LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Wanton Endangerment charges were filed against the former Louisville Metro Police Department officer Brett Hankison in the March shooting that led to the death of Breonna Taylor, a judge announced Wednesday afternoon.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Annie O’Connell announced the findings of the Jefferson County Grand Jury. Three counts of 1st degree wanton endangerment for Hankison. It appears none of those charges involve shooting Breonna Taylor, the charges are related to shots fired into neighboring apartments.
None of the officers face charges in connection with the death of Taylor.
The officers, who were not in uniform, were executing a no-knock search warrant at Taylor’s Louisville apartment for suspected drug activity. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, and the LMPD officers exchanged gunfire. Walker said he believed the officers were intruders. The LMPD officers fired more than 20 shots, eight of which struck Taylor. Mattingly was injured by gunfire. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.
Taylor was not the main suspect in the case but was named on the warrant. Detectives said they witnessed the main suspect, Jamarcus Glover, arrive at Taylor’s apartment in January, go inside, and exit with a package. Police said Glover then got into his car and drove to an address that was a “known drug house,” according to a timeline of events.
Walker told police he and Taylor were in bed watching a movie when police began knocking on the apartment door. He grabbed his gun around the time the officers used a battering ram to break open the door and enter the apartment, at which time he fired one shot without knowing the men were police officers, he said.
Mattingly was shot in the leg and said in an interview he returned six shots. It was reported Cosgrove fired shots from inside the apartment, and Hankison fired 10 shots from a patio outside the apartment, according to Hankison’s termination letter. Walker said when the shooting ceased, Taylor was on the ground bleeding.
Attorneys for Taylor's family claim 120 LMPD officers went to the complex in the hours after the shooting, but no one went into the apartment to provide aid to Taylor until Walker surrendered, according to the timeline. SWAT moved into the apartment after Walker surrendered to police and found Taylor unresponsive on the hallway floor.
Walker was taken into custody at the scene and driven to LMPD headquarters, where he was interrogated until around 5:30 a.m. He said he asked officers “a million times” during the interrogation why they were knocking on Taylor’s door and “no one had an answer.”
Walker, who was licensed to carry a firearm, was initially charged with the attempted murder of a police officer, but those charges were later dismissed.
The LMPD officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative reassignment pending the outcome of an investigation by the department’s internal Professional Integrity Unit. The investigation’s findings were given to Cameron on May 20 to determine if any of the officers should be charged. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer requested the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office review the findings. The FBI’s Louisville Field Office announced on May 21 it would also conduct an investigation. There is no body camera footage of the raid.
Officials Weigh In
Gov. Andy Beshear on May 13 responded to reports about Taylor’s death and said the public deserved to know everything about the raid. Beshear requested Cameron and local and federal prosecutors review the Louisville police’s initial investigation “to ensure justice is done at a time when many are concerned that justice is not blind.”
Fischer in early June called for Hankison to be removed from the Louisville Police Merit Board, which reviews appeals from police in disciplinary matters. Three months after Taylor’s death, Louisville Metro Police Interim Chief Robert Schroeder sent Hankison a letter stating termination proceedings against him had begun.
The letter said Hankison had violated departmental policies on using deadly force by “wantonly and blindly” firing into Taylor’s apartment without determining whether any person presented “an immediate threat” and if there were “any innocent persons present.” The letter also cited past disciplinary action taken against Hankison by the department, including for reckless conduct. Hankison was fired on June 23 and has appealed his termination. A hearing for the case has been delayed, pending the completion of the criminal investigation.
AG Meets With Taylor Family
On Wednesday, Aug. 12, Cameron and Taylor’s family, attorneys, and local community activist Christopher 2X from the Game Changers organization met to discuss the case.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, was optimistic after the meeting.
“I’m glad the attorney general asked for this meeting,” Palmer said. “He actually seemed sincere and genuine, which I appreciated. We let him know how important it was for their office to get all the facts, to get the truth, and to get justice for Breonna. We all deserve to know the whole truth behind what happened to my daughter. The attorney general committed to getting us the truth. We’re going to hold him up to that commitment. At the end of the day, we have to bridge the community and the police. That starts with the truth and justice. And we have to make real changes to keep this from happening to anyone else. The attorney general didn’t say which direction he’s pointing to, and I could be wrong, but after meeting him today, I’m more confident that the truth will come out and that justice will be served.”
