Former Louisville, Kentucky, police officer Brett Hankison was found not guilty on all counts Thursday after he was accused of endangering a couple and their 5-year-old son the night police raided Breonna Taylor’s apartment.
The jury reached their verdict after deliberating for a little over three hours following days of testimony.
Hankison, a former officer with the Louisville Metro Police Department, was accused of endangering Cody Etherton, his partner, Chelsey Napper, and their 5-year-old son when he fired shots that went into their apartment on March 13, 2020. Police were at the complex to raid a neighboring apartment that belonged to Breonna Taylor in connection to a narcotics investigation.
Police shot and killed Taylor, 26, who was Black, after her boyfriend said he fired a shot, fearing a home invasion.
Hankison was fired in June 2020. A grand jury indicted him on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for bullets that went into Etherton and Napper's apartment.
He was the only officer involved in the raid to be charged, and no charges were filed directly relating to Taylor's death.
Etherton, 29, testified that police were "unorganized" and "reckless" the night of the raid. He described how "debris started going past my head and face" as bullets flew into his apartment, shattering his sliding glass patio door.
"I could put two and two together … I was like they think my backdoor is her backdoor. That’s what I thought, which to me is just very unorganized,” he said. “They didn’t even know whose backdoor that was. They didn’t even know who lived there. So, to me that kind of upset me. It was just reckless to me.”
Napper, who was pregnant at the time, said she called 911 twice after bullets pierced a wall she shared with Taylor.
“It was so scary and crazy I didn’t know what was going on,” Napper testified.
Hankison appeared to get emotional during his testimony on Wednesday as he recounted the moments leading up to when he opened fire.
The former officer said he saw a "muzzle flash" almost immediately after police broke through Taylor's front door. He believed the flash came from someone inside the apartment firing a rifle.
“The muzzle flash was not a muzzle flash that I would commonly identify as a handgun muzzle flash. This was a large-fire muzzle flash that I could see directly in front of me,” he told the court. “With the muzzle flash, it then gave the illumination to that hallway.”
He testified that he believed his colleagues were going to be executed.
“So I returned fire through the sliding glass door, and that did not stop the threat,” he said.
Hankison fired a total of 10 shots that night. He said the gunfire lasted only about five to 10 seconds.
No rifle was found at the scene. Kentucky Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley said in her opening statements that only a Glock pistol was located inside Taylor's apartment.
At one point in his testimony, Hankison was asked how he felt about bullets going into Etherton and Napper's apartment.
"I was pretty shook because I found out later that ... Ms. Napper testified they had a small child in there and I felt horrible," he said.
When asked whether he thought he did anything wrong, he responded: “Absolutely not."
"It’s something that didn’t have to happen,” he said, calling the incident a "tragedy."
Frederick Moore, a lawyer for Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said none of the victims involved, including his client and Taylor, got justice. He called out Attorney General Daniel Cameron for creating a narrative that he believes affected the outcome of the trial.
"I wanted to see him put forth his best effort and show that equal protection under the law and present the same case that he would against this officer as he would against anyone else," he said. "I don't believe he did that."
Moore also questioned why Walker was not asked to be a witness in Hankison's trial.
"I don't know how you can tell the story and not call him," he said.