Judge declares mistrial after jury deadlocks in trial of officer charged in Breonna Taylor case

ByLauren Mascarenhas, CNN
Friday, November 17, 2023
What we know about officer indicted in connection with Breonna Taylor's death
Brett Hankison has been charged with three counts of wanton endangerment, a Jefferson County grand jury announced.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A judge declared a mistrial on Thursday in the civil rights trial of Brett Hankison, the former Louisville Metro Police Department detective federally charged in connection with the fatal March 2020 shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, after the jury reported it was deadlocked, The Courier Journal reported.

The paper reported the judge declared the mistrial after jurors informed the court they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

"As it stands right now, the assistant US attorneys from the Department of Justice did indicate that it is their intention to retry Brett Hankison in this case," an attorney for the Taylor family, Lonita Baker, said outside the courthouse on Thursday, according to CNN affiliate WLKY.

Prosecutors alleged Hankison used unjustified force the night Taylor was killed and violated her civil rights and those of her boyfriend and next-door neighbors.

RELATED: What we know about officer indicted in connection with Breonna Taylor's death

Hankison denied the charges, two federal counts of deprivation of rights under color of law: one count for Taylor and one count for three of her neighbors.

The charges stem from the botched raid in which Louisville Metro Police officers fatally shot Taylor, an emergency room technician, shortly after midnight on March 13, 2020.

According to the federal indictment, Hankison fired multiple shots into Taylor's home, some of which traveled through a wall she shared with her neighbors, when there was "no longer a lawful objective justifying the use of deadly force."

That summer, Taylor's death, along with the killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery sparked fiery protests and a worldwide reckoning with police violence and racial inequality.

Taylor was in her home with her boyfriend, while a woman, a man and a 3-year-old boy were in the apartment next door at the time of the incident, according to court documents.

RELATED: Louisville police engaged in pattern of unlawful and discriminatory conduct, DOJ finds

CNN has reached out to attorneys and court officials to confirm details of the court proceedings.

Hankison was one of four current and former Louisville police officers who were charged in 2022 with federal civil rights violations, which included detectives who worked on the search warrant.

The charges were the first federal counts leveled against any of the officers involved in the botched raid. They were filed after a jury in state court acquitted Hankison in March 2022 of three counts of felony wanton endangerment in connection with the raid. He was the only one charged at the state level.

After his acquittal, the Louisville Metro Police Department said in a statement, "The events of March 13, 2020, are still painful for many, and since then LMPD has prioritized rebuilding trust with the communities that we serve."

Prosecutors said Hankison "willfully used unconstitutionally excessive force ... when he fired his service weapon into Taylor's apartment through a covered window and covered glass door," according to the indictment.

On both counts against him, Hankison's offenses involved the "use of a dangerous weapon and an attempt to kill," the indictment says.

Hankison's lawyers told the jury he was trying to save the other officers in the home by shooting through the windows at what he believed was a person armed with an A-R rifle, CNN affiliate WAVE reported.

After officers broke through Taylor's door and entered into her home, her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker III, fired a gun he legally owned and struck one of the officers.

RELATED: Breonna Taylor's boyfriend reaches $2M settlement with City of Louisville

Hankison testified he believed a shootout was happening, not realizing most shots were coming from police, and though he couldn't see through the covered windows, he saw flashes and shot toward the area he believed the shooter was located, WLKY reported.

Taylor's death was one of several cases that highlighted the dangers of no-knock warrants, and some police departments have moved away from the practice in the years since.

The shooting of Breonna Taylor

In March 2020, a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge approved five search warrants for locations linked to Taylor's ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, including Taylor's home.

Hankison, along with other officers, broke in the front door of the home, where she was sleeping with Walker.

Taylor was shot multiple times. Walker was not injured. "Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend," Walker said in a 911 call.

RELATED: Lawyers for Breonna Taylor's family say more body camera footage may exist from night of shooting

Walker was initially charged with attempted murder of a police officer and first-degree assault, before prosecutors decided to drop the charges.

Hankison was fired from the police department in June 2020.

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