Image courtesy of NYTimes.com
By Eva Lynch
Officer Brett Hankinson, who fired his gun without a line of sight and therefore in disobedience of a department policy into Breonna Taylor’s apartment and sleeping body, was charged with wanton endangerment on Wednesday, September 23, following months of nationwide protests condemning the lack of punishment for the involved officers. The protests had fizzled since they began in March as justice was seemingly being served for Taylor’s death in a $12 million settlement with Taylor’s family and fervent promise of police reforms but were reignited when Hankinson was charged in relation to property damage rather than to Taylor’s murder.
On March 13, Louisville PD Officers Brett Hankinson, Jonathan Mattingly, and Myles Cosgrove carried out a botched narcotics warrant that resulted in Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker’s arrest for shooting Sergeant Mattingly in self-defense, which prompted Mattingly and Cosgrove to fire “at least six rounds” in response, killing a sleeping Breonna Taylor. Further investigation, including ballistics reports from the incident, however, have caused some confusion as to whether the shot that entered and exited Mattingly was really from Walker’s gun.
More than six months after Taylor’s death, Hankinson, the officer who fired the first shot into her apartment, was indicted by a Kentucky grand jury for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ apartments and was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment of her neighbors. All have been dismissed or put on administrative leave from Louisville PD but have not been charged for their roles in Taylor’s death.
Taylor’s death as well as the swift action taken against her boyfriend that was not mirrored with the officers who killed her sparked protests, peaceful and violent, in Louisville and all over the state of Kentucky. After waning following months of constant protests, the jury’s decision revitalized the masses, culminating in five straight nights of unrest in Breonna Taylor’s memory. Hours after the announcement of the grand jury’s decision, Larynzo Johnson was arrested and is being held on $1 million bail for shooting two officers in a related protest. Hankinson’s bail following Taylor’s murder was $15,000 and was posted within hours of his booking. This disproportionate punishment for Johnson’s nonfatal shots in comparison to the incident and punishment which sparked the unrest is just one of the many aspects following Taylor’s death that have been identified as a signal of a failing system and that have fueled protestors.
State Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s decisions regarding the case have been under high scrutiny, and many have demanded justification thereof. In response, Cameron has maintained that Cosgrove and Mattingly have been put on administrative leave and may not receive any further punishment for their roles in the incident, as they had the right to defend themselves, the position taken by the officers’ lawyers as well.
In response, Americans’ around the country have resorted to the same protest tactics which have prompted much of the structural change regarding police departments nationwide, including defunding of police departments in several major cities—including Austin, Texas, Baltimore, Md., Portland, Or., and Minneapolis, Minn.—as well as a national reckoning of race and the related discriminatory issues which persist in the country.