Officer Charged, 2 Cleared in Shooting Death of Breonna Taylor
One of three police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in her Louisville apartment will face charges of first-degree wanton endangerment, but two others will see no charges stemming from the March 13 incident that led to months of protest and made Taylor a face of the national Black Lives Matter movement.
The charge against former Louisville detective Brett Hankison, who later was fired, was announced Wednesday after a grand jury in Jefferson County concluded its investigation, reports The Washington Post.
An attorney for Hankison did not immediately respond to the announcement of the charges.
Hankison had previously received a termination letter that said he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 times into Taylor’s apartment.
The lesser degree of charges, along with the absence of criminal charges against Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and detective Myles Cosgrove, was certain to create a backlash, as the city’s mayor prepared by enacting a curfew and Louisville Metro Police confirmed that the state’s National Guard had been activated, reports local TV station WLKY.
Darron Cummings/AP/Shutterstock Protestors demanding justice for Breonna Taylor
Taylor, a 26-year-old aspiring nurse who had been working as an emergency room technician, was struck by eight bullets, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by her family, after the three officers who were serving a search warrant entered her apartment while investigating an alleged drug dealer.
Although the suspected dealer didn’t live there — and had, in fact, just been arrested at a different location — officers alleged that he had once retrieved a package at Taylor’s residence. The officers had secured a “no knock” search warrant, allowing them to enter without warning.
Police have said they knocked and identified themselves before entering the home, but witnesses disputed that claim.
During the shooting investigation and prior to the criminal charges, all three officers were placed on administrative reassignment. One of them, Hankison, was later fired.
Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, officer Mattingly sent an email on Saturday to more than 1,000 Louisville Metro Police colleagues that criticized Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, the FBI, protesters and others, while defending the officers’ actions, reports the Courier Journal.
“Regardless of the outcome … I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night,” Mattingly wrote. “It’s sad how the good guys are demonized, and the criminals are canonized.”
Earlier this month the City of Louisville reached a $12 million settlement with Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, who filed the wrongful death lawsuit. When the settlement was made public, the mayor addressed Palmer directly at a news conference, saying, “I cannot begin to imagine Miss Palmer’s pain, and I’m deeply, deeply sorry for Breonna’s death.”
The shooting sparked months of protests in the city, and Taylor’s name joined those of others invoked across the country by protesters seeking justice for Black victims of alleged bias or police brutality — among them Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, George Floyd in Minnesota and Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
Included with the settlement payout to Taylor’s family were promises from the city to reform police practices, including a change in the way that search warrants are approved and carried out, and a commitment to hiring social workers to assist officers in the field.
Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who was with her at the time of the shooting, said he thought it was a break-in. The wrongful death suit alleged that Walker, a licensed gun owner, fired a warning shot as the unknown persons breached the front door with a battering ram, and that officers responded by firing more than 20 bullets into the apartment.
Walker’s shot hit Sgt. John Mattingly in the thigh. He was arrested and charged with attempted murder of a police officer, but those charges were dropped on May 22, after the FBI opened an investigation into the case.
After the shooting, the three officers, Mattingly, Hankison and Cosgrove, were placed on administrative reassignment.
Taylor was studying to become a neonatal nurse at the time of her death, Palmer previously told PEOPLE.
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She said her daughter always wanted to help others. Her calling started at a young age when she helped her grandmother, who had diabetes.
“Even as a kid, I remember she would ask, ‘Can I stick your finger?,’” says Palmer. “You know, being a diabetic, you’ve got to prick your finger to test your blood sugar.”
Breonna Taylor’s Mom Worried Her EMT Daughter Would Get Coronavirus Before Police Fatally Shot Her
On March 13, Breonna Taylor was shot at least eight times in her home by police
Later, Taylor helped adults with disabilities and then drove people who needed rides to appointments and grocery stores. She later became a certified EMT and drove an ambulance before becoming an emergency room technician at two local hospitals.
Taylor’s death drew widespread outrage, and interest in her case grew after the May 25 police killing of Floyd galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.
Celebrities such as Beyoncé, Jennifer Lawrence, Oprah Winfrey and LeBron James publicly rallied around Taylor’s case and called for the officers to be charged.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
• ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.