A federal jury began deliberations Monday to determine whether a former Louisville police detective violated Breonna Taylor’s civil rights and used excessive force in a 2020 apartment raid in which she was fatally shot by other officers. Federal prosecutors accused Brett Hankison of firing blindly into a covered window and door after two fellow officers exchanged gunfire with Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, while attempting to execute a warrant in a drug investigation late at night at her apartment. Hankison’s attorneys portrayed their client as a veteran officer doing his job to protect his fellow officers from an imminent threat, the Washington Post reports. Taylor, a Black woman, was killed less than three months before the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, and their deaths resulted in months of social justice protests largely directed at police brutality and racial discrimination. The two-week federal trial wrapped up Monday afternoon. It marked the first federal trial against any of the officers involved in the shooting of Taylor.
In a closing statement Monday, prosecutor Michael Songer said Walker fired a single shot that wounded an officer, former sergeant Jonathan Mattingly. Mattingly and another officer, Myles Cosgrove, returned fire, killing Taylor. Songer said Hankison disregarded the safety of Taylor, Walker and her neighbors when he retreated to the apartment complex’s parking lot and shot into Taylor’s apartment. Some of the bullets went into a neighbor’s unit. “Every officer knows that they cannot shoot at someone they cannot see,” Songer said. “And officers can absolutely never fire because they are angry, to get revenge or retaliate — even if they think someone shot at the police on purpose.” Hankison testified that he fired because he believed the other officers were in danger of being killed by an assailant wielding an assault rifle. No rifle or drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment. Prosecutors and Walker have said that he was sleeping when officers arrived to execute the warrant and that he fired because he thought someone was breaking in. Officers say they knocked on the door multiple times before entering. The bullets from Hankison’s gun did not hit anyone. He is charged with violating the civil rights of Taylor, her boyfriend and three neighbors in the adjoining unit, including a child.