October 24, 2020

Breonna Taylor, Live Updates: Grand Jury Indicts Officer Brett Hankinson

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageBreonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, left, after the city of Louisville, Ky., reached a $12 million settlement with her family last week.
Credit…Xavier Burrell for The New York Times

One former officer was indicted. Two other officers who fired shots were not charged.

A grand jury indicted a former Louisville police officer on Wednesday for wanton endangerment during a botched drug raid that led to the death of Breonna Taylor in March. No charges were announced against the other two officers who fired shots.

The three-count indictment concerns Brett Hankison, a detective at the time, who fired into the sliding glass patio door and window of Ms. Taylor’s apartment building, both of which were covered with blinds, in violation of a department policy that requires officers to have a line of sight.

He is the only one of the three officers who was dismissed from the force, with a termination letter stating that he showed “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.”

The decision came after more than 100 days of protests and a monthslong investigation into the death of Ms. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician who was shot five times in the hallway of her apartment by officers executing a search warrant.

Because the officers did not shoot first — it was the young woman’s boyfriend who opened fire; he has said he mistook the police for intruders — many legal experts had thought it unlikely the officers would be indicted.

Ms. Taylor’s name and image have become part of a national movement over racial injustice, with celebrities writing open letters and erecting billboards demanding that the white officers be criminally charged for the death of a young Black woman. City and state officials feared that a grand jury decision not to prosecute the officers would inflame a city that has been roiled by demonstrations that have sometimes turned violent.

Ms. Taylor’s mother sued the city of Louisville for wrongful death and received a $12 million settlement last week. But she and her lawyers have insisted that nothing short of murder charges for all three officers would be enough, a demand taken up by thousands of protesters in Kentucky and across the country.

Many legal experts said that indictments would be unlikely, given the state’s statute allowing citizens to use lethal force in self-defense.John W. Stewart, a former assistant attorney general in Kentucky, said he believed that at least two of the officers who opened fire were protected by that law.

“As an African-American, as someone who has been victim of police misconduct myself, getting pulled over and profiled, I know how people feel,” Mr. Stewart said. “I have been there, but I have also been a prosecutor, and emotions cannot play a part here.”

Two officers, Sgt. Jon Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, returned fire in the direction of Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, according to internal documents. In the chaos that ensued, Sergeant Mattingly was shot, injuring the femoral artery in his leg, and the others scrambled to drag him out of the apartment and apply a tourniquet to his leg.

A third officer, Detective Brett Hankison, ran into the parking lot and began firing into the apartment’s sliding glass patio door and window, both of which were covered with blinds, in violation of a department policy that requires officers to have a line of sight. He is the only one of the three officers who was dismissed from the force, with a termination letter stating that he showed “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.”

Louisville and other cities are bracing for protests.

Credit…Xavier Burrell for The New York Times

In anticipation of the grand jury’s decision, Louisville police officers placed barricades around downtown this week to reduce access to the area, and Robert J. Schroeder, the city’s interim police chief, told officers that he would not approve any requests for time off.

“We all know something is coming,” Mr. Schroeder said on Tuesday. “We don’t know what it is.”

Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat, issued a state of emergency order on Tuesday in anticipation of possible “civil unrest” following the announcement of the grand jury decision by the Kentucky attorney general. A local judge also signed an order shutting down the federal courthouse in downtown.

Mr. Fischer said on Twitter that the restrictions on the city’s downtown were to keep people safe while allowing for possible protests.

Anger over Ms. Taylor’s killing has spread far from Louisville, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois indicated this week that he was also preparing for the grand jury’s decision. A spokeswoman for Mr. Pritzker said that he had spoken to Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, and had asked the state’s National Guard to be ready for the possibility of demonstrations in Illinois.

Activists anxiously awaited the announcement of charges.

Credit…Xavier Burrell for The New York Times

Less than an hour before the expected announcement, dozens of activists and organizers gathered in Jefferson Square Park in downtown Louisville on Wednesday, anxious yet preparing for what would come next.

The square has been the site of a makeshift memorial, with flowers, protest signs and paintings of Ms. Taylor laid out in honor of those who have died at the hands of the police.

Organizers urged demonstrators not to give the police a reason to use force against them, calling on protesters to remain resolute in their calls for change.

“We all know this announcement is a start clock for the next level of our protest,” Shameka Parrish-Wright, a co-chair of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, told the assembled crowd.

Domo Bolden, 22 of Louisville, was writing the phone number for a jail help hotline on bright orange wristbands that he was handing out to protesters. Mr. Bolden, an artist and entrepreneur, said he had been protesting for more than 80 of the 119 days that demonstrators in Louisville had been rallying for Ms. Taylor.

“If the verdict doesn’t come back the way the people want it or the way it’s supposed to be, who knows,” Mr. Bolden said. “If there’s no justice, there’s no peace, period.”

Police officers with a ‘no-knock’ warrant broke down Ms. Taylor’s door.

The officers who broke down Ms. Taylor’s door shortly after midnight on March 13 had come with a search warrant, signed by a local magistrate. They had court approval for a “no-knock” warrant, which Louisville has since banned, but the orders were changed before the raid, requiring them to knock first and announce themselves as the police.

