(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — A former Kentucky police officer was found not guilty Thursday on charges he endangered neighbors the night he fired into Breonna Taylor’s apartment during a botched drug raid that resulted in Taylor’s death.
Following closing arguments of defense attorneys and prosecution lawyers, about three hours passed before the eight-member panel delivered its verdict in favor Brett Hankison.
None of the officers involved in the March 13, 2020, raid were charged with Taylor’s death, and Hankison did not fire any of the bullets that killed the 26-year-old Black woman. This likely means that there are no state criminal cases against any officers who were involved in the raid. Federal authorities are investigating whether any of the officers violated his civil right.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and a group of friends and family left quickly without commenting after the verdict.
Hankison was not present in courtroom following the reading of the verdict. But his attorney Stewart Mathews said he and Hankison were “thrilled.”
Asked what might have swayed the jury, Mathews replied, “I think it was absolutely the fact that he was doing his job as a police officer.”
Barbara Maines Whaley, Assistant Kentucky Attorney General, said that she respects the verdict and had no other comment.
Prosecutors stressed in opening statements that the case wasn’t about Taylor’s death or the police decisions that led to the raid. The jurors saw a single photo of Taylor’s body that was barely visible at the corridor’s end.
Taylor was settling into bed, when the officers knocked at her door. The officers shot Taylor multiple times and then she was killed on the spot.
Protesters filled the streets for months after Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron’s office declined to seek charges against any of the officers in connection to Taylor’s death. Taylor’s name and those of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery — Black men who died in encounters with police and white pursuers — became rallying cries for racial justice during nationwide protests in 2020.
Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, said the verdict didn’t surprise her. Black residents of the city, she explained, had already been “experiencing a certain amount of frustration,” because no officer had been charged for Taylor’s death.
“I think there are a lot of people who are disappointed. It is very disheartening, but I have to tell you, it’s just not surprising,” she said. “It just doesn’t feel like an optimistic day for policing, for Black people, for our entire community.”
Louisville Mayer Greg Fischer said the verdict added to the “frustration and anger of many over the inability to find more accountability for the tragic events of March 13, 2020.”
“While the conduct considered in this case was not specific to Breonna Taylor’s death, the fact remains that she should not have died that night, and I know that for many, justice has still not been achieved,” he said.
Fischer cited some of the changes Louisville metro government has made since Taylor’s death, such as banning so-called no-knock warrants and conducting a top-to-bottom review of the police department.
Hankison, 45, had been charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing through sliding-glass side doors and a window of Taylor’s apartment during the raid. Hankison, 45, was accused of shooting multiple bullets through the wall of an apartment neighboring. Prosecutors said Hankison threatened the lives of Taylor’s young daughter, her pregnant partner, and their child.
Hankison’s attorneys never contested the ballistics evidence, but said he fired 10 bullets because he thought his fellow officers were “being executed.”
Sgt. John Mattingly, was hit in the leg by a bullet from a handgun fired by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who said he thought intruders were breaking in.
“The jury felt like you go out and perform your duty and your brother officer gets shot, you got a right to defend yourself,” Mathews said of Hankison’s acquittal. “Simple as that.”
Louisville Police fired Hankison for blindly shooting during raid. Asked during the trial if he did anything wrong that night, he said, “Absolutely not.”
Taylor died in the battle against fire, which was led by Mattingly along with fellow officer Myles Colsgrove.
Mattingly and Cosgrove declined to testify during Hankison’s trial, invoking their Fifth Amendment rights because of an ongoing FBI civil rights investigation. Hankison’s handgun and other evidence from the scene is being held by FBI investigators, though the gun was loaned to prosecutors to show at trial.
The U.S. Department of Justice also announced last year that it is investigating the city’s police department for potential discrimination and its use of force and search warrant policies.
About 20 demonstrators protested the verdict at Jefferson Square Park, downtown Louisville on Thursday evening. The square was transformed into an informal meeting place for demonstrators during the months-long demonstrations in 2020.
Cheyenne Osuala, who sat in on the trial with Taylor’s family, said she was stunned when she heard the jury’s decision.
“We thought there’s no way that we could come back with a guilty verdict,” Osuala said. “We’ve gotten nothing, not that that would have been justice for Breonna Taylor. But at least a conviction, even if it is small, it would have been something more than nothing.”
Piper Hudspeth Blackburn was an Associated Press journalist who contributed to this article. Hudspeth blackburn is a member of the Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America, a non-profit national service program, places journalists in local newsrooms where they can report on unreported issues.