Brett Hankison Is Not the Only Cop Who Acted Recklessly the Night Breonna Taylor Was Killed
The trial of the one Louisville police officer who faced criminal charges after the March 2020 raid that killed Breonna Taylor began yesterday. Former detective Brett Hankison is charged not with killing Taylor, an unarmed 25-year-old EMT who died in a hail of bullets after cops broke into her apartment in the middle of the night, but with endangering her neighbors by firing blindly into the building.
Hankison “is the one that fired the shots that are the subject of this case,” defense attorney Stew Matthews told the jury. “That’s not the issue. The issue is: What was the reasoning behind his firing those shots?” Reasoning is probably too strong a word for what was going on inside Hankison’s brain that night. But Matthews suggested that the detective’s actions were understandable in the circumstances. “You are going to discover that this scene was total chaos,” he said.
While Hankison undoubtedly contributed to the chaos, he was by no means mainly responsible for it. The people who were have escaped criminal liability, vividly illustrating how the war on drugs transforms murder into self-defense.
The raid that killed Taylor began with an investigation of her former boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, who was implicated in drug dealing. Although Taylor was no longer dating Glover, he continued to receive packages at her apartment. The search warrant for Taylor’s apartment ostensibly was based on the suspicion that the packages contained drugs or drug money. But a month before serving that warrant, police knew that the packages, which reportedly contained clothing and shoes, came from Amazon.
Taylor had no criminal record, and there was no evidence that she was involved in drug dealing, aside from her association with Glover. Joshua Jaynes, the detective who applied for the search warrant, said he had “verified through a US Postal Inspector” that Glover was receiving packages at Taylor’s apartment. But he did not mention that the local postal inspector’s office had concluded “no packages of interest” had been sent there. Furthermore, Jaynes applied for a no-knock warrant based on boilerplate safety and evidence-preservation concerns without offering any information specific to Taylor.
Even though they were authorized to enter the apartment without knocking, the officers who served the warrant banged on the door for at least 30 seconds around 12:40 a.m. 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. Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were in bed at the time. Walker later said they had no idea who was at the door, although he was “scared to death” by the pounding and worried that it might be Glover.
Walker reacted to the alarming tumult by grabbing a gun and firing a single shot, which struck one of the officers in the leg. Three officers responded by firing a total of 32 rounds, six of which struck Taylor, who was standing next to Walker in a dark hallway. Myles Cosgrove, a detective who fired 16 of those rounds, later said he was “overwhelmed with bright flashes and darkness,” which led him to believe “there’s still these gunshots happening due to those bright lights.” He also said he only surmised that he had used his gun.
“I just sensed that I’ve fired,” Cosgrove said in an interview that was played for grand jurors. “It’s like a surreal thing. If you told me I didn’t do something at that time, I’d believe you. If you told me I did do something, I’d probably believe you, too.”
Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, the officer who had been struck by Walker’s bullet, simultaneously fired six rounds, which may explain why Cosgrove believed Walker was still shooting. According to “medical evidence,” Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said after investigating the incident, just one of the bullets that hit Taylor was fatal, and it would have killed her within two minutes. While a state ballistic analysis could not determine who fired the fatal shot, the FBI’s lab concluded that it came from Co
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