One of the former Louisville, Ky., police officers involved in the botched raid of Breonna Taylor’s apartment in 2020 shed tears Wednesday (March 2) on the witness stand.
Former Detective Brett Hankison testified at his trial that he opened fire into Taylor’s home to protect himself and fellow officers in a chaotic situation, CNN reports. Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT worker, and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were asleep when officers broke in during a botched drug raid and fatally shot her.
“She didn't need to die that night,” Hankison said from the witness stand, Yahoo! News reports, which prompted Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, to walk out the courtroom.
Hankison, however, isn’t on trial for Taylor’s death. He’s charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment from firing 10 shots blindly that went into the apartment of Taylor's neighbor. Prosecutors say it endangered the lives of a man, his pregnant girlfriend and their 5-year-old son who were asleep. Hankison has pleaded not guilty.
The defense rested its case after Hankison’s testimony, and closing arguments were expected on Thursday (March 3).
Hankison testified that former officer Jonathan Mattingly was shot in the dark by someone in the apartment when the team of cops rammed down Taylor’s door to execute a search warrant. He believed that someone was attempting to gun down the officers as they tried to help Mattingly.
"I knew they were trying to get to him, and it appeared to me they were being executed with this rifle. I returned fire through the sliding glass door, and that did not stop the threat," Hankison testified, pausing at times to dry his eyes.
Just before 1:00 a.m., on March 13, 2020, Hankison and other officers, with a no-knock warrant in hand, burst into Taylor's apartment that she shared with Walker. Believing it was a home invasion, Walker grabbed his firearm, which he legally owned and fired, wounding Mattingly. Charges against him were later dropped.
Hankison, Mattingly and former officer Myles Cosgrove returned fire, striking Taylor six times, killing her. Taylor’s family maintains police never announced themselves, while officers say they did.
The raid was an attempt to arrest her ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, who was already in custody. No drugs were ever found on the premises.
On cross-examination, Hankison clarified that he exited the apartment when the shooting began. The former detective testified that he went to the side of the house and fired his weapon five times into sliding glass doors and then another five times into a bedroom window where he believed someone was shooting at his squad.
Hankison testified that he didn’t realize that there was another apartment directly behind Taylor's.
On Feb. 23, Taylor’s neighbor, Cody Etherton, 29, testified at the trial that Hankison and the other officers were “reckless” and “unorganized” in their raid on Taylor’s apartment. He was the first of 26 witnesses called by the prosecutor.
On the witness stand, Etherton recalled hearing a “loud boom” that awoke him and his girlfriend Chelsey Napper. Thinking it was a home invasion, Etherton jumped out of bed and walked down the hallway, as "debris started going past my head and face" from gunfire. Etherton stated that he heard the police announce themselves only after the gunfire ended, which the police dispute.
Etherton testified that he went outside and noticed his sliding back patio door was shattered and officers shining lights in his direction. That led him to believe that the police thought his patio door was Taylor's.
Hankison is the only officer charged in connection with the deadly raid. None of the three officers still work for the police department. Hankison was fired in late June 2020, Cosgrove was fired in January 2021, and Mattingly retired in April 2021, according to CNN.