Former Louisville Officer Is Indicted in Breonna Taylor Case
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — 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.
In anticipation of the grand jury’s decision, the Louisville Police Department canceled vacations and Chief Robert J. Schroeder ordered a 10-day “state of emergency.” A local judge signed an order shutting the federal courthouse downtown, where storefronts and office towers were boarded up because of the sometimes violent protests.
Police officers erected barricades and chain-link fencing on Monday blocking the streets near a city park that had been the nucleus of protests, and announced other restrictions.
In a tweet on Tuesday morning, Mayor Greg Fischer said, “Our goal with these steps is ensuring space and opportunity for potential protesters to gather and express their First Amendment rights,” and “to keep everyone safe.”
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.
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.”