Taylor’s Family Files Wrongful Death Suit
Taylor’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit on May 15. It states, among other things, Taylor and Walker thought their home had been broken into by criminals and “they were in significant, imminent danger.” The lawsuit alleges, “the officers then entered Breonna’s home without knocking and without announcing themselves as police officers. The defendants then proceeded to spray gunfire into the residence with a total disregard for the value of human life.”
Photos were released to the public on May 14 in The Courier-Journal by Taylor family attorney Sam Aguiar that show bullet damage in her apartment and the apartment next door.
Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad announced his retirement May 21 after local and national criticism for the department’s handling of the case. Conrad was fired on June 1 after the fatal shooting of Black business owner David McAtee.
Fischer suspended the use of no knock warrants on May 29 and it was announced on June 10 the LMPD will now require all sworn officers to wear body cameras. The LMPD is also changing how search warrants are executed.
For months after the shooting, Taylor’s family, members of the community and protesters worldwide demanded the officers be fired and criminally charged. Protesters outside Fischer’s office on May 26 demanded the officers be arrested and charged with murder. Around 600 demonstrators marched May 28 in downtown Louisville, chanting, “No justice, no peace, prosecute police” and “Breonna, Breonna, Breonna.”
More than 100 people participated in the Youth March for Freedom on July 4 in downtown Louisville. The participants stopped at historic civil rights sites, and speakers called for the end of racial injustice and told the stories of the people affiliated with those sites.
The national social justice organization Until Freedom organized a march on July 14 of more than 100 people to Cameron’s house, where protesters occupied his lawn, demanding charges against the officers involved in the killing. Nearly 90 protesters were arrested and removed from the lawn.
Around 300 members of the Atlanta-based Black militia Not F—ing Around Coalition (NFAC) marched in Louisville on July 25 while the street was lined with local protesters. John “Grandmaster Jay” Johnson, the founder of the NFAC, gave a speech calling on officials to speed up and be more transparent about the investigation into Taylor’s death.
As of Aug. 10, LMPD officers had arrested 500 protestors over 75 days.
Family Calls Out Prosecutor
Taylor’s former boyfriend Jamarcus Glover faced drug charges stemming from the case involving the search warrant of Taylor's home, and incidents leading up to April 22, 2020.
A plea deal for drug charges for Glover from March and April incidents was released by the Commonwealth's Attorney after the attorney for Taylor's estate took to social media to accuse the prosecutor of trying to name Taylor as a co-defendant and indict her in July long after she died.
In a post on Attorney Sam Aguiar's personal Facebook page, he wrote Monday, that a July plea deal names Taylor as a co-defendant of Glover's. Aguiar said, “Breonna Taylor is not a ‘co-defendant’ in a criminal case. She’s dead. Way to try and attack a woman when she’s not even here to defend herself.”
After this, Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine released a copy of the plea deal he says is official, which does not involve Breonna Taylor. Wine says the document shown by Aguiar in his post is not an official court document and was a draft and part of pre-indictment plea negotiations between Glover and his attorney.
Kenneth Walker’s Breaks Silence In Lawsuit
Kenneth Walker stepped into the public eye Tuesday, Sept. 1, after filing a lawsuit against Louisville Metro Government and the Louisville Metro Police Department more than five months after Taylor was killed by police.
Walker, who was with Taylor the night she died, was initially charged with the attempted murder of an officer after police burst through Taylor’s door.
“The charges brought against me were meant to silence me and cover-up Breonna’s murder," Walker read from a prepared statement on the steps of Metro Hall. “For her and those that I love, I can no longer remain silent.”
Walker was surrounded by his parents and two attorneys, Steven Romines and Frederick Moore.
“Kenny had never been in trouble in his life,” Romines said as Walker’s mother nodded in agreement. “And the police want you to believe that at almost 1:00 one evening he says, ‘My first foray into the criminal justice world, I’m gonna try and shoot a cop.’ It's a ridiculous position.”
