On Thursday, a former Kentucky police officer was found not guilty of endangering neighbors the night he shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her apartment during a failed narcotics search.
Following final statements from the prosecution and defense counsel, the panel of eight men and four women reached a decision for Brett Hankison roughly three hours after taking the case.
Taylor’s death was not linked to any of the cops participating in the raid on March 13, 2020, and Hankison did not fire any of the rounds that killed the 26-year-old Black woman. His acquittal effectively puts an end to any state criminal charges being brought against any of the cops engaged in the raid. A federal inquiry is underway to see if the cops violated his civil rights.
After the verdict, Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and a group of friends and relatives departed hastily without speaking.
After the verdict was delivered, Hankison did not emerge outside the courthouse. Stewart Mathews, his attorney, said he and Hankison were “overjoyed.”
“I believe it was certainly the fact that he was performing his job as a police officer,” Mathews said when asked what could have persuaded the jurors.
Barbara Maines Whaley, an assistant Kentucky attorney general, said she respected the ruling but had no additional comment.
In their opening comments, prosecutors made it clear that the case was not about Taylor’s death or the police judgments that led to the raid. Jurors were shown a single photograph of her body at the end of the hallway, hardly recognizable.
Officers came at Taylor’s door just as she was getting ready for bed. In her hallway, she was shot many times and killed on the spot.
After Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron’s office failed to press charges against any of the cops involved in Taylor’s killing, protesters flooded the streets for months. During widespread protests in 2020, Taylor’s name, along with that of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery — Black males who died in interactions with police and white pursuers — were rallying cries for racial justice.
The ruling didn’t surprise Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League. She stated that because no cop had been prosecuted in Taylor’s killing, black folks in the community had already been “experiencing a certain level of dissatisfaction.”
“I believe a large number of people are dissatisfied. It’s heartbreaking, but I have to say, it’s not surprising,” she explained. “It simply doesn’t feel like a hopeful day for policing, for Black people, for our entire community,” she said.
Mayer, Louisville The verdict increased to “many people’s aggravation and resentment about the failure to discover further culpability for the sad events of March 13, 2020,” according to Greg Fischer.
“While the behavior investigated in this case was not unique to Breonna Taylor’s death, the truth remains that she should not have died that night, and I know that justice has yet to be served for many,” he added.
Fischer mentioned some of the improvements implemented by the Louisville metro government since Taylor’s murder, including the prohibition of so-called no-knock warrants and a comprehensive evaluation of the police force.
During the raid, Hankison, 45, was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting through Taylor’s apartment’s sliding glass side doors and a window. Prosecutors said Hankison threatened the lives of a pregnant mother, her small child, and her boyfriend who resided in a next apartment after many gunshots punctured the wall.
Hankison’s lawyers never disputed the ballistics data, but claimed he fired ten shots because he believed his fellow policemen were “being executed.”
Sgt. John Mattingly, one of those cops, was shot in the leg by a gunshot fired by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who said he feared intruders were breaking in.
“The jury thought that if you go out and do your job and your brother cop is shot, you have a right to protect yourself,” Mathews said of Hankison’s acquittal. “It’s as simple as that.”
For firing blindly during the raid, Hankison was dismissed by Louisville Police. “Absolutely not,” he answered throughout the trial when asked whether he done anything illegal that night.
Mattingly and fellow officer Myles Cosgrove returned fire, killing Taylor.
Because of an ongoing FBI civil rights investigation, Mattingly and Cosgrove declined to testify at Hankison’s trial, citing their Fifth Amendment rights. FBI agents are holding Hankison’s handgun and other evidence from the scene, however the gun was lent to prosecutors to display at trial.
Last year, the US Department of Justice said that it was looking into the city’s police department for possible discrimination, as well as its use of force and search warrant procedures.
Around 20 people gathered in Jefferson Square Park in downtown Louisville later Thursday evening to protest the ruling. During months of protests in 2020, the area became an unplanned centre for demonstrators.
Cheyenne Osuala, who sat in on the trial with Taylor’s family, said she was taken aback when the jury’s judgment was announced.
“We’ve gained nothing, not that justice for Breonna Taylor would have been served.” But even if it was tiny, a conviction would have been better than nothing,” she explained.