Yesterday saw the start of the trial for the Louisville officer facing criminal charges in relation to the raid on Taylor’s apartment that resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor. Brett Hankison was a former detective and is being charged not with the murder of Taylor (a 25-year old EMT died from bullet injuries after police broke into Taylor’s apartment at night). But with endangering the safety of her neighbours by shooting blindly into the building.
Stew Matthews, the defense lawyer, said to Hankison that Hankison is the “one who fired those shots” that were the focus of the case. It’s irrelevant. It’s the issue: Was he motivated to fire these shots? ReasoningHankison probably thought that this was too strong of a term to describe what was happening inside his brain on the night. Matthews said that Hankison’s actions could have been explained by the circumstance. He said, “You will discover that the scene was complete chaos.”
Hankison contributed in some way to the chaos. However, he is not the sole responsible. People who were not indicted have been spared criminal liability. This vividly illustrates how the war against drugs makes murder look like self-defense.
Jamarcus Glover was her ex-boyfriend and had been implicated in drug deals. This led to Taylor being killed. Taylor had ended her relationship with Glover but he still received packages from Taylor’s apartment. Taylor was searched for drugs and money. However, police discovered that the package, which was allegedly filled with clothing and shoes from Amazon, had been delivered a month earlier than they were supposed to.
Taylor did not have a criminal record and no evidence of drug dealing. Joshua Jaynes (the detective applying for the search warrant) did not mention that Taylor was the recipient of “no packages or interest”, according to the local postal inspector. Furthermore, he applied for a no-knock warrant based on boilerplate safety and evidence-preservation concerns without offering any information specific to Taylor.
Although they had permission to go into the apartment, officers serving the warrant banged on it for at least thirty seconds starting around 12:40 AM. They claimed they also announced themselves before using a battering ram to break in—a point that was disputed by all the neighbors who were later interviewed, including one who subsequently changed his account to fit the official story. Kenneth Walker was Taylor’s boyfriend at the time. Walker said that they didn’t know who was there, but he was scared by the sound of the drumming and was concerned it was Glover.
Walker responded to the chaos by reaching for a gun and shooting one shot that hit one of the officers’ legs. The three officers who responded fired 32 rounds total, six hitting Taylor. Taylor was in the dark corridor next to Walker. Myles Cosgrove was a detective and fired 16 rounds. Later, Cosgrove stated that he had been “overwhelmed by bright flashes of darkness” which made him believe there were still gunshots due to the bright lights. Cosgrove also stated that he didn’t know if he used his gun.
Cosgrove stated that she just felt that she’d been fired in an interview. This was for grand jurors. It is surreal. It’s almost as if I believed you if you said I hadn’t done something that day. You could probably convince me that I had done something if you said so.
Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly was the officer that had been hit by Walker’s bullet and simultaneously shot six shots. After reviewing medical evidence, Daniel Cameron, Kentucky Attorney General, stated that Taylor had been struck by Walker’s bullet and only one of six rounds was fired. It would have taken Taylor two minutes to die. Although a ballistic analysis by the state could not identify the shooter, it was determined that the bullet came from Cosgrove’s firearm.
Hankison fired 10 shots without any clear targets while he was standing outside Taylor’s home when gunfire broke out. Robert Schroeder wrote to Hankison in June 2020 that his actions had shown an extreme disregard for the worth of human lives when he fired 10 rounds blindly and wantonly into Taylor’s apartment. “These rounds created a substantial danger of death and serious injury to Breonna Taylor and the three occupants of the apartment next to Ms. Taylor’s…I find your conduct a shock to the conscience. Your use of deadly force is shocking to me.
Schroeder’s conclusion was accepted by the grand juror. It approved three wanton endangerment charges against Hankison in September. One for each of three individuals living in the apartment where the bullets were fired: Cody Etherton and Chelsey Napper, who was then pregnant, and Hankison’s 5-year-old boy. Hankison is accused of wanting to “only engage”.[d]In conduct that causes[d]A “substantial danger of death or severe physical injury to another individual” under circumstances that indicate an “extreme disregard for the dignity of human life.” That is a Class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison for each count—a maximum of 15 years in this case.
