Former Louisville officer charged in Breonna Taylor raid says he defended colleagues

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The former Louisville police officer on trial for shooting into Breonna Taylor’s apartment the night she was killed testified Thursday that he had to react quickly after a colleague was shot in the leg during the drug raid .

Brett Hankison testified he saw a muzzle flash coming from Taylor’s hallway after officers broke down the door to execute a search warrant in the early morning hours of March 13, 2020.

He testified he thought it looked like an assault rifle, so he walked to the side of Taylor’s apartment and fired shots through a sliding glass door and window.

“I had to respond,” Hankison said on the stand Thursday in U.S. District Court. “I have no choice.”

Taylor’s boyfriend fired a single shot at the officers after they walked through the door, and two officers at the entrance returned fire, hitting and killing Taylor in the hallway of his apartment.

Although no one was hit by the ten shots fired, prosecutors argued that Hankison fired erratically without identifying a target. Some of his gunshots landed in an adjacent occupied apartment.

Hankison said he walked away from the front door, around the corner of the apartment and fired bullets into the side windows and sliding glass door because he believed a gunman was approaching officers in the doorway.

He said he believed the officers “fired automatic weapons and were pinned down.” Officers at the door fired a total of 22 shots after Taylor’s friend fired one.
“He looked like he was walking towards us … as if he was executing the other officers,” Hankison said.

Hankison, 47, was charged with two federal civil rights violations for endangering Taylor, her boyfriend and Taylor’s neighbors, who shared a wall with her apartment.

She faces a maximum prison sentence of life imprisonment. Federal prosecutors are trying to do what Kentucky prosecutors failed to do: convict Hankison for his actions the night Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, was shot and killed. He was acquitted by a jury of wanton endangerment last year.

Prosecutors in that trial argued that Hankison failed to follow police use-of-force guidelines when he decided to shoot through Taylor’s window and sliding door.

When his lawyer asked him about it, he responded that he “didn’t have time to think about a policy.”

“You act to save lives, or you don’t act and people will die,” Hankison said.

Hankison said he felt “terrible” about Taylor’s death and that it was “tragic for a lot of people and families.”

His death, along with that of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, sparked weeks of protests against police brutality in the city during the summer of 2020.

Hankison was also critical of the warrant, saying he and the other officers should never have been sent to his apartment that night.

Taylor’s warrant was one of five issued at the same time the night she was killed, and she was part of a large narcotics operation against a known drug dealer.

The dealer was located in another part of town, but had a previous relationship with Taylor.

Three other former officers involved in drafting the ordinance have been charged in a separate federal case.

One of them, Kelly Goodlett, has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against former detective Joshua Jaynes and former sergeant. Kyle Meany going to trial next year.

The former Louisville officer killed by Taylor’s boyfriend during the raid, Jonathan Mattingly, also testified Thursday, saying he was standing at the door when it opened and saw a gun flash in the darkness. He said he saw two figures at the end of the corridor before he was shot.

Mattingly, who retired from the police force in 2021, said he couldn’t say where Hankison was when the gunfire started, but he heard a “burst” of gunfire from the side of the building.
Hankison’s testimony continues Monday in federal court.

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