Romines and Walker claim Walker and more than a dozen neighbors never heard plain-clothes LMPD officers identify themselves or give any warning before breaking into Taylor’s Louisville home. Testimony from multiple officers who executed the now-banned no-knock warrant claim they did announce themselves to whoever was inside.
Walker can be heard on a 911 call sobbing as he spoke with a dispatcher after the incident.
“I don’t know what’s happening. Someone kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend,” he said on the recording.
At the press conference announcing the lawsuit, Walker recounted that night.
“Breonna and I did not know who was banging on the door, but the police know what they did.”
In the lawsuit, attorneys cite alleged mismanagement, abuse, and improper interrogation carried out by LMPD detectives. They also pointed out a post signed by Ryan Nichols, president of the River City FOP, to the order's Facebook page dated March 27.
At that time, Walker was still charged with the attempted murder of an officer and had just been released to house arrest – as hundreds of other inmates had either been moved or had their sentences commuted – to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In the post, Nichols condemned Judge Olu Stevens for allowing Walker to move home, writing, “This man violently attacked officers ... Not only is he a threat to the men and women of law enforcement, but he also poses a significant danger to the community we protect!”
Walker is requesting the court declare:
- He lawfully stood his ground when he fired a single shot at the doorway, believing an intruder was entering the home;
- He cannot be charged any further for what happened the night of the shooting;
- The metro government is not immune from liability; and
- He is owed compensation.
Neither the court filing nor Walker’s attorneys have disclosed what they are seeking for compensation.
Taylor’s Family, City Reach Settlement
Taylor’s family and the city of Louisville reached a $12 million settlement that also includes several police reform measures, Mayor Greg Fischer announced at a Sept. 15, press conference where lawyers for the family and Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, also spoke.
“As significant as today is, it’s only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna,” said Palmer. “It’s time to move forward with the criminal charges because she deserves that and much more. Her beautiful spirit and personality is working through all of us on the ground, so please continue to say her name — Breonna Taylor.”
Along with the monetary settlement, among the largest ever paid out for someone killed by police, the settlement includes several police reform measures that Fischer said “are needed to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”
The reforms include a requirement that a commanding officer approves all search warrants, new programs to incentivize police officers to live where they work, and a commitment to send social workers out on calls with police officers, when appropriate.
The city will also put in place a new system to monitor officer behavior and has pledged to include random drug testing of officers in its next contract with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). The Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) declined to comment on the reforms and the River City FOP did not return a request for comment.
Lonita Baker, an attorney for Taylor’s family, said that the settlement was “non-negotiable” without police reforms.
“It’s important for her family that they minimize the risk of what happened to Breonna Taylor happening to any other family in Louisville, Kentucky and we’re going to continue that fight beyond the city of Louisville, Kentucky and through this county,” Baker said.
Taylor’s family filed a wrongful death suit in late April. It accused Louisville police of failing to identify themselves before entering Taylor’s South Louisville apartment early on March 13. Taylor’s boyfriend, who later said he thought an intruder was entering the home, shot once, hitting Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg. Mattingly and two other officers — Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankinson — then “proceeded to spray gunfire into the residence with a total disregard for the value of human life,” the lawsuit said.
The $12 million settlement is the largest the city has ever paid out, surpassing the $8.5 million paid to Edwin Chandler in 2012. Chandler served more than nine years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. In June, former Louisville detective Mark Handy pleaded guilty to perjury for his testimony that helped convict Chandler.
Oprah, Professional Sports Teams Weigh In On Case
The September 2020 edition of “O” magazine featured Taylor on the cover instead of the usual image of Oprah Winfrey as a way to honor “her life and the life of every other Black woman whose life has been taken too soon.” It was the first issue in the magazine’s 20-year history that did not have Winfrey’s image on the cover. Twenty-six billboards – one for every year of Taylor’s life – were put up around Louisville paid for by Until Freedom and "O" magazine. Winfrey released a video 150 days after Taylor’ s death calling for the officers to be arrested.
Several professional sports teams and individual athletes are honoring Taylor. Before the 2019-20 NBA season restarted, the Memphis Grizzlies wore shirts with Taylor’s name and “#SayHerName” as they arrived at the arena.