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Jury finds Brett Hankison not guilty on all three counts of wanton endangerment

Hankison's wanton endangerment charges stem from him allegedly shooting into the apartment of one of Breonna Taylor's neighbors.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The trial of former Louisville Metro Police detective Brett Hankison, one of three LMPD officers who executed a no-knock warrant in March 2020 that killed Breonna Taylor, has concluded.

On Thursday, the jury found Hankison not guilty of all three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into a neighboring apartment on the night of the raid on Taylor's apartment.

No officers have been charged with Breonna Taylor's death.

Read more about the events of this week's trial below:

Thursday, March 3

On the sixth day of Hankison's trial, attorneys presented closing arguments, before the jury began its deliberation. 

The defense began with attorney Stew Mathews saying to the jury Breonna Taylor should not have died, but this case isn't about her death.

He also said the situation became dangerous unexpectedly. 

“Had the police gone out there and done a no knock warrant, and just broke in the apartment, nobody would have had an opportunity to get a gun and shoot Sergeant John Mattingly," he said. 

Mathews spoke about the civil suit filed on behalf of Etherton and Napper and discussed Aaron Sarpee's testimony.

He said he doesn't know why Sarpee backed off of initial statements during the investigation about whether he heard police announce themselves. Mathews said Sarpee, a veteran, also thought he heard a rifle. 

He said that belief is part of why Hankison shot.

Mathews also talked about spent rifle casings found on the scene--another witness had testified these casings were not linked to a gun from the scene but did come from the same gun.

"I don't know if that means anything or not," Mathews told jurors.

Addressing the "blackout" curtains and whether Hankison could see muzzle flashes through them, Mathews said "blackout" isn't the right description and photos will show light can be seen through them.

Mathews argued that Hankison kept firing in the direction of the apartment and apartment door, not the officers in the vestibule.

“People say he couldn’t have seen those muzzle flashes," he said. "Nobody can say what Brett Hankison saw or didn’t see, only Brett Hankison can tell you that.” 

Before concluding, he said Hankison was "just doing his job" and his actions weren't criminal.

After a brief break, the prosecution began delivering the Commonwealth's case.

Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley echoed Mathews' comments that the case isn't about Breonna Taylor's death. 

She said the wanton endangerment charges are about the three people living in apartment 3, Cody Etherton, Chelsey Napper and 5-year old Zayden. 

Whaley argued that Hankison could not have seen through the sliding glass doors or the curtained windows. 

“There’s curtains, drapes, full length. You’ll see in the photos, you saw already in the photos. He couldn’t see into those," she said.

Whaley said none of the officers could have missed the four doors in the breezeway. She said when you drive up to the building, it's "obvious" the building is an apartment complex.

“If you’re a trained observer, say, for instance, a police officer, a 20-year veteran police officer, trained to observe your surroundings for 20 years, you’re going to take note of the surroundings," she said. 

Whaley also mentioned the other officers who fired, Myles Cosgrove and John Mattingly, shot into the doorway of Taylor's apartment.

“They didn’t start shooting in revenge," she said. "'Well, our fellow officer is shot, so we need to shoot back.'"

Using pictures, Whaley argued that you can only see through the sliding glass doors and bedroom window because it's daylight and they have bullet holes through them. She then went over each bullet's trajectory.

Ultimately, Whaley argued Hankison couldn't see or establish a target. 

“He ignored that risk," she said. "He consciously disregarded it, and he shot wildly in the wrong direction." 

After roughly three hours of deliberation, the jury returned saying that they have found Hankison not guilty on all three counts of wanton endangerment.

Wednesday, March 2

Brett Hankison took the stand Wednesday during the fifth day of testimony in his wanton endangerment trial.

After discussing his work history as a K9 officer with LMPD, Hankison walked through his actions on the night of the raid on Breonna Taylor's apartment.

He said he responded to a request for help from other platoons to execute search warrants on March 13. He was told that he would help conduct a K9 search for an address on Springfield Dr.

