Former Louisville police officer pleads not guilty to charges related to Breonna Taylor’s killing

Former Louisville police officer pleads not guilty to charges related to Breonna Taylor’s killing

The former Louisville police officer charged in connection to Breonna Taylor’s killing pleaded not guilty Monday to three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment.

Brett Hankison was fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department in June for his actions during the raid on Taylor’s apartment. Hankison’s lawyer asked the judge to let Hankison keep his gun because he has seen death threats online and the judge did not grant the request.

“No, I will not,” said Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Bailey Smith.

Hankison will not be allowed to keep any firearms, which is a condition of his $15,000 bond.

A pretrial hearing is set for October 28.

No officer who took part in the March 13 raid is charged for Taylor’s actual killing. A grand jury instead leveled three counts of felony wanton endangerment against the ex-detective for blindly firing 10 shots into Taylor’s home, state Attorney General Daniel Cameron said last week.

The announcement set off days of demonstrations in several American cities. Protesters and other critics of the grand jury’s decision wanted stiffer charges. They also decried the decision not to charge any other officers involved.

Though two Louisville police officers were shot during the first night of protests after Cameron’s announcement, Mayor Greg Fischer said Monday he is ending the city’s curfew following several days of peaceful demonstrations. Downtown barriers and traffic restrictions will remain in place, and the curfew could be reassessed in coming days, he said.

Charges against Hankison

Hankison fired through “a sliding glass door and through a bedroom window,” according to a statement from Cameron’s office, and some of his rounds pierced the wall of a neighboring apartment, where three people, including a child and pregnant woman, lived, the attorney general’s statement said.

The three felony counts are for endangering the three people in the neighboring apartment, according to Cameron’s office, which further alleges Hankison demonstrated “extreme indifference to human life.”

“There is no conclusive evidence that any bullets fired from Detective Hankison’s weapon struck Ms. Taylor,” the statement said.

A defendant “is guilty of wanton endangerment in the first degree when, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, he wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person,” according to Kentucky law.

Wanton endangerment is a Class D felony, Kentucky’s lowest class of felony. If convicted on all three charges, Hankison faces between three and 15 years in prison.

The former detective plans to plead not guilty Monday, defense attorney Stew Matthews told CNN, saying the evidence does not support the charges.

Hankison was released from the Shelby County Detention Center on Wednesday after posting $15,000 bail.

The raid

Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker III, were in their apartment when Hankison and other officers arrived to serve a search warrant in a drug investigation.

Police say they identified themselves before ramming through the front door, and Cameron said one neighbor corroborates the story. Other neighbors say they did not hear the officers identify themselves as police, but some of the neighbors have told CNN that they were sleeping and awoke only after hearing gunshots.

When the officers breached the door, Walker fired, hitting Sgt. John Mattingly in the leg, police allege. Walker has said through his attorney that he did not realize it was police entering his apartment.

In addition to the 10 shots Hankison fired, Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove fired 22 rounds, six of which struck Taylor, Cameron said, explaining their use of force was justified because Walker fired first.

Walker was initially charged with attempted murder and assault, but the charges were dropped.

Ben Crump, an attorney for Taylor’s family, slammed the grand jury’s decision, saying Hankison and other officers should face murder charges.

“How ironic and typical that the only charges brought in this case were for shots fired into the apartment of a White neighbor, while no charges were brought for the shots fired into the Black neighbor’s apartment or into Breonna’s residence,” Crump said in a statement.

“This amounts to the most egregious disrespect of Black people, especially Black women, killed by police in America, and it’s indefensible, regardless of how Attorney General Daniel Cameron seeks to justify it.”

Avenues of investigation still open

Hankison was fired months ago, with Interim LMPD Chief Robert Schroeder telling the detective in a June 23 letter, “I find your conduct a shock to the conscience.”

Hankison is appealing his termination.

In addition to an FBI civil rights investigation, the LMPD’s professional standards unit is investigating the actions of Cosgrove, Hankison, Mattingly, and detectives Joshua Jaynes, Tony James, Michael Campbell and Michael Nobles, LMPD spokesman Sgt. Lamont Washington told CNN.

Schroeder placed Jaynes on administrative leave in June, citing questions about how the search warrant for Taylor’s home was approved. Jaynes requested the search warrant.

It’s unclear if the FBI and internal probes could yield more charges. The Taylor family is demanding the release of the grand jury transcripts and Walker is suing the LMPD, either of which could provide more details about officers’ actions that night.