A Kentucky grand jury announced criminal charges against one of the police officers implicated in the March 13 shooting death of Breonna Taylor. However, the charges are for shooting into an adjoining apartment, not Taylor’s; “the grand jury did not find that Hankison wantonly fired into Taylor’s apartment the night she died or that any of the officers are criminally liable in her death,” according to the Louisville Courier Journal.
Detective Brett Hankison was charged on Wednesday, September 23, with three felony counts of wanton endangerment, according to a livestream of the grand jury announcement. No murder charges were announced.
Attorney General Daniel Cameron held a press briefing following the grand jury’s announcement, telling Kentuckians that he understood the community’s pain, but “criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief.”
Taylor, 26, was killed when police tried to serve a no-knock warrant at her home. Her boyfriend Kenneth Walker is accused of firing on the officers. Both Taylor and Walker were sleeping at the time, and Walker’s attorney has said that when he shot, he did not know it was police at the door and it was self-defense.
The other officers involved — Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove — did not face charges.
Hankison was fired for his conduct in the shooting, and Mattingly and Cosgrove remained on administrative leave as of Wednesday’s announcement.
Taylor’s family recently settled with the city of Louisville for $12 million in a wrongful death lawsuit, also getting the city to admit police misconduct in the language of several reforms.
Louisville was on lockdown in an official state of emergency Wednesday in advance of the announcement, the Courier Journal reported. Authorities predicted widespread unrest similar to the nationwide protests that have sprung up since May following Taylor’s death and the killing of George Floyd.
Here’s what you need to know:
Hankison Faces 3 Felony Counts of Wanton Endangerment
Hankison was already fired in June for his use of force during the botched drug raid after police oversight found that he “wantonly and blindly fired 10 rounds” into Taylor’s home. Some of the bullets fired by Hankison penetrated an adjacent apartment, endangering a pregnant woman, the department found.
The grand jury indictment stemmed from those stray bullets, with Taylor not identified as a victim, the Courier-Journal reported. Rather, the people in the nearby apartments during the incident were identified.
The grand jury on Wednesday charged Hankison with three counts of wanton endangerment and issued a warrant for his arrest. According to the grand jury, cash bond for Hankison will be set at $15,000.
Cameron Said That Mattingly & Cosgrove Were Justified in Using Lethal Force & That ‘Criminal Law Is Not Meant to Respond to Every Sorrow & Grief’
Crowds gathered near the Kentucky History Center in the hours before the announcement, and several speakers called for calm no matter the decision. Cameron spoke after the grand jury announcement and urged peace, telling Kentuckians that “criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief.”
Cameron emphasized that the grand jury had been presented with all of the evidence in the state’s probe of the shooting, as well as the FBI’s investigation.
The Kentucky State Police and FBI labs came to different conclusions as to who fired the shot that killed Taylor, Cameron said. The state found their test results inconclusive, while the FBI determined that Cosgrove fired the shot, according to Cameron.
“From our judgment, it was important to provide both to the grand jury and ultimately let them make that determination,” he said.
Several times, Cameron repeated that his investigation and the grand jury found that Cosgrove and Mattingly were justified in opening fire, because Walker had fired his weapon. The grand jury determined that Hankison was the only one who should face charges.
“The facts have been examined and a grand jury of our peers and fellow citizens has made a decision,” he said. “Justice is not often easy. It does not fit the mold of public opinion … it answers only to the facts and to the law.”
Cameron also urged protesters to remain peaceful: “Mob justice is not justice,” he said. “Justice sought by vengeance is not justice.”
He also took aim at “celebrities, influencers and activists who have never lived in Kentucky” who will weigh in on the grand jury’s decision.
“Let’s not give in to their attempts to capture our thinking or influence our emotions,” Cameron said.
Cameron also said he would create a state task force to examine the processes for executing search warrants in Ketucky through an executive order in the coming days.
“You have my words I will also vigorously pursue the charges announced today,” he said, adding that the U.S. Department of Justice would also investigate for potential violations of federal law.
Mayor Phil Mattingly said at a press briefing Wednesday morning that the National Guard was on hand to assist Louisville police and a 72-hour curfew would be enforced between 9 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., following the announcement that roiled and devastated many in the community.