LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Brett Hankison is a free man. A jury found Hankison not guilty of wanton endangerment Thursday.
Hankison, one of three Louisville Metro Police (LMPD) officers involved in the deadly raid on Breonna Taylor's apartment in March 2020, was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing into a neighboring apartment.
Three people, including a 5-year-old child, were inside the apartment at the time of the shooting. None of them were injured.
After three hours of deliberation, the jury returned with a not guilty verdict on all counts on Thursday, March 3, 2022.
In the courtroom, as the verdict was read, Hankison appeared visibly emotional. He did not come out of the courtroom with attorneys.
Onlookers were instructed not to react to the verdict, but Breonna Taylor's family appeared upset to WHAS11 reporters in the room.
Taylor's family, who was present during the trial, declined to comment after the verdict was read.
Outside of the courtroom, Defense Attorney Stew Mathews said he believed the jury delivered justice.
He expressed remorse for Breonna Taylor's family but said Hankison was not responsible for her death.
"I told Breonna Taylor's family in closing argument, I tried to, that it was a terrible tragedy and it shouldn't have happened but it did and as I said, in the closing argument it all revolves back to Kenny Walker," he said moments after the verdict. Kenneth Walker was Taylor's boyfriend who fired the single shot that hit LMPD Sergeant John Mattingly the night of the raid. His charges for his actions have been dismissed.
Mathews also said Hankison taking the stand himself aided in his defense.
"I mean from day one he's been going to take the stand," Mathews said. "A lot of lawyers don't think clients should take the stand. I believe they absolutely should."
Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley said the prosecution respects the jury's decision and declined to comment further on the verdict.
In a tweet, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the decision "adds to the frustration and anger of many over the inability to find more accountability for the tragic events" of that night.
LMPD issued the following statement:
“The events of March 13, 2020 are still painful for many, and since then LMPD has prioritized rebuilding trust with the communities that we serve. LMPD respects the judicial process and also recognizes that there are still potentially more proceedings that may be held on this case and will not provide further comment at this time.”
What happened during the trial?
During the six-day-long trial, the jury heard from Cody Etherton and Chelsey Napper - two of the people inside the neighboring apartment - as well as several LMPD officers, including former police chief Steve Conrad.
Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly, the other two officers involved in the raid, chose to invoke their Fifth Amendment right not to testify. Jurors watched a video deposition of Cosgrove from a different case.
Hankison took the stand himself, sharing his perspective from the night of the shooting. He became emotional while recalling the events of the raid, including the moment he realized Mattingly had been shot.
He said he believed he did nothing wrong. He also spoke directly to Taylor's family members, saying Taylor didn't have to die that night.
During the first week of the trial, the jury also visited the apartment where the shooting took place.
Judge Ann Bailey Smith said their visit was not to supply evidence but to present the physical facts so they may better understand and apply the evidence they heard in the courtroom.
What is wanton endangerment?
According to USLegal.com, Wanton Endangerment refers to an act or an instance of putting someone or something in danger or exposure to peril or harm.
In Kentucky, Wanton Endangerment is listed as a class D felony. Charges are punishable for one to five years in jail with fines of up to $10,000.
The Commonwealth's first-degree Wanton Endangerment law is found in KRS 508.060 and is defined as follows, "a person is guilty of wanton endangerment in the first degree when, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, he wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person."
Who is Brett Hankison?
Hankison's personnel file shows he was commended for his work with LMPD's Metro Academy Classes throughout his tenure.
In 2013, he received LMPD's Exceptional Merit Award for "outstanding interruption of a human trafficking operation" in south Louisville. The same year, he was nominated for the Distinguished Lifesaving Award for his work at a crash.
Additionally, his personnel file shows that he had been reprimanded for violating standard operating procedures multiple times.
In his termination letter, former LMPD Police Chief Robert Schroeder said Hankison had previously been disciplined for reckless conduct that "injured a (sic) innocent person present."
Hankison has also been sued for harassment and investigated for allegations of sexual assault.
He was fired from the police department a few months after the shooting of Breonna Taylor and was the only officer charged in the case.
No one has been charged for her death.