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Jurors visit Breonna Taylor's apartment complex during Brett Hankison's trial

Hankison is charged with wanton endangerment for 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 officially begun.

Hankison's trial is not connected to her death specifically. He is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into the apartment of one of Taylor's neighbors on the night of the March 2020 raid. No one was injured.

RELATED: Who is former Louisville officer Brett Hankison?

This story will be updated frequently each day of the trial.

Friday, Feb. 25

Friday, jurors visited the Springfield Drive apartment complex where the shooting took place.

The third day of Hankison's trial began with testimony from former interim LMPD Chief Robert Schroeder.

Schroeder confirmed that he was the one who fired Hankison.

Herman Hall, an investigator from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's office, was next to testify. He was assigned to the investigation following the shooting.

Hall was questioned by attorneys about Aaron Sarpee's initial statements, confirming at the time Sarpee told investigators that he heard police announce themselves at Taylor's door. 

Steven Hughes from the Kentucky State Police crime lab in Louisville was next. 

Hughes said his lab was charged with analyzing bullets, casings and firearms from the case. The prosecution's Assistant AG Barbara Whaley took Hughes through each of the ten casings found at the scene and linked to an LMPD gun.

Attorneys also had Casey Jones, a special agent for the FBI out of Lexington, Bryce Ziegler from the FBI in Quantico, and Michael Van Arsdale, a forensic firearms examiner. 

Ziegler spoke about his duties examining bullets, casings and weapons from the scene. 

The defense questioned him about two casings commonly used in rifles found at the scene, but unable to be linked to a gun. 

Ziegler said he confirmed the two casings came from the same gun. 

He told the defense that it was possible the bullets could have come from a rifle, which is what Hankison said he believed he heard, but they could have also come from a pistol configuration.

Van Arsdale's duty was to reconstruct the scene of the shooting incident. Using a diagram of the FBI's analysis, Van Arsdale pointed out the trajectory of various bullets. 

He said he was able to map out two bullets that went through the ceiling of Taylor's apartment.

Following a break for lunch, the jury then visited the apartment complex where the shooting occurred.

Judge Ann Bailey Smith said their visit was not to supply evidence but to present the physical facts so they may better understand and apply the evidence they hear in the courtroom.

"Hopefully you have seen enough in this trial, from the photographs, the diagrams and heard enough from the witnesses that when you go into the apartments," Judge Smith said. "You'll be able to recognize those things you need to recognize."

Jurors were able to see at least one bullet hole, still visible in an outer wall of the apartment complex. 

There was no more testimony after the visit. 

The next day of testimony is set for Tuesday, March 1st. 

Thursday, Feb. 24

The prosecution started day two by continuing where it left off the day before with questions for LMPD Sgt. Jason Vance.

Vance spoke on how the department collected evidence from the scene of the apartment complex and also on Hankison's history with LMPD.

Before the defense began cross-examination, the prosecution showed photos of casings and bullets from the neighbor's apartment. One allegedly landed in the bathroom, another in the utility closet. 

The prosecution also played Hankison's full Public Integrity Unit (PIU) interview that took place after the shooting. 

Hankison described seeing muzzle flashes and a figure he believed to be holding a rifle. 

“It almost is like the firing went from--boom, boom, boom, boom, boom--at the door, or when I’m clearing that hallway," he said in the 2020 interview. 

"It sounded like rapid firing from like an AR-15," Hankison said. "Which, in my mind at the time aligned perfectly with what I had seen.”

Vance was questioned about whether there were any bullets from an AR-15 found at the scene. He said there were not. 

At the time of the shooting, it was later determined Kenneth Walker fired one shot from a hand gun. 

The next witness was LMPD Sgt. Anthony Wilder. He has worked for LMPD for the past 17 years, currently serving as the administrative sergeant for the PIU.

The defense cross-examined Wilder, asking about police body cameras. Defense Attorney Stew Mathews said that at the time, officers on the scene weren't required to have body cameras on.

After a lunch break, LMPD Sgt. Justin Stilwell, former LMPD Chief Steve Conrad, SWAT Officer Chris Kitchen and Sgt. Brandon Hogan took the stand to testify.

Stilwell said he went to the hospital after the shooting in Taylor's apartment as support for the officers involved. Hankison also went to the hospital.

The former police chief, Steve Conrad, said typically, officers involved in shootings are not at the hospital, but rather with peer support who then take the officers to PIU.

“It was unusual when I saw Detective Hankison come in the emergency room, and he was not being escorted by a member of the peer support team," he said. 

Stilwell said unlike other officers, including Myles Cosgrove, Hankison wasn't assigned a peer support officer on the scene.

Conrad only spoke for about 20 minutes, but also said Hankison seemed nervous when he saw him at the hospital. 

