LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A former Louisville police officer who fired into Breonna Taylor’s apartment the night she was killed is going on trial in federal court this week for violating Taylor’s civil rights during the botched 2020 raid.
The trial will mark a second attempt by prosecutors to convict Brett Hankison for his actions on the night Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot to death by police after they knocked down the door of her apartment. Hankison was acquitted in a state trial last year.
Jury selection lasted all day Monday and will continue Tuesday morning. Lawyers are working to select 16 from a pool of about 50 potential jurors.
Taylor was shot to death by officers who were executing a drug search warrant, which was later found to be flawed. Taylor’s boyfriend fired a single shot that hit one of the officers as they came through the door, and officers returned fire, striking Taylor in her hallway multiple times. The other 32 bullets fired in the raid came from police, investigators determined.
When gunfire erupted, Hankison ran to the side of the apartment and sprayed bullets through Taylor’s windows, later saying he thought he saw a figure with a rifle. None of the rounds he fired hit anyone, despite straying into another apartment where a couple with a child lived. Officers found no drugs or long guns in Taylor’s apartment.
Hankison is one of four officers who were charged by the U.S. Department of Justice last year with violating Taylor’s civil rights. The two counts of civil rights violations against him carry a maximum penalty of life in prison if he is convicted.
Taylor’s killing along with George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minnesota police in 2020 ignited protests that summer around the country over racial injustice and police brutality. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the federal indictments in the Taylor case in August 2022, remarking that Taylor “should be alive today.”
Another former Louisville officer, Kelly Goodlett, admitted she helped fabricate a portion of the Taylor warrant that linked Taylor to alleged drug activity. Goodlett pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy last year.
Former detective Joshua Jaynes and former Sgt. Kyle Meany were also charged with conspiring to deprive Taylor of her civil rights. Jaynes and Meany are set to be tried together next year. Goodlett is expected to testify against them. Hankison is the only officer of the four charged by federal officials who was present at the March 13, 2020, raid.
The night of the raid, Hankison’s 10 shots didn’t hit anyone as he fired his handgun through Taylor’s glass slider door and bedroom window, but his bullets flew into neighboring apartments with people inside.
He took the witness stand at his 2022 trial in state court and said after a fellow officer was shot in the leg, he moved away from the front door and to the side of the apartment, where he began firing.
“I thought I could put rounds through that bedroom window and stop the threat,” Hankison said.
The officer shot in the leg, Jonathan Mattingly, and another, Myles Cosgrove, were at the door when it was knocked down and fired the shots that killed Taylor, prosecutors said. Cosgrove and Hankison were later fired by the police department. Mattingly retired.
A crucial point in Hankison’s state trial last year was whether he could see into Taylor’s apartment when gunfire erupted. Prosecutors said other officers who testified at trial did not recall Hankison being in the doorway. But Hankison told investigators that he thought he saw a figure firing an AR-15 rifle from inside the apartment when the door opened.
During that trial, when asked if he did anything wrong during the raid, Hankison replied, “absolutely not,” though he acknowledged firing into the window and patio door. As for Taylor, he said, “She didn’t need to die that night.” That prompted Breonna Taylor’s mother to leave the courtroom.
A jury cleared Hankison of wanton endangerment charges at that trial.
The judge in the federal trial, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings, postponed Hankison’s trial about two months after Hankison’s lawyers asked for more time to process massive amounts of evidence turned over by federal prosecutors. Potential jurors were being individually questioned on Monday.
The federal trial is expected to last two to three weeks.
This story has been updated to correct the date of the federal indictments which were in August 2022, not this year.