Nearly two years after Breonna Taylor was killed by police, the only Kentucky officer charged for the raid on Taylor’s house went on trial Wednesday for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ apartment.
Brett Hankison, who is now a former officer, fired 10 shots through a side door. None of those bullets hit Taylor, but prosecutors said the shots endangered Taylor’s neighbors. Hankinson has been charged with three counts of wanton endangerment, and faces up to five years in prison if convicted. His charge is deemed to be a low-level felony.
Assistant Kentucky attorney general Barbara Maines Whaley told jurors the case is not about the killing of Taylor. Nor, she said, is it about police decisions that led to the raid. She said the charges are focused on Hankison’s decision to fire blindly through Taylor’s apartment, which Maines deemed as reckless.
Before Taylor’s door was breached, Hankison yelled at a neighbor and told them to go back inside, she said. And once the shooting started, “He’s shooting in a different direction than the other two detectives,” she said.
Defense attorney Stewart Mathews countered that Hankison was justified in what he did during a chaotic scene that lasted about 10 to 15 seconds from when Taylor’s door was breached to when the shooting stopped.
“This case is not about the death of Breonna Taylor, but in a sense it’s totally about that, because that’s what started this whole situation,” Mathews said. “Breonna Taylor was a peripheral part of this whole deal, but she was tied into it,” and their no-knock warrant meant officers had been approved to go inside.
Once Taylor’s boyfriend fired his weapon and other officers fired back, Hankison “was attempting to defend and save the lives of his fellow officers who he thought were still caught in that fatal funnel inside that doorway,” Mathews said. He was doing what “he was taught to do, he was taught to shoot until the threat is stopped.”
Cody Etherton who was the first witness, described how he and his pregnant girlfriend Chelsey Napper were awoken that night by the sound of Taylor’s door being kicked-in. Thinking someone was breaking down his door, he said he jumped out of bed to investigate, and narrowly escaped bullets that penetrated a wall they shared with Taylor’s apartment.
“I hit the floor and went back into the bedroom,” he said. “I don’t even remember how many shots I heard because it was so chaotic.” He added, “Another one or two inches and I woulda gotten shot. I would have never gotten to meet my son.”
Etherton said he stepped outside after the shooting stopped, looked through Taylor’s open door and heard a man saying “breathe, baby, breathe”. Police ordered him back inside, but he said he kept watching through his peephole and could see a Black man being arrested. On cross-examination, Etherton said “the whole thing was chaotic.”
“From the time I got woke up, hearing boom, to the gunfire coming through my apartment, nearly killing my girlfriend, yeah it was chaotic,” he said. Neither of the officers who killed Taylor were charged. Louisville settled with her family for $12m.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: AP NEWS