LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Former Louisville police detective Brett Hankison took the stand in his own defense Wednesday, testifying he “absolutely” did nothing wrong during his involvement in the police raid that killed Breonna Taylor.
Hankison, who is being tried on wanton endangerment charges for firing shots that hit a neighboring apartment, called the fatal raid a “tragedy” and said Taylor “didn’t need to die that night.”
Following those comments, Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, stormed out of the courtroom.
Hankison is not on trial for Taylor’s death.
Hankison was fired by police for shooting “blindly” during the raid on March 13, 2020. He fired 10 shots, none of which hit Taylor or her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. No police were charged in the Black woman’s death.
The ex-detective, 45, fired 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment. Some of those rounds penetrated into a neighboring apartment with a man, pregnant woman, and small child inside.
The defense rested its case Wednesday afternoon after Hankison spent hours on the witness stand. The trial will resume Thursday morning with closing arguments and then go to the jury for deliberation.
Over the course of his testimony, Hankison reiterated that he knew a fellow officer had been shot and believed his colleagues were being “executed” with a rifle. He fired at a muzzle flash he saw, Hankison said, to try to save them.
Hankison said he saw a muzzle flash matching that of a long rifle, but no rifle was found in the apartment.
“Is there anything, Brett, that you feel like you did wrong on March 13 at 3003 Springfield Drive?” defense attorney Stew Mathews asked.
“Absolutely not,” he replied.
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Hankison’s bullets penetrated the apartment which mirrored Taylor’s unit. Inside were Chelsey Napper, Cody Etherton, and Napper’s 5-year-old son.
Etherton and Napper both testified as witnesses for the prosecution earlier in the trial and described the fear they felt as bullets tore through their dining and living rooms.
Napper told the jury Tuesday that it sounded “like somebody set off a bomb.”
Hankison acknowledged the victims in his testimony.
“I saw Ms. Napper and Mr. Etherton up here for the first time and I felt sincere empathy for them,” he said. “That was something, if my daughter was shot at, or if bullets came into our house, that would be very concerning and I apologize to her for that.”
Prosecutor Barbara Maines Whaley focused on Hankison’s years of training and policing during the cross-examination.
Whaley questioned how Hankison saw and responded to a the muzzle flash but failed to see the apartment door mirroring Taylor’s apartment, where Napper, Etherton, and the child were.
Taylor, an emergency room technician, was shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers who forced their way into her apartment to look for drugs and cash as part of a larger narcotics investigation.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Walker, fired one round from his legally owned handgun when officers broke down the apartment’s front door. Walker’s bullet struck Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh, severing his femoral artery.
In response, Mattingly fired six rounds, detective Myles Cosgrove fired 16 and Hankison fired 10. Six of those bullets struck Taylor, with Cosgrove firing the fatal shot, the FBI concluded.
Hankison was fired in 2020 after a former interim chief called the rounds he shot through the covered door and window “a shock to the conscience.”
Contributing: Celina Tebor, USA TODAY; The Associated Press