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Six months after Louisville police shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her home during a botched no-knock raid, a grand jury has decided to only bring criminal charges against Officer Brett Hankison, one of three officers who fired their weapons that night.
The charges, however, are not directly related to Taylor’s death but rather for firing into another apartment and recklessly endangering the lives of three of her neighbors: a pregnant woman, her husband, and their 5-year-old, none of whom were injured by the shots.
Hankison, who’s bond was set at $15,000, will be charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree. He faces up to 15 years in prison, five years for each felony count.
Hankison’s fate, announced Wednesday afternoon, brings an end to months of public uncertainty about whether he and two other officers involved in the March 13 raid — Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — would face legal ramifications for killing the 26-year-old EMT.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron revealed that Cosgrove was the officer who fired the fatal shot that killed Taylor. Both Cosgrove and Mattingly were said to be justified in firing their weapons, as they did so in self-defense. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had fired his gun thinking someone was breaking in.
“The decision before my office as the special prosecutor, in this case, was not to decide if the loss of Ms. Taylor’s life was a tragedy. The answer to that question is unequivocal yes,” Cameron said Wednesday. “My job as the special prosecutor, in this case, was to put emotions aside and investigate the facts to determine if criminal violations of state law resulted in the loss of Ms. Taylor’s life.”
In June, Hankison was fired from his post for violating police procedure and endangering the lives of others when he fired 10 bullets into Taylor’s apartment. Mattingly and Cosgrove, who have been exonerated by Wednesday’s decision, have been on administrative leave since March.
Taylor’s death, along with the those of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and dozens more, incited months of protests across the country denouncing police brutality and racism against Black and brown communities and calling to defund and reform law enforcement in the U.S. Within the Louisville Metro Police Department, a series of reforms have already started, including the end of no-knock warrants.
Earlier this week, Louisville and the state of Kentucky began bracing for the fallout of the grand jury’s decision. The Louisville Metro Police Department enacted a state of emergency, canceling all scheduled vacation days within the department and barricading the city’s downtown area, where protesters have congregated nightly since May. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has been prepared to deploy both the state police and the National Guard in the likely event of civil unrest.
While the state is set to move forward with action against Hankison, it isn't the only investigation in progress. On Monday, the Louisville Metro Police Department told the Courier-Journal that there was an ongoing internal investigation of Mattingly and at least five other officers directly involved in the planning and execution of the no-knock warrant. The FBI is also continuing its investigation into Taylor’s death.
Last week, Taylor’s family settled their wrongful death lawsuit with the city of Louisville for a record-setting $12 million, the largest in the city’s history. The settlement also included a number of additional police reforms, including improved police record-keeping and mandatory leadership approval for all police search warrants moving forward.