Former Louisville police detective Brett Hankison claimed in a March police interview that the shooter had an AR-15 rifle and he thought fellow officers were “being executed” during the deadly operation at Breonna Taylor’s apartment.
Hankison’s March 23 interview with LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit has come to light as part of the evidence presented to grand jurors reviewing the Breonna Taylor case last month. Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office was ordered by a Jefferson County judge to make the tapes public on Friday.
Lawyers with Cameron’s office presented the case to the grand jury, and played Hankison’s recorded testimony as part of their case. He was interviewed by fellow LMPD officers, and prosecutors couldn’t be heard on the sometimes inaudible grand jury tape addressing his claim that someone shot at police officers with an AR-15.
Walker’s single shot came from a 9mm handgun, the evidence showed.
“What I saw at the time was a figure in a shooting stance. It looked as if he or she was holding an AR-15 or a long gun, a rifle type gun,” Hankison said. “The large muzzle flash looked like a large muzzle flash from a rifle. The loud percussion I got from it. And then the way he was holding the gun, it appeared to be the way he was holding the gun like we would have if we were at the range.”
Hankison said he retreated from Taylor’s apartment after he saw the muzzle flash, and then began shooting into the apartment through a window after he said fellow officer Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly was shot.
“I didn’t know if John was down and they couldn’t get his body out, or he was… all I could hear was the firing, I saw the flashing. I thought they were just being executed,” Hankison said.
“I was almost under the impression at the time that they were either all getting sprayed with bullets or as they were trying to move him out of that breezeway.”
Hankison said he returned fire in the direction of where he saw muzzle flashes in the apartment.
“I now had a shot where I had my own options to return fire and I did that to the muzzle flashes, and I want to be specific about this: I had already seen where the threat was, saw where he was positioned.”
In a radio transmission Hankison made after the raid, played for the grand jury, he repeated the claim that police had encountered rifle fire during the raid.
Hankison’s retelling contradicts the police chief’s assessment when he fired Hankison in June.
In a letter notifying Hankison of the LMPD’s intent to fire him, interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder said that Hankison had “blindly” fired ten rounds into Taylor’s apartment “without supporting facts that your deadly force was directed at a person against whom posed an immediate threat.”
“In fact the ten (10) rounds you fired were into a patio door and window which were covered with material that completely prevented you from verifying any person as an immediate threat or more importantly innocent persons present,” Schroeder wrote.
The grand jury indicted Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment, for firing bullets that landed in an apartment neighboring Taylor’s.
Other officers who fired their weapons were not indicted, and no one has been indicted for killing Taylor.
In the PIU interview, Hankison also describes handcuffing Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, after he called 911 and left the apartment. Hankison says he questioned whether Walker killed Taylor before the raid.
“He said my girlfriend is dead inside the apartment. Immediately my mind was like, ‘Did we come to something that already happened?’ That’s what flickered in my mind. Did he and his girlfriend have a… did he kill the girlfriend prior to us getting there? That’s what I kind of thought in my mind at the time,” Hankison said.
Hankison also said Walker told him Taylor was the one firing at officers.
“He said, ‘No, she was shooting at you with her 9–or her 9 millimeter’–I don’t remember his exact words. I’ll refer to the body cam. But he said she was the one who shot at us and that she was dead in the apartment,” Hankison said.
Jurors can be heard asking questions of investigators and prosecutors about Hankison’s positioning and his understanding of where people were inside of the apartment at the time.
In response, a prosecutor says, “You are hearing several accounts of what happened. And, that’s the challenge here.”