Kentucky’s attorney general announced on Wednesday that a grand jury returned an indictment against only one of the three officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor earlier this year, not for her killing but on charges of wanton endangerment.
Breonna Taylor was asleep in her apartment with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, in the early morning hours of March 13 when three Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers arrived to serve a search warrant. The three officers, Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Brett Hankison and Detective Myles Cosgrove, claim to have knocked and announced their presence prior to breaching the door. However, per Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s remarks there is no video or body camera footage of the officers’ attempt to serve the warrant, and their claim of knock-and-announce is corroborated by a single independent witness.
Mattingly was the only officer to actually enter the apartment, and Walker fired one shot at him, believing him to be an intruder. The shot hit Mattingly in the thigh. Mattingly and Cosgrove returned fire, and six shots hit Taylor. FBI ballistics analysis shows the fatal shot was fired by Cosgrove. Hankison, who was outside the apartment, fired 10 times through a window and sliding glass door, and some of his bullets traveled through Taylor’s apartment and into the next apartment, where three people, a man, a pregnant woman and a child, were home at the time. None of Hankison’s bullets struck any person.
According to the attorney general’s statement, Walker has admitted that he fired one shot and that he fired first. The investigation concluded, and the grand jury agreed, that Mattingly and Cosgrove fired in self-defense. “According to Kentucky law, the use of force by Mattingly and Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves,” Cameron said. “This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Ms. Breonna Taylor’s death.”
Hankison, on the other hand, was indicted for three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree for placing the three individuals in the other apartment “in danger of serious physical injury or death.” This is a class D felony in Kentucky, which carries a sentence of not less than one year up to a maximum of five years for each count. Cameron vowed to “vigorously prosecute the criminal charges announced today,” while also urging Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear “to do what is necessary to maintain law and order and to protect our cities and our people.”
In expectation of protests following Wednesday’s announcement, Louisville Police issued a statement Tuesday informing the community that it would preemptively place barricades and restrict vehicle access in and around downtown Louisville. Taylor’s death has been just one of many fueling Black Lives Matter protests across the country.