The trial of the only Louisville police officer charged in connection with Breonna Taylor’s death began Wednesday.
Brett Hankison is charged, not for any actions that led to Taylor’s death, but for the wanton endangerment of people living in the apartment next to Taylor’s.
Breonna Taylor was killed in March 2020 during a botched no-knock warrant raid of her apartment by Lousiville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers. Three officers took part in the raid, including Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Myles Cosgrove, and Detective Brett Hankison. Of those three, Hankison is the only one to face criminal charges in connection with the deadly raid.
Hankison was fired in June 2020 for violating the LMPD’s deadly force policy by blindly firing 10 shots into Taylor’s apartment through a door. Hankison was then indicted in September 2020 on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree, not of Taylor, but of three individuals in the neighboring apartment.
The trial of Hankison began Wednesday with Barbara Maines Whaley, a prosecutor with the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, saying the trial is not about Taylor’s death or the actions that led to it. Rather, she argued, the charges are about Hankinson’s decision to fire blindly through Taylor’s apartment, endangering her neighbors.
The prosecution called several witnesses the first day, including Taylor’s neighbor Cody Etherton and several LMPD officers. All witnesses testified to the chaos of the scene. Etherton described how gunshots pierced the walls of his and his pregnant girlfriend’s shared apartment, stating how he was nearly struck by bullets when he went to investigate the commotion. Officers, when pressed, were unsure of Hankison’s position or actions during the raid.
Hankison’s defense attorney Stewart Mathews argued Hankison was just was doing what “he was taught to do—he was taught to shoot until the threat is stopped.”
The trial is expected to last two to three weeks. More than 30 witnesses are expected to testify in addition to those called Wednesday.