One Former Police Officer Indicted in Breonna Taylor Case

One Former Police Officer Indicted in Breonna Taylor Case
People react after a decision in the criminal case against police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot dead by police in her apartment, in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 23, 2020. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)
Zachary Stieber

One of the police officers involved in serving a search warrant to Breonna Taylor’s home in Louisville was indicted on Sept. 23, but the two others weren’t charged because their use of force was justified, Kentucky’s attorney general announced.

Detective Brett Hankison, Sgt. Jon Mattingly, and Detective Myles Cosgrove served the warrant in the early hours of March 13.

The officers knocked and announced their presence at Taylor’s home before entering, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, said at a press conference, repudiating months of false reporting that claimed the warrant was a “no-knock” one.

Because no one answered or opened the door, the officers breached the door.

Mattingly, the first and only officer to enter, encountered a male and a female standing next to each other at the end of the hall. The male was standing in a shooting stance and holding a gun. Mattingly saw the man’s gun go off and knew he was shot after feeling heat in his upper thigh.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, later admitted to firing the shot that hit Mattingly.

Officers opened return fire, shooting a total of 16 times. Six of the bullets struck Taylor, an emergency medical technician, Cameron said.

FBI ballistics testing showed the fatal shot was fired by Cosgrove, though other ballistics testing was inconclusive.

The investigation found both Mattingly and Cosgrove “were justified in their use of force,” the attorney general said. “This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Ms. Breonna Taylor’s death.”

Cameron led a team that examined evidence from the situation. Because there was no body camera footage, investigators spent thousands of hours piecing together what happened with ballistics evidence, 911 calls, police radio, traffic, and interviews, as well as details gleaned from the FBI, the state police, and local medical examiners.

The evidence was presented to a grand jury, which returned three counts of wanton endangerment against Hankison.

Officer Brett Hankison. (Louisville Police Department via AP)
Officer Brett Hankison. (Louisville Police Department via AP)
A woman visits the memorial for Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 11, 2020. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)
A woman visits the memorial for Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 11, 2020. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

The counts stemmed from the jury’s belief that the officer put residents in a neighboring apartment in danger of serious physical injury or death.

He faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

Hankison was fired in June for violating police department rules.

Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder said Hankison violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” fired 10 shots into Taylor’s apartment.

Schroeder also said that Hankison violated the department’s rule on when to use deadly force.

There was no conclusive evidence that Hankison fired any of the shots, the attorney general’s team found.

Mattingly, Cosgrove, and Joshua Jaynes, a detective who obtained the warrant, were reassigned following the shooting. They are still with the force.

Walker told police he heard knocking but didn’t know who was coming into the home and fired in self-defense.

He was initially charged with attempted murder. That charge was later dropped.

Taylor’s family settled with the city for $12 million last week.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, the mayor of Louisville, told a separate press conference earlier Sept. 23, “No matter what Attorney General Cameron announces, I urge everyone to commit once again, to a peaceful, lawful response.”

Louisville officials declared a state of emergency on Sept. 22 ahead of the decision on whether to charge any of the officers.

Fischer ordered access to downtown parking garages restricted and set a countywide 72-hour curfew, from 9 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

A group of several hundred people began marching downtown after Cameron’s announcement. Chants included, “No justice, no peace.” Some were smashing windows, according to video footage from downtown.