Yesterday, Etherton said that Taylor awakened him when he heard police approaching Taylor’s home. This was followed quickly by gunfire. He said that several rounds were fired at Taylor’s unit, almost hitting Etherton and the boy. Etherton explained that Etherton was a “professional, well-trained officer” and should have been able to provide floor plans. They didn’t know who the back door was. It was unknown who lived there. This kind of disturbed me. I found it reckless.”
Hankison was not the only officer to act recklessly in the raid, or during the weeks that preceded it. Yvette, the interim police chief who replaced Schroeder, found that Jaynes had lied on his search warrant request. In her December 2020 termination letter, Yvette Gentry wrote that Jaynes had lied by stating that he was’verified through the US Postal Inspector’. “Detective Jaynes did not have contact with a US Postal Inspector….Having an independent, third party verify information is powerful and compelling [evidence]. This was misleading because it was included in the affidavit to verify direct.
Taylor was searched for his apartment based on suspicions that “suspicious parcels” were delivered to it. Jaynes’ lying was key to this conclusion.
Gentry also criticised Jaynes for not having an operational plan in place before the raid. It is evident from the review, that better supervision, control and oversight should have been in place for this operation before it was signed and executed. The operations plan wasn’t completed correctly, creating a dangerous situation for everyone involved. While you were the investigator, the vast majority of the investigation was conducted by the officer. However, the direct supervisor and neither you nor the other officers involved in the case did any. [nor]His lieutenant was present at the site when the search warrant were executed.
Gentry sent Cosgrove a termination notice that same day. She stated Gentry failed to correctly identify a target as he fired 16 bullets down a dark corridor. Gentry wrote, “The shots that you fired in three distinct directions show that you didn’t identify any target.” You fired in an observable manner that would be considered suppressive fire. This is contrary to our values, training and policy.
Walker was first charged with attempted killing of a police officer. But, two months later, the prosecutors dropped this charge, implicitly acknowledging that Walker has a strong claim to self-defense. Cameron agreed to the contradictory claim of the officers, and concluded that Mattingly, Cosgrove, and Mattingly had all fired in self-defense. Cameron stated that the grand jury had agreed with his conclusion. However, one juror contradicted Cameron and said that prosecutors didn’t even offer Cosgrove and Mattingly charges to be considered.
Cameron believes that Mattingly’s 22 shot of force was justified under the circumstances. But something is clearly wrong when the police and the other side in an escalating confrontation claim that they are acting in self-defense. Even ignoring the shortcomings of the search warrant, it’s clear that the manner in which it was served created an atmosphere where police could be easily confused for dangerous criminals. This same basic scenario has been playing out in cities across the country for years—most recently in Minneapolis, where a SWAT team awakened Amir Locke early in the morning and killed him within nine seconds because he, like Walker, picked up a gun in response to a terrifying home invasion.
Hankison believes that the “chaos”, which he claims justified his blind gunshot, was the result of several serious failures.
Jaynes did not tell the truth in his application for a search warrant. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mary Shaw granted that search warrant as well as four others in the case against Glover, within twelve minutes. Jaynes failed to challenge the scanty evidence Jaynes provided to establish probable cause. Jaynes also presented no information that would support the dispensation of the knock-and announce requirement.
Officers serving the warrant did not plan their operation well, didn’t consult SWAT officers and were unaware of the dangers that could arise from deadly confusion. Mattingly was also involved in placing themselves in a fatal funnel that made it possible for them to be exposed to deadly danger. However, Mattingly did not realize that they might have been shot by someone else with the 22 bullets that they had fired. Hankison, however, is not the only one accused of “extreme disregard for the human value of life.”
Taylor wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for these failures. Most importantly, all of this wouldn’t have been possible if politicians hadn’t authorized violence to respond to their arbitrarily prohibited consumption of psychoactive drugs.
We wouldn’t be fighting about which police officers committed the crimes of that night if there wasn’t the war against drugs. Their guilt would have been obvious for burglary, assault using a deadly weapon and murder. Walker believed he was protecting Taylor against the violent criminals. Everyone would know that Walker was correct if it wasn’t for the drug prohibition.