Jury clears Louisville police officer in Breonna Taylor raid

Brett Hankison, 45, was found not guilty of three counts of 'wanton endangerment' for opening fire blindly during a raid on the apartment of Breonna Taylor.

FILE: Demonstrators pose for a photo in front of a local restaurant in the NULU neighborhood on a third day of protest over the lack of criminal charges in the police killing of Breonna Taylor and the result of a grand jury inquiry, in Louisville, Kentucky, on 25 September 2020. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON - A jury cleared a former Louisville police officer on Thursday of charges connected to a botched raid that left a young Black woman dead and sparked protests and calls for police reform.

Brett Hankison, 45, was found not guilty of three counts of "wanton endangerment" for opening fire blindly during a raid on the apartment of Breonna Taylor.

Taylor, 26, and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker were sleeping in her apartment around midnight on 13 March 2020 when they heard a noise at the door.

Walker, believing it was a break-in, fired his gun, wounding one police officer.

Police, who had obtained a controversial no-knock warrant to make a drug arrest, fired some 30 shots back, mortally wounding Taylor.

While Walker said police battered down the door unannounced, the officers insisted they had identified themselves.

Two of the officers involved were fired but Hankison was the only one to face charges.

He was not charged for the death of Taylor but for endangering residents of neighboring apartments by firing 10 shots, none of which struck Taylor. The shots that killed her were fired by the other officers.

The jury deliberated for three hours before delivering the not guilty verdict.

"Justice was done. The verdict was proper and we're thrilled," said Hankison's attorney, Stew Mathews. "He was doing his job as a police officer."

Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump denounced the verdict, calling it "further evidence of the lack of police accountability."

"The fact that Brett Hankison was not even charged for Breonna Taylor's killing and only faced charges for the wanton endangerment of her white neighbours was a slap in the face for Breonna and her family," Crump said in a statement.

"We demand real police reform, including a federal ban of no-knock warrants and improved training for law enforcement officers," he said. "Until we achieve those reforms, we cannot sleep safely in our own homes."

The deaths of Taylor and George Floyd, who was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May 2020, became the focus of a wave of protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States.

The city of Louisville, the largest in Kentucky, settled a wrongful death suit with Taylor's family for $12 million in September 2020.