LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Court TV) — Brett Hankison, one of three former Louisville, Kentucky police officers involved in the March 2020 raid that led to the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, is on trial in Louisville. The officers opened-fire in the early morning hours of March 13 while executing a narcotics warrant on Taylor’s apartment. When officers kicked in the door, her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker III, fired his legally-owned firearm, believing an intruder had broken in.
Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove returned fire, striking Taylor, who was standing in a hallway with Walker when she was shot eight times. The 26-year-old EMT bled to death in the hall. Walker was uninjured. Hankison was standing outside the apartment at the time. None of Hankison’s bullets struck Taylor.
The charges against Hankison aren’t related to Taylor’s death. He’s charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing wildly into a neighbor’s apartment; endangering the lives of that unit’s three residents when he shot 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment, which was next door.
DAILY TRIAL HIGHIGHTS
DAY 6 – 3/2/22: VERDICT
- A panel of 8 men 4 women deliberated for about 3 hours before acquitting former Louisville K9 detective of three counts of wanton endangerment in connection with the botched raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment.
- Their 3-hour deliberations included lunch which was brought in and waiting for them when they retired to deliberate.
- The criminal charges stem from Brett Hankison’s shooting of Breonna Taylor’s apartment, discharging rounds that penetrated into a neighboring apartment threatening the lives of its 3 occupants.
- Hankison would have faced 1 to 5 years on each count had he been convicted.
- Taylor’s mother, who was in the courtroom along with several friends, quickly left after the “not guilty” verdicts, declining to comment as a gaggle of reporters waited outside the courtroom.
- Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley stopped briefly to say that she ‘”respected the jury’s verdict,” and left without taking any reporter questions.
- Stewart Mathews, Hankison’s lead attorney, said his heart was still thumping as he emerged from the courtroom minutes after the not guilty sweep.
- He was relieved and thrilled, saying: “We’re very pleased with what the jury did, it doesn’t get any better.”
- Asked about what he thought resonated with the jury, Mathews suggested that the jury was convinced that his client was doing his job and reacted with the intent to protect his fellow officers.
- He also noted that in his closing he laid the blame on Kenneth Walker claiming her death could have been avoided had it not for the actions of Walker.
- Hankison slipped out of the courtroom without being seen by reporters.
- Jury makeup:
- 7 White men
- 2 White women
- 1 Black man
- 1 Hispanic woman
- 1 Asian woman
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- WATCH: 3/3/22 Brett Hankison’s Defense Team Talks to Court TV
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- WATCH: 3/3/22 Breonna Taylor Botched Raid Trial: Prosecution Closing Argument
- WATCH: 3/3/22 Breonna Taylor Botched Raid Trial: Defense Closing Argument
DAY 5 – 3/2/22
- Brett Hankison took the stand in his own defense and struggled to contain his emotions as he walked jurors through the night he and 6 other officers raided the home of Breonna Taylor in search of evidence he says was linked to a suspected drug trafficker.
- Hankison is charged with 3 counts of wanton endangerment for firing into Taylor’s apartment, and endangering the residents of a neighboring apartment.
- The former detective claims he was not aware that Taylor’s apartment was connected to another residence, and returned fire because he feared for the safety of his fellow officers.
- Hankison was one of 7 officers assigned to execute a search warrant on Taylor’s home.
- Upon their approach, he said he was second to last in the line, but after the door was rammed open he moved up toward the entrance and described seeing a silhouette in the hallway.
- Jurors had seen him give a similar description to investigators in a taped interview with the Public Integrity Unit. Only this time he was more demonstrative in his recounting of the event. He stood up to show jurors how the figure in the hallway assumed a shooting stance and took aim at the officers. He remained steadfast in that he saw a large muzzle flash that illuminated the dark hallway and in that moment saw the shooter with what appeared to be a rifle.
- After he heard Jon Mattingly say he was hit, he said he had to get out of the “fatal funnel.”
- “People die in the fatal funnel,” he said. “I wanted to get out as quickly as possible and to a location where I could return rounds.”
