Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves the officer who killed Breonna Taylor during a no-Knock warrant in 2020.
Bret Hankinson, The only officer to be charged for his actions during the fatal police raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment was found not guilty on Thursday of endangering three of Taylor’s neighbors by firing bullets into their home during the botched operation. Jurors acquitted the Hankison, whose bullets did not strike anyone other than Taylor on all three counts of wanton endangerment after deliberating for about three hours.
Hankison testified that he had taken part in as many as 1,000 raids during his police career but said that he had never fired his gun while on duty until the March 2020 raid, during which another officer fatally shot Taylor.
The police had a warrant to raid Taylor’s apartment in search of evidence that her former boyfriend had been selling drugs, but the warrant was based on shoddy surveillance and officers believed that Taylor would be alone at home. Instead, she was asleep in bed with her current boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Officers banged on the door and later told investigators that they had identified themselves as police officers, though Walker said he and Taylor did not hear them say anything. When the officers rammed open the apartment door, Walker said, he believed that they were intruders. He fired a shot from his handgun toward the doorway, striking an officer in the thigh. Two police officers immediately returned fire, spraying the apartment with bullets and striking Taylor. As the first two officers fired, Hankison ran away from the doorway to the side of the building and fired 10 shots into Taylor’s apartment through a window and sliding-glass door. Three of the bullets traveled through Taylor’s apartment and into a neighboring unit where a pregnant woman, her boyfriend and her 5-year-old son had been sleeping.
The woman, Chelsey Napper, testified at trial that it felt as if bullets were “flying everywhere” as she frantically went to check on her son and cowered with him on the floor. The bullets struck Napper’s kitchen table, a wall and a glass patio door. Hankinson testified that when he heard the 22 bullets fired by his two fellow officers, he mistakenly thought they were engaged in a gunfight with someone inside the apartment; he also wrongly interpreted the sound of the handgun fired by Walker as coming from a much more dangerous semiautomatic rifle. He said he believed that someone was firing at the officers as they tried to help the officer who had been shot in the leg. “I knew they were trying to get to him, and it appeared to me that they were being executed with this rifle,”Hankison said. The police chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department fired Hankison three months after the raid, saying he had violated department policy by shooting “blindly” into the apartment through the window and door, which were covered by blinds. Hankison testified that he had fired after seeing muzzle flashes illuminate the window, not knowing that they were coming from the officers weapons.
In closing arguments on Thursday, Stew Mathews, the lawyer for Mr. Hankison, sought to shift blame for what happened partly to Mr. Walker, who he said was the “common denominator” of the case because he had fired at the officers as they entered the apartment. In response, Hankison “did what he thought he had to do in that instant,” the lawyer said. Mr. Mathews reiterated that Hankison did not know there was another apartment behind Taylor’s that his bullets might reach. He said jurors could not find Hankison guilty if he did not know about that risk. The crime of Wanton endangerment , a felony, required jurors to find that Mr. Hankison “wantonly” did something to create a substantial danger of death or serious injury to the neighbors and did so with “extreme indifference to the value of human life.” In the prosecution’s closing argument, Barbara Whaley, an assistant attorney general, focused on the fear that Napper felt with her family while hiding in the apartment. She said it would have been “obvious” to Mr. Hankison that there was an apartment behind Ms. Taylor’s because its front door was right next to hers. And, referring to Taylor, Whaley said that Hankison’s “wanton conduct could have multiplied her death by three.” “By grace, they’re still alive.”
Shortly after Thursday’s verdict, a spokesman for the bureau said it was continuing to work with the Justice Department “to determine what, if any, federal charges are warranted.” Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Breonna Taylor’s mother, said the verdict was the latest sign that the police could kill and avoid consequences.
“The lack of accountability showcased in every aspect of Breonna’s killing speaks to how much more work there is to be done before we can say our justice system is fair and our system of policing is protective of people of color,” Crump said in a statement. He called for a ban of “no-knock” warrants that allow police to raid a home without announcing themselves; in Taylor’s case, a judge initially signed off on that kind of warrant but the orders were later changed to require that police knock and identify themselves. The verdict was also condemned by Jeff Sexton, a lawyer for the neighbors whose apartment was hit by Hankison’s bullets, who called the jury’s decision a “knee-jerk, emotional verdict.” He said they could not have adequately considered the evidence in three hours. Had there been more thorough consideration, he said, “There’s no way that that jury approves of a cop firing wildly, after midnight, into the side of an apartment building.”