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Grand Jury Charges One Officer in Death of Breonna Taylor

A memorial for Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., September 10, 2020. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

A grand jury indicted one officer in the death of African American Louisville, Ky., resident Breonna Taylor, a nurse who was shot to death in a botched police raid in March.

Officer Brett Hankinsen was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment and faces a possible one to five years in prison for each count.

Hankinsen was one of three officers who fired their weapons during a raid on Taylor’s apartment, ostensibly as part of a drug bust. Taylor’s boyfriend claims he thought the police were intruders and fired his licensed handgun at them, and Taylor was killed in the crossfire. No drugs were found at the apartment.

The other two officers who fired their weapons, Myles Cosgrove  and John Mattingly, will not be charged. Mattingly was shot during the raid, and on Tuesday sent a letter to colleagues saying that they “did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night” when they opened fire.

“Jefferson County Grand Jury indicts former [officer] Brett Hankison with 3 counts of Wanton Endangerment in 1st Degree for bullets that went into other apartments but NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor. This is outrageous and offensive!” Ben Crump, attorney for Taylor’s family, wrote on Twitter.

Louisville mayor Greg Fischer declared a curfew beginning at 9 p.m. on Wednesday evening in anticipation of demonstrations following the indictment.

The shooting of Taylor in March drew widespread national attention following the George Floyd demonstrations in late May. Louisville police were said to obtain a “no-knock” warrant for Taylor’s apartment, which police alleged was being used as a stash house for drugs or money, or was used by a suspected drug dealer to receive mail. The details of the incident are still under internal investigation, and Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron stated on Wednesday that police did identify themselves before entering the apartment (Taylor’s family and boyfriend dispute this).

Louisville police chief Robert Schroeder fired Hankison on June 23, following allegations that Hankison fired blindly into Taylor’s apartment.

“I find your conduct a shock to the conscience,” Schroeder wrote in the termination letter. “I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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