Six months after Breonna Taylor's death at the hands of Louisville police, a Jefferson County grand jury has indicted one of the three officers involved.
Detective Brett Hankison has been charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. Judge Annie O'Connell set an arrest warrant and $15,000 cash bond. Neither Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly nor Det. Myles Cosgrove was indicted.
AP reports the grand jury indicts former police officer Brett Hankison with three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree in shooting of Breonna Taylor. The other police officers were not charged. pic.twitter.com/4LR4HxHerx— Jeffrey Guterman (@JeffreyGuterman) September 23, 2020
As Kentucky statutes define the charge, wanton endangerment is when an individual showcases "extreme indifference" in regard to human life and engages in conduct that creates a high chance of death or injuries, despite knowing the risks involved. A class D felony with fines of up to $10,000, one count can result in up to five years in prison.
As Judge O'Connell said upon announcing the charges, Hankison "wantonly shot a gun" into apartments that neighbored Breonna Taylor's. It's highly worth noting that O'Connell did not indicate Hankison had "wantonly" fired into Taylor's apartment specifically.
Ben Crump, the attorney for the family of Taylor, tweeted his response to the indictment shortly after it was announced. "This is outrageous and offensive," he wrote. "If Brett Hankison's behavior was wanton endagerment to people in neighboring apartments, then it should have been wanton endagerment in Breonna Taylor's apartment too. In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder!"
Taylor, age 26, was fatally shot when three plainclothes officers, all of whom were not wearing bodycams, executed a no-knock search warrant at her apartment on March 13, 2020. Taylor's boyfriend Kenneth Walker, a registered gun owner, shot at the officers when they entered the apartment because he thought they were intruders. He injured one of the officers, prompting them to fire over 20 rounds into the apartment. Taylor was shot eight times and died at the scene.
“Even though three officers have Breonna’s blood on their hands, only one was charged, and with three counts of first degree wanton endangerment, a class D felony implying a low-level of responsibility for the death or injury," The Movement for Black Lives wrote in a statement on the charges. "This charge is connected to shooting into the neighboring apartment unit, but not the murder of Breonna Taylor. To be sure, a wall -- an inanimate object-- has received more justice than Breonna Taylor did today... This indictment is another clear and egregious reminder that the criminal-legal system in Louisville - and in this country - does not value Black people or see us as deserving of protection from those who’ve taken an oath to ‘protect and serve."
Prior to the announcement, one of the Louisville officers involved in the shooting claimed he and his colleagues did the right thing. "Regardless of the outcome (of the Kentucky attorney general's decision) today or Wednesday, I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night," wrote Jonathan Mattingly in an email that has since surfaced online. "It's sad how the good guys are demonized, and the criminals are canonized." In the same email, he referred to protesters as "thugs."
The Louisville Metro Police Department announced a state of emergency effective in preparation for Cameron's announcement on Wednesday. "To ensure we have the appropriate level of staffing to provide for public safety services and our policing functions, effective immediately the LMPD will operate under the emergency staffing and reporting guidelines," said LMPD Interim Chief of Police Robert Schroeder on Monday.