- He became tearful recalling the moments when Mattingly, his friend, was shot and again when he radioed for help calling in a “1030” – police code for “officer needs assistance.”
- Hankison said as he retreated he heard the exchange of gunfire intensify and believing that his colleagues were being gunned down, he fired into Taylor’s patio door and window claiming he was aiming in the direction from where he saw the “strobing lights of muzzle flashes.”
- Hankison was so certain that the team was taking on rifle fire, that when he called for backup he asked that the officers bring long guns. With the arrival of SWAT he felt safe enough to call who he would later learn was Kenneth Walker out of the target apartment. He said during their exchange, Walker told him it was his girlfriend who shot at police, and that she was dead inside the apartment. “That shook me. There’s only supposed to be one person,” he said. “We were there to get documents.”
- Asked by his attorney if he felt he did anything wrong, he responded “absolutely not.”
- He went on to say that he thought the incident was a tragedy and that Taylor, “didn’t have to die that night.”
- His answers prompted expressions of disbelief among some Taylor supporters/protesters in the gallery who made little effort to hide their disdain for the disgraced officer.
- On cross, prosecutor Barbara Whaley questioned the credibility of Hankison’s story pushing him to recount details of where the officers were positioned during the approach and the breach.
- She suggested that the area in front of the apartment was too narrow for all of them to “bunch up,” as described by the defendant, furthermore all those bodies would have limited Hankison’s view inside the apartment.
- She also questioned his contention that he did not know that there was another apartment attached to Taylor’s residence.
- Hankison maintained he could not have seen apartment 3, because it was blocked by the officers and he was too focused on what was happening at apartment 4.
- Hankison’s attorney is expected to argue that the law requires his client to be aware that his actions posed the risk of serious injury or death to another and that he deliberately disregarded the threat.
DAY 4 – 3/1/22
- Prosecutors rested their case against former Louisville detective Brett Hankison after calling Chelsey Napper, who lived next door to Breonna Taylor on the night police gunned her down while trying to execute a search warrant.
- Napper, 7 months pregnant at the time, lived in Apartment 3 with her boyfriend Cody Etherton and her 5-year-old son Zayden.
- She recalled they were all asleep when a loud sound like a “bomb” woke them up.
- She said Cody left their bedroom to check out the disturbance and said their apartment was being shot up.
- She called 911 twice that night to report that there were bullets flying through their home only to find out they were coming from the police.
- Their patio door was shot out, leaving them cold and vulnerable.
- When she called police to find out how she could be compensated by the damage they caused, she said she was referred to the Kentucky Bar Association.
- Myles Cosgrove, one of the fired officers who took part in the raid, offered some insight into how the search went so far off the rails.
- Jurors watched a videotaped deposition he gave in the civil case brought by Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend.
- Cosgrove was grilled about the protocols in executing search warrants, his testimony painted a picture of what appeared to be a haphazard plan by superiors who left out steps that made an inherently dangerous situation more “complicated,” Cosgrove admitted.
- The plaintiff’s attorney suggested the plan was so lacking that at one point it had officers tripping over themselves in the parking lot.
- “After the shots were fired, you returned fire, did you see a pile of men laying on the ground?,” the attorney asked.
- “I wouldn’t describe it like that,” said Cosgrove.
- He went on to explain that as they retreated from the gunfight one of the officers Mike Campbell tripped and fell in the parking lot, and Jon Mattingly, who was injured in the exchange, toppled over him.
- The plaintiff’s attorney highlighted several parts of the operation that deviated from standard operating procedure including that the lead detective on the case was not present for the execution of the search warrant, none of the officers were given a diagram or layout of the apartment they had to search, the plan left one of the officers (who was using the ram) with no back up, and the team was not made aware of a ballistics shield meant to protect them in such a situation was available.
- Cosgrove said “police work is fluid,” while a plan was communicated, he had to change his assignment that night in order to protect his fellow officers.
- The jury also heard from Firearms Instructor Matthew Gelhausen, who testified that Hankison earned a perfect score in his last firearms qualification, which required him to pass a 10-stage challenge involving firing accurately in low or ambient light.
- Gelhausen said Hankison’s training also required him to identify, isolate, and understand the background or context of a target before discharging his handgun.
