Breonna Taylor Case: Grand Jury Charges Just One Officer With 'Wanton Endangerment'

Breonna Taylor Case: Grand Jury Charges Just One Officer With 'Wanton Endangerment'

LMPD Brett Hankison, however, has been indicted, but not for killing Taylor.

PUBLISHED ON : SEPTEMBER 23, 2020 / 04:19 PM

Written by BET Staff

UPDATE: Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron Says "The Truth Is Now Before Us"

Six months after Breonna Taylor’s death in Louisville, the Jefferson County grand jury has decided to indict officer Brett Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment, a low level charge for shots fired at the residents at the apartment next door at the scene. However, the other two officers there that night were not indicted and will not be charged in this case. 

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron stood before the media shortly after the indictment was announced to provide his statement on how the grand jury came to this decision. Cameron explained that while he sympathizes with Breonna Taylor’s family, Kentucky law indicates that the police were justified in this shooting because a shot was fired at them first and they knocked and announced their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment. And yet, in this confusing revelation, Cameron also said his office is fully prepared to fully try this case.

RELATED: Breonna Taylor Case: Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron Speaks On “Wanton Endangerment” Charges Against One Police Officer

The length of time in getting the evidence to the grand jury was also a factor. Cameron explained this was the case in order to ensure that a fair analysis and proper investigation of the events occurred for Taylor, her family, the officers, and of the community. “It was important that we got this right,” said Cameron.

Cameron also detailed the events that took place during the early morning hours of March 13. We now know that there were no body cameras used by any of the officers that day during the execution of the search warrant. Video footage begins at the point that area patrol officers arrive at the location. Therefore, the sequence of events from March 13 had to be pieced together through ballistics

Officers knocked and announced their presence, which was only corroborated by one independent witness who lived above Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. We know that the warrant on hand was not served as a “no-knock warrant,” as has been previously reported. Apparently when the officers announced themselves and knocked, they were not given an answer, so they decided to breach the home. Officer Jonathan Mattingly was the first to enter. In doing so, he saw Walker, who then fired his 9mm gun once. Walker, who has a license for his firearm, explained that he believed the home was being broken into. Unfortunately, Kentucky law confirmed today that in shooting first, no one would be held accountable for Taylor’s death. 

Ballistic evidence shows that Mattingly, who was shot once in the arm by Walker, fired six times; Myles Cosgrove shot 16 times and Brett Hankison shot 10 times from outside the bedroom window. Taylor was hit five times. Hankison is the only one to be charged but not for shooting Taylor, but instead for endangering the lives of the residents who lived in the apartment next door. Those next door included a male, a pregnant female and a child.

"The truth is now before us. The facts have been examined, and a grand jury composed of our peers and fellow citizens has made a decision,” said Cameron. “Justice is not often easy. It does not fit the mold of public opinion. And it does not conform to shifting standards. It answers only to the facts and to the law. With this in mind, we must now ask ourselves, where do we go from here? We continue to prosecute the charges brought in this case as it now proceeds through the justice system and moves to trial. That is our responsibility. And this will be done while the FBI continues its investigation into potential violations of federal law. I know that not everyone will be satisfied with the charges we've reported today. My team set out to investigate the circumstances surrounding Miss Taylor's death. We did it with a singular goal in mind and that is in pursuing the truth."


It has been nearly 200 days since Breonna Taylor was killed in her own apartment by Louisville police officers and none of the three officers accused of killing her will be charged in connection to her death.

According to the grand jury report, former LMPD officer Brett Hankison should be charged with three counts of first degree  wanton endangerment for endangering the lives of the residents who lived in the apartment next to Taylor's as his gunfire went through the wall. A warrent has been issued for his arrest with $15,000 bond full cash. According to the state of Kentucky, wonton endangerment in the first degree is when, "under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, he wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person."

No charges have been issued against the two other officers who were there when Taylor was killed, Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly. 

After midnight on March 13, Hankison, Cosgrove and Mattingly executed a botched warrant at Taylor's apartment, which she shared with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker. Believing they were intruders, Walker fired his weapon and gunfire from the officers ensued. The 26-year old Taylor was struck six times and died.

RELATED: Breonna Taylor’s Ex-Boyfriend Accuses Cops Of Lying  

The police raid found no drugs at Taylor’s apartment and she was not the target of the investigation. Rather, it was her ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover who police were after. Glover had been arrested earlier that same night. Protests have erupted all over the country in response to the police killing of Taylor with many celebrities and politicians, including Democratic candidate Joe Biden calling for the officers to be charged.

Fischer announced last week that the city would pay Taylor's family $12 million to settle a civil wrongful death lawsuit asserting that the Louisville officers did not identify themselves when they entered the home that fateful night, and that Walker — a licensed gun owner — thought someone was trying to break in. That settlement also comes with several police reforms including a requirement that search warrants be approved by police commanders before a judge sees them. 

In June, Louisville Metro Police Department announced the dismissal of Hankison and called his conduct "a shock to the conscience." According to CBS News, Chief of Police Robert Schroeder wrote in the letter that Hankison violated the first procedure when he "wantonly and blindly fired ten (10) rounds" into Taylor's apartment and added, "These rounds created a substantial danger of death and serious injury to Breonna Taylor and the three occupants of the apartment next to Ms. Taylor's."

Schroeder said Hankison also violated the department's use of force procedure when he fired the rounds "without supporting facts that your deadly force was directed at a person against whom posed an immediate threat of danger or serious injury to yourself or others.”

On Monday, September 21, downtown Louisville has been closed down with barricades used to block roads in an attempt to control probable protests, demonstrations or civil unrest. Additional police officers have been stationed in the area. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a state of emergency and activated the national guard in preparation. There is also a curfew that has been put in place. 

Jon Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove were placed on administrative reassignment throughout the investigation.

RELATED: Louisville Council Passes ‘Breonna’s Law,’ Banning ‘No Knock’ Warrants To Honor EMT Killed By Police

In the wake of Breonna Taylor's death, Louisville passed a ban on "no-knock" warrants, which allow police to enter a home without first announcing their presence.  


BET has been covering every angle of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and other social justice cases and the subsequent aftermath and protests. For our continuing coverage, click here.

Photo: Getty Images


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