Mr. Walker has said that he and Ms. Taylor did not know who was at her door. Only one neighbor, out of nearly a dozen, reported hearing the officers shout “police” before entering.

The warrant for Ms. Taylor’s apartment was one of five issued in a case involving her ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, who is accused of running a drug trafficking syndicate. At the other addresses that were searched, officers found a table covered in drugs packaged for sale, including a plastic sachet containing cocaine and fentanyl, police logs and a laboratory report show.

The surveillance leading police officers to Ms. Taylor’s home included a GPS tracker showing repeated trips by Mr. Glover to her home; photographs of him emerging from her apartment with a package in his hands; footage showing her in a car with Mr. Glover arriving at one of the trap houses he operated; and his use of her address on bank records and other documents. The F.B.I. has opened an investigation into whether the inclusion of her name and address on the warrant violated her civil rights, as her family’s lawyers have claimed.

Ms. Taylor’s death became a Black Lives Matter rallying cry.

Credit…Erik Branch for The New York Times

For months, Ms. Taylor’s death has been a rallying cry. Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, called out her name during the Democratic National Convention. Oprah Winfrey paid for billboards demanding the officers be charged, writing in her magazine, “We have to use whatever megaphone we can.”

Frustration has mounted in Louisville at the pace of the investigation into the fatal shooting. That frustration has been compounded by a city administration that refused to release basic records — including her autopsy and the body camera footage of officers who responded to the shooting — and that made inexplicable errors in some of the documents it did release, including a report incorrectly claiming that she had not been injured and that the door to her apartment was never breached.

Mr. Cameron, a Republican attorney general who ran on a law-and-order platform, had to navigate both the demands of protesters and the constraints of the law, said Frank Mascagni III, a former assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Louisville.

“My city is going to blow up if these three men are not charged,” said Mr. Mascagni, who believes that the officers’ actions are protected under the law. “I’m very nervous for what I think is going to occur.”

Who are the four officers involved in the Taylor case?

Sgt. Jon Mattingly, 47, a 20-year veteran of the Louisville Metro Police Department, had spent the last four years in the narcotics division.

After officers knocked down the door to Ms. Taylor’s apartment, Sergeant Mattingly was the first officer to step inside. According to a statement he gave to investigators, he said that he saw a male and a female figure standing at the end of a hallway.

The male figure, who was Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was standing with his hands stretched out, holding a gun, Sergeant Mattingly said. “My mind’s going, this ain’t right.”

When Mr. Walker fired, Sergeant Mattingly said, he felt a sensation of heat in his leg, and then returned fire six times, stumbling over and falling. He had been hit in the femoral artery, with the bullet tearing through his thigh and exiting out the back, according to his statement.

Detective Myles Cosgrove, 42, has been with the Police Department for more than 15 years, including the last three in the narcotics division.

He was the second person inside Ms. Taylor’s apartment after an officer with a battering ram tore the door of its hinges, and returned fire down the hallway after Mr. Walker shot in the direction of the officers. It’s unclear how many rounds Detective Cosgrove fired.

Detective Brett Hankison, 44, had been an officer with the department since 2003 and was assigned to the narcotics division. He is the only one of the three officers who opened fire that night with a history of complaints of excessive force, as well as allegations of sexual misconduct.

According to a review of his personnel file obtained by The Times, nearly all of the complaints against him were dismissed or deemed not credible. But one record in his file showed he was reprimanded at least three times, including for causing a car wreck in 2016 that fractured the spine of another officer.

During the shooting, Mr. Hankison was initially positioned behind other officers, but after Mr. Walker opened fire, he ran out of the breezeway into the parking lot and fired at least 10 rounds into the sliding-glass door and window of Ms. Taylor’s apartment.

He is the only one of the three officers who was fired. The police chief at the time said in a public termination letter that Mr. Hankison’s actions “were a shock to the conscience,” and a violation of department policy because he fired without a line of sight, through the covered window and door, which were obscured by blinds.

Detective Joshua Jaynes, 38, has been with the Police Department since 2006, and had recently been assigned to the new Place-Based Investigations Unit, which was created in December 2019.

He prepared the five search warrant affidavits for simultaneous no-knock raids at locations suspected of playing a role in the local drug trade, including Ms. Taylor’s apartment. Lawyers for Ms. Taylor have said that the information tying her apartment to the drug trafficking syndicate was flawed and insufficient.

In the search warrant application, Detective Jaynes claimed that he had spoken to the postal inspector and had confirmed that parcels suspected of being part of the drug trade were being sent to Ms. Taylor’s apartment by an ex-boyfriend.

But Detective Jaynes did not speak directly to the postal inspector himself; he had relied on a neighboring police department to do so, because the Louisville Metro Police Department had a strained relationship with the postal inspector.

Detective Jaynes was placed on administrative reassignment in June amid the investigation into Ms. Taylor’s death, The Louisville Courier Journal reported.

Reporting was contributed by John Eligon, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Derrick Bryson Taylor.