement officers and, above all, did not break the law.”

Though Taylor wasn’t the main target, police had obtained a “no-knock” warrant for her apartment based on her connections to an alleged drug dealer. The 26-year-old emergency room technician was home with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, that night. When plainclothes police arrived, they did knock on the door, but whether they identified themselves as law enforcement officers is disputed.

As police broke the door down, Walker, a licensed gun owner, fired a shot and hit one of the officers in the leg. Three officers responded with gunfire, hitting Taylor five times and killing her.

In the aftermath of Taylor’s death, people have protested in Louisville for more than 100 days, calling for the three officers involved in Taylor’s death to be fired and charged with murder. Hankison — was fired in June for his role in the shooting. At the time, interim police chief Robert Schroeder said that Hankison’s actions “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly fired ten (10) rounds into the apartment of Breonna Taylor on March 13, 2020.” Hankison has since appealed that decision.

Attorneys for Taylor’s family and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a settlement last week in the civil case stemming from her death. Under the agreement, the city will pay $12 million and make several changes to police policies. But at the announcement, Taylor’s mother and her lawyers were clear: the civil settlement is a first step, but criminal consequences for the officers involved in the raid are necessary, too.

Cameron’s office was tasked with reviewing the Louisville Metro Police Department’s internal investigation into Taylor’s killing; this would have typically fallen to Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine, but Wine recused himself from the case because at the time he was prosecuting Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Those charges have since been dismissed.

The FBI is also investigating potential civil rights violations linked to the process and policies that led to the raid at Taylor’s apartment. The results of that investigation are not yet public.

Protests Expected

In preparation for today’s announcement, Louisville police have limited access to downtown and officials have closed federal buildings. Mayor Greg Fischer announced a 9 p.m. curfew countywide, and the National Guard has been activated.

Before the announcement, people were gathering downtown at Jefferson Square for direct action training.

Once the grand jury announced only Hankison was being indicted, protests began to ramp up in downtown Louisville. Reporter Jared Bennett noted protesters were disappointed and angry with the news.

Fischer and interim LMPD Chief Robert Schroeder made a plea earlier today for protests to stay lawful and peaceful.

This post has been updated.

Correction: Brett Hankison was indicted for endangering three people when his bullet traveled into one other apartment. The number of apartments was incorrect in a previous version.