Mayor Greg Fischer announced Friday morning that Brett Hankison is getting fired after the chief found he “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he shot 10 rounds in Breonna Taylor’s apartment.
Hankison was one of three officers who has been on paid administrative leave since the March 13 shooting, when Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot and killed by plainclothes LMPD officers while they were executing a search warrant.
Until Friday, city officials have said action couldn’t be taken against the officers who killed Breonna Taylor until investigations were complete. But on Friday, Fischer said interim chief Robert Schroeder is initiating termination proceedings.
Fischer said he and the chief couldn’t discuss the decision. But the LMPD immediately released the pre-termination letter Schroeder sent to Hankison Friday, saying he was being terminated for blindly fired 10 rounds in Taylor’s apartment, creating a “substantial danger of death and serious injury” to Taylor and her neighbors. The letter doesn’t directly address whether any of Hankison’s gunshots hit Taylor.
Hankison’s conduct “has severely damaged the image of our department we have established with our community,” Schroeder wrote in the letter.
Sam Aguiar, one of the Taylor family’s lawyers, told WDRB “it’s about time.”
“I hope to God he’s never back working our streets again,” Aguiar told WDRB.
Sam Aguiar, an attorney for #BreonnaTayor's family, on the firing of Hankison: "It's about time and this is the poster child of the dirtiest of dirty cops and the most dangerous of dangerous cops. I hope to God he's never back to working our streets again."
— Jason Riley (@JasonRileyWDRB) June 19, 2020
Hankison was one of three officers who served the warrant at Taylor’s house and one of at least two who fired weapons. No announcements were made about the other two officers, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove, who are still on administrative paid leave.
Mattingly was shot in the leg by a bullet fired by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Walker was initially charged with attempted murder and assault, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine announced in late May he was dropping the charges, pending further investigation by the FBI and Kentucky Attorney General’s office.
Fischer Said He Can’t Talk About Firing
Fischer blamed state law in saying he couldn’t elaborate or take any questions from the media during the briefing, which lasted less than a minute.
“Both the chief and I are precluded from talking about what brought us to that moment,” Fischer said.
He referred questions about that to county attorney Mike O’Connell. O’Connell’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The law Fischer cited states that, when a police officer has been charged with violating departmental rules or regulations, “no public statements shall be made concerning the alleged violation by any person or persons of the consolidated local government or the police officer so charged, until final disposition of the charges.”
What Happens Next?
In the letter to Hankison, Schoeder said he received the file from the Public Integrity Unit’s investigation on June 16 and found that he violated procedures governing obedience to rules and regulations and use of deadly force. According to the letter, Hankison fired into a covered area, where he couldn’t have verified whether anyone was an innocent person present or even posted a threat.
Hankison will be given the opportunity to meet with the chief, along with a union representative or lawyer, and provide any additional information or mitigating factors, the letter said. The date and time of that meeting are redacted.
Ryan Nichols, the president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police, declined to comment on Hankison’s termination. He said he was unaware of the chief’s decision until his saw it on the news.
Under state law, Hankison is allowed to appeal his firing. He has a 10-day window to submit a written notice to the police chief and the Louisville Metro Police Merit Board of his intention to appeal any disciplinary action taken against him. He also has the right to have an attorney present for the hearing, and to present evidence and confront any accusers.
The merit board can overturn disciplinary actions handed down by the police chief. Hankison himself was an elected representative for the FOP on the merit board, a role Fischer recently called on the FOP to terminate.
The board’s rulings can be appealed to the Circuit Court within thirty days.
Meanwhile, the FBI and the Kentucky Attorney General’s office are still investigating the events that led to Taylor’s death. On Friday, the FBI was at Taylor’s apartment on Springfield Drive “conducting judicially authorized activity.”
— FBI Louisville (@FBILouisville) June 19, 2020
This story has been updated. Jacob Ryan contributed to this report.