Brett Hankison is the former police officer who was involved in the raid in Louisville, Kentucky that ended with the police accidentally shooting and killing Breonna Taylor in March of 2020. He was also the only officer to be charged with a crime as a result of the incident. Hankison was not accused in Taylor’s death, but instead faced charges of recklessly endangering some of her neighbors by firing rounds that went into their apartment. This week the case wrapped up and was handed to the jury. It took less than three hours for them to inform the judge that they had reached a conclusion. Hankison was found not guilty on all counts. (NBC News)
Former Louisville, Kentucky, police officer Brett Hankison was found not guilty on all counts Thursday after he was accused of endangering a couple and their 5-year-old son the night police raided Breonna Taylor’s apartment.
The jury reached their verdict following nearly two weeks of testimony. They deliberated for a little over 3 hours.
Hankison, a former officer with the Louisville Metro Police Department, was accused of endangering Cody Etherton, his partner, Chelsey Napper, and their 5-year-old son when he fired shots that went into their apartment on March 13, 2020.
The neighbors, Cody Etherton and his girlfriend, Chelsey Napper, both took part in the trial and spoke to reporters. They described the actions of the police during the raid as being “unorganized and reckless.” That’s hard to argue with, given the conditions they encountered upon forcing open the door of Taylor’s apartment. But the jury clearly didn’t find that any of the chaotic actions of the police rose to the level of criminal reckless endangerment.
I’ve followed this case pretty closely from the beginning and I’ve yet to see anything that really changed my take on it. The police appeared to conduct a very thorough and transparent investigation into what happened, sharing information with the media as they went along. Of course, that effort at transparency didn’t do anything to quell the sustained protests by groups that clearly wanted the police to be punished over what happened.
In reality, though, the entire affair truly did seem to boil down to a tragic mistake. Cops were interested in searching Taylor’s apartment because they suspected she might be in possession of drugs and/or weapons associated with the real subject of their investigation, Jamarcus Glover (Taylor’s former boyfriend and alleged “business partner” in his drug and weapons dealing activities). People engaged in such activities frequently tend to flush evidence when the police arrive and even open fire if they are armed, so a no-knock warrant was granted by a judge.
Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend at the time, can perhaps similarly be forgiven for opening fire on the police if we accept his testimony that he was in fear for his life and thought gang members were breaking into the apartment to rob them. Since his girlfriend remained in semi-regular contact with her former boyfriend who was a known drug dealer and gang member, that was probably a rational fear for him to have.
Once Walker fired at and struck a police officer, all hell broke loose. How Hankison wound up firing some of his rounds through into the next apartment was never made entirely clear, but he would have had no reason to think that the armed response was coming from the home of Etherton and Napper. But the police were under fire from a darkened apartment, so almost anything could have happened at that point. As I said, it was a tragic series of accidents and the jury apparently found that to be true also.