"During that conversation I noticed that Detective Hankison was physically shaking as if he was upset or very, very nervous," Conrad said.

The next witness was another neighbor, Aaron Sarpee, who said he was upstairs and interacted with Hankison before officers entered Taylor's apartment.

Sarpee said he was picking up his daughter from a babysitter who lived above Taylor when he heard loud banging. He said when he left his apartment, someone who identified himself as an officer told him to go back inside.

On the stand, Sarpee said he didn't hear officer announce themselves at Taylor's door, then said he was unsure. 

Attorneys questioned his statement, saying conflicts with prior statements Sarpee made saying he heard police announce themselves, whereas it appears now he says that he didn't hear that.

After Sarpee, the Commonwealth called Sgt. Mike Burns, Lt. Steven Lacefield, Maj. Jason Grissom and former Interim LMPD Chief Robert Schroeder. 

Wednesday, Feb. 23

The defense and prosecution began Hankison's trial by presenting the jury with opening statements.

The prosecution's Assistant AG Barbara Whaley began by reminding the jury that this trial is not about Breonna Taylor, but the three people in a neighboring apartment.

She said she plans to argue throughout the trial how Hankison's actions during the raid created a dangerous situation for those individuals.

Stew Mathews, on Hankison's defense team, said that they won't dispute facts, but rather what caused the former LMPD detective to fire his weapon.

He said that the jury will later hear from other officers who said the scene was "chaos." 

RELATED: John Mattingly invokes 5th Amendment, won't testify at Brett Hankison's trial

Mathews said that Hankison's actions were reasonable given the circumstances. 

“He was attempting to defend and save the lives of his brother officers, who he thought were still caught in what they call the ‘fatal funnel’ in that doorway," Mathews said.

Before the court went into recess, Cody Etherton, who was living in the apartment Hankison allegedly fired into, was called to the stand.

He said he was asleep when he heard a loud boom that woke him up. Etherton ran into the living room of his apartment and was hit by bits of drywall debris. 

“Debris started going past my head and my face, which I pretty much knew, because I heard the shots," he said. 

Etherton said he didn't know how many shots he heard. 

“The whole thing was chaotic – from the time that I got woke up to a loud boom, gunfire coming through my wall, nearly killing me, could have struck my girlfriend – it was chaos," he said. "It was chaos." 

During cross-examination, Mathews pushed back against Etherton's emotional testimony by entering into the record a $12 million lawsuit filed on Etherton's behalf. 

The prosecution also called several former or current law enforcement officers familiar with the raid on Taylor's apartment or who were there that night to testify. 

They began with Sgt. Kyle Meany and then Det. Mike Nobles. 

Nobles described where officers were standing and what they were doing when they entered the apartment and when John Mattingly was shot. 

He said he didn't pay any attention to what Hankison was doing after Mattingly was shot. 

“He’s in pain, he goes down right in here," Nobles said, pointing to a map of the apartment. "Myles Cosgrove steps over top of him while he’s still in this fatal funnel and starts shooting while John gets out of the way. We tended to John’s wounds.”

Prosecutors also called Det. Anthony James, Det. Mike Campbell and Sgt. Jason Vance to testify on the first day of the trial. 

This week, the jurors are expected to visit the apartment complex on Springfield Drive where the shooting happened. 

Tuesday, Feb. 22

Jury selection for the trial concluded Tuesday evening.

After four days of questioning potential jurors on their knowledge and beliefs about Hankison's case, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on a pool of 48 to choose the final jury from.

Out of those 48 potential jurors, 15 people, 12 jurors and three alternates, were chosen to decide the case.

The jury is made up of 10 men and five women, at least three of the jurors are people of color.

Case Background

Brett Hankison joined the Louisville Metro Police Department in 2003 after working for the Lexington Police Department. 

Hankison is one of three officers who fired shots the night of a no-knock raid in March 2020 that resulted in the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor.

Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired one round from his legally owned handgun after officers used a battering ram to force open the apartment's front door.

Walker's bullet struck former LMPD Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh. In response, Mattingly, Hankison and detective Myles Cosgrove returned fire.

In total, the trio fired 32 shots, but it was Cosgrove who fired the fatal shot that killed Taylor. 

There is no evidence to support that any of Hankison's shots struck Taylor, but some of his shots entered a neighboring apartment with three people, including a child, inside.

Hankison is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for the shots that entered the neighbor's apartment. He was fired from the police department a few months later. 

Hankison is the only officer charged in the case of Breonna Taylor, however, no one has been charged for Taylor's death.

During Hankison's wanton endangerment trial, jurors will at some point visit the apartment to see it with their own eyes.

Hankison will testify on his own behalf along with other LMPD officers and supervisors. Former LMPD Chief Steve Conrad is also expected to testify.

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