UPDATED: 2:20 p.m. ET —
A grand jury on Wednesday recommended there should be multiple counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree charged against one of the three Louisville police officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor more than six months ago. The announcement to indict Brett Hankison for anything less than manslaughter charges was largely seen as a disappointment to people calling for justice to be served in Taylor’s police killing in March.
The announcement was read live on TV by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Annie O’Connell, who agreed with the recommended $15,000 cash bail and issued a warrant for Hankison’s arrest. Hankison was fired in June.
A closer look at the grand jury findings showed that Hankison was being indicted for endangering the lives of people with the initials f “C.D.,” “T.M.,” and “Z.F.” — Taylor’s neighbors in a separate apartment that was hit by some of the officers’ bullets. That means the grand jury did not find enough evidence to charge any of the three officers as it directly related to Taylor’s killing.
The decision came after LMPD declared a state of emergency within the police department in what critics said was tantamount to preparing as if the cops who killed Taylor would not be criminally charged.
Protesters began demonstrating and marching in Louisville soon after the decision was announced.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron held a press conference following the grand jury’s indictment and defended the charges.
“Evidence shows that the officers announced and knocked” before entering Taylor’s apartment, Cameron said, citing an independent witness refuting claims to the contrary. Cameron said that of the dozens of shots fired — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly fired six shots; detective Myles Cosgrove shot 16 times and Hankison shot 10 times — only one shot was fatal. Hankison fired from an outside sliding glass door and through a bedroom window, which is why he was the one indicted, Cameron said. Mattingly and Cosgrove have been on administrative duty since the shooting.
There was a chorus of disapproval on social media in reaction to the indictment, with many claiming in one variation or another that the cops “got away with murder.”
“There is no conclusive evidence that any bullets fired from Hankinson’s gun struck Taylor,” Cameron said during his press conference, and two separate crime labs returned inconclusive evidence for who fired the fatal shot. He added that “Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their use of force.”
The ACLU blasted the decision as “not close to justice” and said those officers should never have even been at Taylor’s home in the first place.
“The choice to bring these charges alone and so late highlights the indifference to human life shown by everyone involved in Breonna Taylor’s murder,” Carl Takei, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “That indifference was shown by the other officers who executed the no-knock warrant alongside Officer Hankison, Attorney General Cameron who took six months to bring these lesser charges, and the system that allows these injustices to happen regularly. Until the need for real systemic change is embraced by our leaders, that indifference and disregard for the lives of Black people will continue to be commonplace.”
The Center for Policing Equity called the charges for Hankison “lesser” and said they demonstrate no “accountability” for a life that was taken by police.
“The vulgar decision to pursue only lesser charges against one officer — and completely absolve two others who callously disregarded a life they were sworn to protect — robs Ms. Taylor’s loved ones and the entire Louisville community of the accountability they deserve,” Center for Policing Equity Co-founder and CEO Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff said in a statement.
Cameron said he intended to create a task to secure the process for reviewing and executing warrants “to determine if changes are required and establish best practices.”
When asked whether the understood the reaction of disappointment coming especially from Black people, he said that was why it was so important to investigate all the facts. “I understand that as a black man how painful this is,” Cameron said before adding: “My heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor.”
Cameron said there is still an FBI investigation into whether federal civil rights violations occurred during the shooting.
The wanton endangerment indictments against Hankison are Class D felonies that carry a prison sentence for up to five years if found guilty.
The city of Louisville settled a civil lawsuit from Taylor’s family for a whopping $12 million just last week in one of the country’s highest payouts ever for police violence.
LMPD’s Professional Standards Unit launched a probe of more of its cops in addition to the separate investigation of Cosgrove, Mattingly and fired officer Hankison, who all fired their guns that fateful night of March 13. The Professional Standards Unit investigates whether officers broke department policies. It was unclear what exactly they were being investigated for as it relates to Taylor’s case. Cosgrove and Mattingly are among the six cops being investigated by the Professional Standards Unit.
Storefronts were boarded up and other buildings in downtown Louisville, such as the federal courthouse, were closed in anticipation of the decision.
On March 13, Taylor was shot eight times by members of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) after they botched the execution of a “no-knock” warrant that was later found out to have been served at the wrong address. The failed raid succeeded in killing Taylor and wounding her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who used his legally owned gun to shoot at the front door suspecting an intruder. Walker is now suing the LMPD, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the Louisville/Jefferson County metro government for $10.5 million in part because he said the cops tried “to silence me and cover up Breonna’s murder” by initially charging him with a crime.
Since then, police have been accused of trying to set up Taylor’s boyfriend by disingenuously charging him with attempted murder on a police officer. The charges were later dropped. But then prosecutors tried to “posthumously frame Breonna Taylor to clear police,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump claimed after reports that local prosecutors offered Taylor’s incarcerated ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover a plea deal if he would claim she was a co-defendant in a drug case. The reported plea deal suggests that law enforcement was desperately looking for a way to incriminate Taylor and assassinate her character in death, which could prevent the case from progressing and keep the officers involved in the shooting from being arrested and charged with any crimes at all nearly six months after she was killed in her own home.
Glover, however, refused to lie to police about Taylor, who was employed as an EMT and working on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus.
A grand jury was finally empaneled earlier this month to hear the findings from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and his office’s investigation into the shooting.
Cameron — a Black Republican and avid supporter of Donald Trump who has been described as Mitch McConnell‘s “protégé” — and his office have been accused of both politicizing the case and dragging their feet when it came to bringing charges.
He was criticized for speaking at the Republican National Convention last month instead of working on Taylor’s investigation and prosecutors working for him were recently accused of trying to slander Taylor’s reputation through duplicitous means.