News and Commentary

Louisville Police Officer Indicted In Breonna Taylor’s Case

Charged only with 'wanton endangerment,' not murder
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Times Square, New York, US, on August 9, 2020 to call for justice in the case of Breonna Taylor. The 26-year-old African-American emergency medical technician was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove on March 13, 2020. The three LMPD officers executed a no-knock search warrant in plainclothes while entering her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by
Karla Ann Cote/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A grand jury on Wednesday indicted a former Louisville, Kentucky, police officer on three counts of “wanton endangerment in the first degree” in the death of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was killed during a no-knock raid on her home in March.

Sgt. Brett Hankison escaped more serious felony charges related to homicide from the grand jury. Wanton endangerment in the first degree is a Class D felony that carries a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison. His bail was set at $15,000.

No other police officers involved in the raid were criminally charged. Ofc. Myles Cosgrove and Sgt. Johnathan Mattingly were on the scene during the shooting, and Mattingly was shot in the leg and underwent surgery after the police operation.

Ben Crump, attorney for the family of Breonna Taylor, said on Twitter that the charge was “not fully what we wanted” but added “this brings us closer to justice” for Taylor.

Hankison was fired from the department three months after Taylor’s death. Then-Police Chief Robert Schroeder wrote that Hankison violated standard operating procedure when his “actions displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly fired ten (10) rounds” into Taylor’s apartment.

“The result of your action seriously impedes the Department’s goal of providing the citizens of our city with the most professional law enforcement agency possible,” he wrote. “I cannot tolerate this type of conduct by any member of the Louisville Metro Police Department. Your conduct demands your termination.”

Louisville took extraordinary steps in advance of the grand jury’s announcement, closing downtown streets and putting the city under a state of emergency. Most city administrative buildings and other businesses were boarded up in anticipation of the decision. There have been protests in Louisville for more than 100 consecutive days over Taylor’s death.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Louisville Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder on Wednesday announced a 72-hour countywide curfew starting at 9 p.m. and the Kentucky National Guard has been activated, Schroeder said.
“I urge everyone to commit once again to a peaceful, lawful response, like we’ve seen here for the majority of the past several months,” Fisher said.

The grand jury ruling displeased some. “Justice has NOT been served,” tweeted Linda Sarsour of Until Freedom, a group that has urged charges in the case. “Rise UP. All across this country. Everywhere. Rise up for #BreonnaTaylor.”

Taylor, 26, an emergency medical worker, was shot five times by the officers after they entered her home during a drug investigation on March 13.  Even though police had obtained a no-knock warrant, they knocked before entering Taylor’s apartment.

“Our intent was to give her give plenty of time to come to the door because they said she was probably there alone,” said Mattingly, who was one of the three officers who discharged their weapons inside Taylor’s home.

Police had obtained warrants for multiple locations linked to Jamarcus Glover, an alleged crack cocaine dealer. One of them included Taylor’s apartment, where she lived with her younger sister. Law enforcement believed Glover was using Taylor’s apartment as his current address and had been receiving mail and packages there. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, “Taylor’s name, birth date and social security number are listed on the warrant.” The outlet also reported it “includes her street address, apartment number and photos of her apartment door, which police later broke using a battering ram.”

No drugs were found inside.

“Taylor had been watching a movie in bed together with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker when she drifted off to sleep beside him,” CNN reported. Walker said the couple had awoken at the sound of the knocking but did not know who was at the door. As they scrambled to get dressed, Walker grabbed his gun, which he was reportedly licensed to carry.

Walker said both he and Taylor were walking down a hallway of the apartment toward the front door when it flew off the hinges. He said he feared for his life and thought the plainclothes officers who broke down the door were intruders unlawfully entering his girlfriend’s home.

Police said they “forced entry into the exterior door and were immediately met with gunfire” at 12:43 am.

Walker shot Mattingly in the leg, severing his femoral artery. Three cops returned fire, shooting more than 20 rounds into Taylor’s apartment. Walker was arrested after the incident, then indicted by a grand jury six days later for the attempted murder of a police officer. However, the indictment was later dismissed.

On Sept. 15, the city settled a lawsuit against the three officers brought by Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, agreeing to pay her $12 million.

This story has been updated.

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