LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A police firearms instructor said Louisville officers are trained to identify a target before firing weapons in a threatening situation as testimony continued in the trial of a former officer charged in the raid that left Breonna Taylor dead.
Former Louisville police detective Brett Hankison is charged with firing into a neighbor's apartment during the botched March 2020 narcotics raid. Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was fatally shot by two other officers after Taylor's boyfriend fired a shot that hit an officer who had burst through the front door.
Tuesday began the second week of the trial. Last week, jurors visited Taylor's former apartment and heard testimony from several officers who were at the scene that night.
Hankison was fired a few months after the early morning March 13, 2020, narcotics raid for firing “blindly” into Taylor's apartment. He fired 10 shots, though none hit Taylor. Some of his shots went through Taylor's apartment and into a neighbor's dwelling with a shared wall.
Matt Gelhausen, a firearms instructor with Louisville police, said Tuesday that officers are taught to make sure a perceived threat is isolated “from any others that are in close proximity.”
Hankison's attorney has argued that Hankison moved away from Taylor's door, rounded a corner and fired shots into Taylor's glass door to “defend and save the lives of his fellow officers.” Hankison told investigators about two weeks after the raid that he thought he saw a person with a long gun or AR-15 rife inside Taylor's apartment. That interview with Louisville police investigators was played for the jury last week.
Only Taylor's boyfriend's handgun was found in the apartment. The boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, and Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, were in the courtroom Tuesday along with other family members.
Walker told investigators after the shooting that he thought an intruder was breaking into the apartment. Police used a battering ram to take down the door and Walker's bullet hit former police Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg. After Walker's shot, Mattingly and another officer, Myles Cosgrove, opened fire into the apartment, but struck Taylor. Walker was not hurt.
Hankison told investigators in the March 2020 interview that he looked into the door once it came down and thought he saw “a figure in a shooting stance.”
Gelhausen agreed with Hankison's attorney, Stewart Mathews, during questioning that serving search warrants is “an inherently dangerous task.”
During opening statements last week, prosecutors emphasized to jurors that the case is not about the killing of Taylor or police decisions that led to the raid. They said the focus should be on Hankison’s shots and the near harm they caused.
Hankison is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment, a felony with a sentencing range of one to five years. Closing arguments are set for Thursday.