A former Louisville police officer pleaded not guilty to wanton endangerment Monday for allegedly wildly firing shots that entered the apartment of neighbors of Breonna Taylor during the raid that led to her death, setting the stage for a high-profile trial that many activists — and members of Taylor’s family — are calling an inadequate and disappointing response to her death.
Former Detective Brett Hankison was arraigned in Louisville on Monday afternoon, where he pleaded not guilty to three counts of wanton endangerment.
A judge said Hankison cannot possess a firearm during his trial, despite a request from Hankison’s lawyer that he keep a gun for self-defense, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.
Hankison and two other officers broke down the door of Taylor’s home in March to execute a search warrant and, after her boyfriend fired a shot because he reportedly thought the officers were intruders, striking one in the leg, they opened fire and repeatedly shot Taylor.
Last week, a grand jury decided not to charge the other two officers, arguing that their actions were justified because Taylor’s boyfriend opened fire, but Hankison was charged with “wanton endangerment” because he blindly fired shots through a sliding glass door and a window that were obscured by blinds, in violation of departmental policy; some of his shots pierced the wall of a neighboring apartment where three people lived.
This decision proved controversial because the charges did not directly involve Taylor’s death and, as a Class D felony in Kentucky, wanton endangerment carries a maximum sentence of just 5 years.
Hankison was arrested Wednesday and later released after posting bond, and he is due back in court in about a month for a pre-trial conference.
Taylor’s death drew outrage nationally and helped to fuel a wave of protests against police violence nationwide earlier this year. The grand jury’s decision was met with intense criticism, igniting a night of protests in Louisville that ended with 127 arrests. Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Taylor’s family called the wanton endangerment charge “outrageous and offensive.”
“If Brett Hankison’s behavior was wanton endangerment to people in neighboring apartments, then it should have been wanton endangerment in Breonna Taylor’s apartment too,” Crump wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “In fact, it should have been ruled wanton murder!”
The city of Louisville plans to pay Taylor’s family $12 million, the mayor announced earlier this month, settling a wrongful death lawsuit that the family brought in April. The city also promised to reform its police department and apply closer scrutiny to search warrant requests.
Source: Forbes – Business