Metro Louisville

Former Louisville Metro Police officer Brett Hankison entered a plea of not guilty in his initial court appearance before a Jefferson County judge Monday afternoon.

The proceeding was conducted via telephone. Hankison was on the call.

Hankison is one of three officers who fired their weapons while participating in the March 13 raid that left Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, dead in her south Jefferson County home. He was fired by the Louisville Metro Police in June.

Hankison was charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, which all stem from him firing his gun into apartments that neighbored Taylor’s, and the only officer indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury for his actions during the fatal raid.

His attorney, Stew Mathews, said before court that Hankison would be pleading not guilty to all three counts “because he is not guilty.”

Brett Hankison, Charged With Wanton Endangerment, Has History Of Misconduct Allegations

Mathews said he has not yet seen the investigative files compiled by law enforcement agencies that led to Hankison’s indictment. He declined to comment when asked if he would seek a plea deal with prosecutors or take the case to a trial.

Hankison’s next court date is October 28. 

Judge Ann Bailey Smith will hear Hankison’s case. She was elected to the Jefferson Circuit Court bench in 2015 after serving as a Jefferson District Court judge, a prosecutor, and a public defender. 

Smith ordered attorneys to file a recording of the grand jury proceedings that led to Hankison’s indictment into the public court filed by Wednesday of this week.

Attorney Barbara Whaley of the Kentucky Attorney General’s office asked the judge for additional time before submitting the recording of the grand jury presentation due to the size of the file, but Smith denied that request.

She also ordered Hankison to not possess any firearms, which was disputed by his attorney, Mathews. He said Hankison had received multiple threats and asked the judge to reconsider allowing Hankison to possess firearms “for self-defense purposes.”

Smith denied the request.

Jefferson Circuit Court

Judge Ann Bailey Smith

Hankison’s indictment followed months of protests in Louisville and across the country calling for his arrest, as well as the arrest of the other two officers who shot into Taylor’s apartment — Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s investigated the case for four months and presented their findings to a Jefferson County grand jury last week. Attorney General Daniel Cameron didn’t directly address whether he asked the grand jury to consider charges against Mattingly and Cosgrove, and said he believed the evidence showed their actions were justified after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at them.

Mattingly was shot during the raid; Walker’s attorney has questioned whether he was struck by Walker’s bullet or friendly fire. Cameron claims the ballistics report ruled out friendly fire.

A crowd gathered in downtown Louisville to listen as a Jefferson Circuit Court Judge read the indictment on Wednesday. Screams, wails and frustration filled the downtown square as it became evident Hankison would be the only officer charged in connection with the deadly raid — and not even because of her shooting death.

In the days that followed, protesters turned out in mass in Louisville in a show of disappointment.

The full investigation into the raid that left Taylor dead is not complete, however. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing “all aspects of the death of Breonna Taylor,” said Timothy Beam, an FBI spokesperson. Notably, the agency is examining how Louisville Metro Police obtained the search warrant that enabled the raid of Taylor’s apartment.

“This work will continue beyond the state charges announced last week,” Beam said. “We are investigating any violation of federal criminal law, which includes potential civil rights violations.” 

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