Officer Brett Hankison, whom the department fired in June, was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree, a Jefferson County grand jury decided Wednesday. Neither the grand jury nor the presiding judge elaborated on the charges.
A warrant has been issued for Hankison’s arrest and a bond is set at $15,000 cash.
No charges were announced against the two other officers involved in the raid — Myles Cosgrove and Sgt. Johnathan Mattingly, who was shot in the leg and underwent surgery after the police operation that resulted in Taylor’s death.
The indictment was announced 194 days after Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical worker, was shot six times by the officers who entered her home using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation on March 13.
An investigation found that the bullets fired by Hankison traveled into the neighboring apartment while three residents were home – a male, a pregnant female, and a child, Attorney General Daniel Cameron said at a press conference after the grand jury’s announcement. Hankinson was not charged in Taylor’s death, but rather for endangering her neighbors’ lives.
Hankinson faces up to five years on each of three counts if convicted, Cameron said.
“The decision before my office as the special prosecutor, in this case, was not to decide if the loss of Ms. Taylor’s life was a tragedy. The answer to that is unequivocally, ‘yes,'” Cameron said. “I understand that Breonna Taylor’s death is part of a national story, but the facts and evidence in this case are different than others…
“If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice,” Cameron said. “Mob justice is not justice. Justice sought by violence is not justice. It just becomes revenge.”
Despite executing a no-knock warrant, Cameron’s office determined based on interviews with neighbors that the officers did announce themselves before busting down the door of the apartment occupied by Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Cameron said Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified under Kentucky law in their use of force after being fired upon by Walker and his office will not pursue criminal charges against them.
“According to Kentucky law, the use of force by Mattingly and Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves. This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor’s death,” Cameron said.
Walker was charged with the attempted murder of a police officer, but local prosecutors later dropped the charge. He told police he heard knocking but didn’t know who was coming into the home and fired in self-defense.
Cameron said FBI ballistics determined that the fatal shot that killed Taylor was fired by Cosgrove.
Immediately after the announcement, people expressed frustration that the grand jury did not do more.
“Justice has NOT been served,” tweeted Linda Sarsour of Until Freedom, a group that has pushed for charges in the case. “Rise UP. All across this country. Everywhere. Rise up for #BreonnaTaylor.”
Bernice King, the daughter of the late Martin Luther King Jr., said she was “Praying for Breonna’s mother and family. Because they knew and loved her before her name became a hashtag.”
Attorney Ben Crump tweeted that the grand jury indicted Hankison with three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree “for bullets that went into other apartments but NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor. This is outrageous and offensive!”
Lonita Baker, another attorney representing Taylor’s family, reacted to the decision to bring wanton endangerment charges against Hankison, challenging that there was also enough evidence to bring perjury charges against the detective who obtained the warrant, as well as murder charges the other officers who carried out the raid.
“I can’t make it make sense in my head. Wanton endangerment to a neighboring apartment constitutes wanton endangerment to Breonna. She was clearly unarmed – as indicated in Mattingly’s statement – yet multiple bullets were fired at her while she was already on the ground,” Baker wrote in a Facebook post. “A search warrant obtained with lies…where is the perjury charge? Where also is the wanton endangerment charges for the upstairs apartment where another black family lived. If there were facts sufficient to indict for wanton endangerment to other people, there were facts sufficient to indict for wanton murder of Breonna.”
Large crowds of protesters began to march outside the barricaded zone set up by police around Jefferson Square Park after the grand jury decision and blocked intersections, but there were no initial confrontations with law enforcement. A U-Haul van was seen pulling up with large shields and other supplies for demonstrators. Large placards had messages advocating to Abolish Police and Abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The warrant used to search Taylor’s home was connected to a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside. The use of no-knock warrants has since been banned by Louisville’s Metro Council.
Hankison was fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department on June 23. A termination letter sent to him by interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said the White officer had violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 rounds of gunfire into Taylor’s apartment in March.
Hankison, Mattingly, Cosgrove, and the detective who sought the warrant, Joshua Jaynes, were placed on administrative reassignment after the shooting. On Sept. 15, the city of Louisville settled a lawsuit against the three officers brought by Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, agreeing to pay her $12 million and enact police reforms.
Protesters in Louisville and across the country have demanded justice for Taylor and other Black people killed by police in recent months. The release in late May of a 911 call by Taylor’s boyfriend marked the beginning of days of protests in Louisville, fueled by her shooting and the violent death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
Several prominent African American celebrities including Oprah and Beyoncé have joined those urging that the officers be charged.