- The training officer said that a muzzle flash alone was not an active threat that warranted return gunfire but did agree that an officer that is fired upon is an active threat.
DAY 3 – 2/25/22
- Jurors visited the crime scene on Friday, and toured the outside of the building before entering apartment #4 where Breonna Taylor lived. While they were not able to see Apartment #3, where Cody Etherton and his family resided, visiting the complex allowed the jury to understand how the apartments are connected and view the patio doors and window that Hankison said he fired through in response to what he thought was hostile fire.
- Earlier in the day the jury heard from Robert Schroeder the interim police chief who testified that after reviewing the investigative reports, and bodycam video he fired Hankison from the Louisville Metro Police Department.
- A firearms expert from the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab testified that the 10 spent shell casings he examined from the parking lot, and several bullets recovered from Etherton’s apartment were fired from the same handgun used by the defendant.
- An FBI firearms analyst testified that two rifle casings, one recovered from outside the apartment by witness Aaron Sarppe were both fired from the same rifle – possibly an AR-15. However there was no further testimony about where the casings came from and whether they could be linked to a firearm at the scene.
DAY 2 – 2/24/22
- Jurors heard a taped interview that the defendant gave to the Public Integrity Unit a few weeks after the incident.
- Brett Hankison said he returned fire in an effort to protect his fellow officers.
- He explained that after they had breached the apartment, he heard John Mattingly say he was hit, and when he heard rapid gunfire he thought his colleagues were being ‘executed like sitting ducks.”
- Hankison claims he saw muzzle flashes through the sliding glass door and fired through the window toward where he thought the flashes were coming from and believed that had stopped the gunfire.
- During his interview he paused and appeared emotional, choking back tears as he recounted the incident. He stopped to compose himself before going on to say, “I thought they were all being sprayed with bullets. My only option was to return fire.”
- After the hour-long interview was played, prosecutors called witnesses to challenge the credibility of Hankison’s story.
- One officer testified that they found no evidence of an AR-15, or any long guns and other officers at the scene said drapes prevented them from being able to see through the sliding glass doors.
- Prosecutors also suggested that Hankison did not follow protocol when he went to the hospital instead of straight to the Public Integrity Unit after the shooting.
- He also violated protocol when he intruded on the crime scene while SWAT officers were still working to clear it. Hankison could be heard on the bodycam video asking the officer if someone had been killed.
- On cross examination defense attorney Stew Mathews suggested Hankison was doing his job and being as effective as he could be.
- Believing his colleagues were being threatened with lethal force, his client returned gunfire.
- He also noted that his client was the first to call for back up and EMS. He also helped to administer first aid to Mattingly and stayed to coordinate efforts of arriving officers.
- Breonna Taylor died in a barrage of gunfire unleashed by officers executing a search warrant as part of narcotics investigation.
- They found no drugs or monies from the sale of illegal drugs in her apartment.
DAY 1 – 2/23/22
- In opening statements, Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley argued that while other officers focused their fire in and around the target apartment, Hankison’s fire was focused more towards the neighbors.
- She pointed out that while the other officers’ casings were found in and around the target apartment, all 10 of Hankison’s were found in the parking lot.
- Defense Attorney Mathews did not dispute the trajectory of the bullets but rather asked the jury to consider the chaos and confusion happening, arguing that Hankison acted reasonably and justifiably.
- The State’s first witness was arguably the most compelling. It was alleged victim, Cody Etherton.
- He testified that he and his pregnant partner and her child were in their apartment at the time bullets came flying in, causing them to fear for their lives.
- Etherton described ducking down, and running to get his partner to duck down.
- Multiple law enforcement officers also testified throughout the day, describing their focus during the incident.
- Sgt Michael Campbell described Hankison as being more assertive than the other officers in trying to get a neighbor to go back inside when they were trying to execute the search.
- The defense got nearly every officer to admit that the scene was chaotic and full of confusion.
- WATCH: Breonna Taylor Botched Raid Trial: Day 1
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Court TV’s Senior Director of Courtroom Coverage Grace Wong contributed to this report.