The only police officer to face criminal charges in the botched raid that killed Breonna Taylor took a moment during his testimony Wednesday to apologize to her mom.
“It’s something that didn’t have to happen,” said former Louisville cop Brett Hankison, who has repeatedly tried to get his job back after being fired from the department. Then, he turned to Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, and said that “she didn’t need to die that night.”
As prosecutors interrupted with an objection, Palmer walked out of the courtroom, the Associated Press reported.
Before the tense moment, Hankison spent an hour on the witness stand, as the only person to testify in his defense. He’s facing between one and five years in prison on three counts of wanton endangerment—not for Taylor’s death but for risking the lives of her neighbors when bullets from his gun entered their apartment during the raid on March 13, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky.
Officer Myles Cosgrove, who investigators say fired the fatal shot, managed to avoid any related charges altogether.
Hankison has pleaded not guilty.
During his testimony Wednesday, Hankison became emotional recounting the fear he felt for his fellow officers during the execution of the warrant for Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, who didn’t live with her, for alleged drug dealing charges. One of them, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, was shot in the leg.
Taylor’s boyfriend at the time, Kenneth Walker, said he only fired the shot that struck Mattingly because he thought the commotion was from a home intruder. Walker was initially charged with assault and attempted murder, but those charges were dropped a year ago.
Despite feeling apologetic about what happened to Taylor, when asked by his attorney if he felt he did anything wrong that night, Hankison said, “absolutely not,” adding that he thought he was saving the lives of the other officers who were present.
State prosecutors rested Tuesday after a week of calling witnesses to the stand. Their last was Chelsey Napper, the woman who lived next door to Taylor with her boyfriend and 5-year-old son and had bullets tear through the wall of her apartment that night.
On the stand, Napper, who was pregnant at the time, said she woke up suddenly to the sound of a battering ram hitting Taylor’s door, before bullets were fired.
“It was so scary and crazy I didn’t know what was going on,” Napper testified. “I was scared for my life, I was scared for Cody’s life, I was scared for my unborn child’s life, and my 5-year-old’s life.”
Hankison also addressed Napper and her boyfriend Cody Etherton in court Wednesday, saying that he felt horrible about putting their lives in danger after finding out about their presence next door.
“I saw Ms. Napper and Mr. Etherton up here for the first time, and I felt sincere empathy for them. If my daughter was shot at and bullets came into our house, that would be very concerning, and I apologize for that.”
Originally, police had obtained a no-knock warrant for Taylor’s home, which doesn’t require police to announce themselves. The city of Louisville has since banned the practice outright last year with the passage of Breonna’s Law, with several other states including Wisconsin and New Mexico proposing their own version of the law. The state would follow suit with a law that restricted its use. Last September, the U.S. Department of Justice limited the use of no-knock warrants by federal law enforcement agencies.
Still, the controversial police practice continues to be the subject of criticism, especially for its role in the deaths of Black and brown Americans. Most recently, a 22-year-old delivery driver and aspiring musician Amir Locke was shot and killed by police in Minneapolis last month after the deployment of a no-knock warrant.
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