Please Help ZNet
A grand jury has determined that criminal proceedings can move forward against one of the three white police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor, a Black emergency medical technician, in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment in the early morning hours of March 13.
The grand jury’s decision, officially released from the office of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, is not a pronouncement of guilt, but rather means that formal prosecutorial charges can be issued against the officers who shot and killed Taylor.
Brett Hankison, an officer who had been fired earlier this year by the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) because he had shot at least 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment, has been indicted on three charges of wanton endangerment.
The charges, however, appear to be unrelated directly to the shooting and killing of Taylor. Charges from the indictment cite Hankison shooting into three apartments on the night of Taylor’s death.
The occupants of the other apartments are only identified by their initials, none of which appear to be “BT,” which seems to imply that the charges against Hankison were for gunfire that entered into other people’s homes, and not for any of the shots that struck and killed Taylor.
According to Kentucky statutes, wanton endangerment is a Class D Felony, which makes it a crime that is punishable by up to five years in prison. Judge Annie O’Connell set a $15,000 bond for Hankison.
Criticism of the announcement from the grand jury was swift. Ben Crump, an attorney for Taylor’s family, condemned the decision to charge Hankison with crimes unrelated to Taylor’s death as “outrageous and offensive.”
“If Brett Hankison’s behavior was wanton endangerment to people in neighboring apartments, then it should have been wanton endangerment in Breonna Taylor’s apartment too,” Crump added. “In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder!”
Michael Harriot, senior writer for The Root, noted that Hankison’s charges were minimal. Class D felonies, he pointed out, included crimes, such as “shoplifting, cultivating marijuana, eavesdropping & stealing mail.”
Most who are convicted of such crimes under Class D felonies, Harriot added, “do no prison time.”
Taylor’s sister, Juniyah Palmer, expressed immense sadness over the decision not to recommend any charges related to her sibling’s death.
“Sister, you was failed by a system you worked hard for and I am sorry,” Palmer wrote in an Instagram story. “I love you so so so so so much.”
The grand jury was initially tasked with reviewing the details of Taylor’s death to determine whether the three officers from the LMPD involved in the incident — Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — will be charged criminally.
Hankison was terminated from the department earlier this year. The grand jury chose not to recommend charges for Mattingly and Cosgrove who had been placed on administrative leave after the shooting.
On the morning of March 13, the LMPD executed a no-knock search warrant on the apartment where Taylor lived with Walker, on the premise that Taylor had once dated a suspected drug dealer. After the officers used a battering ram on the door to the dwelling, Walker, a legal gun owner, grabbed his weapon, believing it to be a home invasion. According to Walker’s account, the police never identified themselves.
After the door was broken down, Walker fired his gun, believing his life was in danger, hitting one of the officers in the thigh. The officers responded by firing several shots into the apartment. Taylor was shot five times by police and died from her wounds. No drugs were found in the home.
In June, Louisville passed an ordinance banning the use of no-knock warrants by LMPD. Other changes to police practices were agreed to following a civil lawsuit settlement between the city and Taylor’s family.