Protesters carry a picture of Breonna Taylor along Seventh St. in downtown L.A. in September. Demonstrators marched after the two Kentucky police officers who shot Breonna Taylor were not charged in her death. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
La Cañada High School

Opinion: Breonna Taylor’s case was flawed

What was the outcome? What happened with the wanton endangerment charge? 

Former Louisville metro police officer, Brett Hankinson, was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree, according to the New York Times. Wanton endangerment is a class D felony in Kentucky and could result in jail time, fines, or community service, according to the New York Times.

This charge is a result of stray bullets that Hankinson fired into the apartment of Breonna Taylor’s neighbor. Hankinson is the only officer who was charged and received a $15,000 bail. He is also the only officer involved in Breonna Taylor’s murder that was fired from the police department, prior to the trial.  

The wanton endangerment charges mean that the courts found that he engaged in conduct that creates substantial danger of death or substantial injury to another person. The interesting aspect of the case is that there were also shots fired into another neighbor’s apartment. But there were no charges against the officer who fired into Breonna Taylor’s Black neighbor’s apartment, only for the endangerment of her white neighbors. There were also no charges for the bullets fired into Breonna Taylor’s apartment or the six bullets that killed her. 

Why weren’t any murder charges filed against the officers?
There are six charges of homicide under Kentucky law that could have been pursued against the three officers. The lead prosecutor, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said that his office chose to not pursue these charges against the officers because the use of force by two of the officers on the scene that night — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — was justified to protect themselves, per Kentucky law, according to the Washington Post.

He claimed that the officers were acting in self defense because of the bullet that Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot into one of their legs. 

What did the grand jury hear? How did they make their decision? 

We don’t know exactly how they made their decision because the Kentucky AG has not released a grand jury report. However, we are currently relying on the statements from the AG himself, Daniel Cameron. 

Most people remember Breonna Taylor’s case as a tragedy of an outdated policy called a “no-knock warrant.” A no-knock warrant allows police officers to enter someone’s home, dressed in plain clothing, without announcing their entry. However, Cameron’s version of the story showed the jury a different series of events.

The police claimed to have announced themselves and Cameron backed this up with an independent witness who claims to have heard the police officers announce themselves from outside the property. Cameron used this evidence to argue that the cops were issued a no-knock warrant but did not actually follow that procedure. The evidence he presented to the jury showed that the officers knocked, announced themselves, and entered when no one came to the door. 

The next series of events that Cameron explained was the shots that the officer fired. In a matter of seconds, Cameron explained that, after being shot by Kennth Walker once in the leg, Mattingly fired six shots down the hallway. At the same time, officer Cosgrove shot 16 times. An FBI report showed that Breonna Taylor was hit 6 times and Cosgrove’s gun fired the fatal shot. Cosgrove was not charged and he is still an officer. Hankinson, from outside of the apartment, fired ten shots that went into two of Breonna Taylor’s neighbors’ homes and hers. 

AG Cameron has not released the transcripts of the case and the public is going solely off of his word in terms of how the trial went down. However, the public and Breonna Taylor’s family’s attorney have cast serious doubts. Their attorney brought up the 12 witnesses, besides the one presented to the grand jury, who say they did not hear the cops knock or announce themselves before entering Taylor’s apartment. They question whether or not Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, who was the only other person present in the apartment, has the opportunity to testify. He also questions whether the cops, who shot 30 rounds into the apartment, had to explain themselves before the jury. 

 

Who is Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron? 

Daniel Cameron was elected as Kentucky’s first African American attorney general and was a sign of hope for how the office could possibly change for the better. However, he is not much different than past Kentucky AG’s. When Breonna Taylor was killed on March 13, investigations began. Since receiving the case file on May 20, Cameron has not acted to expedite the investigation and instead waited for the LMPD and FBI to complete their investigations. Politically he’s beholden to Mitch McConnell and Breonna Taylor’s case may simply be a result of his lack of political ability and courage. But, that’s not the only issue. He has no criminal trial experience and the way he handled Breonna Taylor’s case may be indicative of a lack of experience as opposed to willful injustice.