Hankison said he was not informed about the layout of the apartment complex and was not aware of other apartments next to Taylor's.

When the group breached the door, Hankison said he saw a "muzzle flash" and a person in a "tactical shooting stance" inside the apartment.

"I felt helpless knowing I had a handgun and was facing rifle fire," he said. Hankison had previously testified that he believed there was a rifle involved in the incident.

It was later found Kenneth Walker fired a single shot from a handgun. 

Hankison became emotional as he recalled his fellow officer, Jonathan Mattingly, being hit.

The prosecution questioned why, after Hankison said he saw a figure with a gun, he decided to turn away from the door without shooting. After Mattingly went down, Hankison said his first priority was getting out of the "fatal funnel" created in that situation.

"I did not want to be in the fatal funnel. I know that people die in the fatal funnel," he said.

Instead, Hankison said he went around to the sidewalk. He said he saw flashing lights through a sliding glass door and through the curtained bedroom window of Taylor's apartment. He fired through the glass door. 

Hankison said he did not think he did anything wrong during the raid. He did express remorse for Cody Etherton and Chelsey Napper, the two neighbors in apartment 3. He spoke directly to Taylor's family members as well, saying Taylor didn't have to die that night. 

At that comment, the prosecutor objected. 

Hankison said he had never fired his weapon on the job before the night of March 13. He said he had previously been involved in serving search warrants with barricaded subjects. 

Closing arguments and deliberation are expected on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 1

After a fourth day of testimony, Hankison's trial will continue, after the judge denied the defense's request for a directed verdict. 

Attorney Stew Mathews tried to argue the prosecution didn't meet their burden of proof. The judge said it was clear the building was an apartment the officers could assume was occupied at the time and denied the motion. 

Before the Commonwealth rested its case, prosecutors called LMPD firearms trainer Matt Gelhausen. He walked through the training officers, including Hankison, went through in the fall of 2019, months before the raid on Breonna Taylor's apartment.

He covered range training, firearms safety and the department's "low light qualification," where officers are tested on marksmanship with ambient light on the shooting range.

Gelhausen said officers are trained on how to fire on active threats when there is imminent danger of injury or death. He said Hankison got a perfect score on his qualification with his service weapon.

Former LMPD Det. Myles Cosgrove invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify, so jurors instead watched a video deposition of Cosgrove from a different case.

In the video, Cosgrove discussed his role in getting the search warrant on Taylor's apartment, including the plan for executing it.

The prosecution's final witness was Chelsey Napper, Cody Etherton's girlfriend, who was pregnant and asleep in the neighboring apartment at the time of the shooting.

Napper said she heard a sound "like a bomb went off," and Etherton ran to see what was wrong. She said she checked on her young son, then called her grandmother and 911. 

In one 911 call, played for the jury, she said Etherton tried to go outside to see what was going on, and police pointed guns at him. 

Napper said she was scared for her life and her child's life. She was also asked about a lawsuit against LMPD filed on her behalf in response to the raid. Napper said she was not asked about the $12 million dollars requested in the suit. 

Wednesday, the defense is expected to call Brett Hankison. Closing arguments and deliberation from the jury are expected Thursday.

Monday, Feb. 28

During a hearing, an attorney for former LMPD officer Myles Cosgrove said he has advised his client not to testify in Hankison's trial because of other ongoing investigations.

Cosgrove was one of three officers directly involved in the deadly raid on Breonna Taylor's home in March 2020. In December 2021, the LMPD Merit Board upheld Cosgrove's termination from the department.

RELATED: Who is LMPD detective Myles Cosgrove?

Attorney Jarrod Beck said he had received "no reasonable assurances" that Cosgrove would not become a "target" of the prosecutor's investigation, so he told Cosgrove to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights.

Judge Ann Bailey Smith agreed and ruled that Cosgrove is an unavailable witness.

Former LMPD Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly also invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not speak as a defendant in Hankison's trial.

Click here to read more about the first days of the trial.

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