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A Department of Justice spokesperson said the federal agency will consider all “available options” to possibly retry former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison for his part in the botched raid that ended in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor after a jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict in his trial.
The absence of a verdict prompted the judge to effectively end the court proceedings in a mistrial. This federal trial marks the second attempt carried out by prosecutors to convict Hankison for his role in the raid.
The first state trial ended in Hankison’s acquittal in 2022 after he was charged with three counts of felony wanton endangerment for firing shots that went into a neighboring apartment where three people, including a 3-year-old child, were present. None of those neighbors were hurt. Hankison was the only officer to be charged by the state for his role in the raid.
A Kentucky federal grand jury indicted him later that year for civil rights violations against Taylor, her boyfriend, and her neighbors because prosecutors alleged he used excessive force without legal cause by firing shots haphazardly, thus endangering civilians in the line of fire.
Three other officers also faced charges for their role in crafting the search warrant. One of them pleaded guilty to falsifying that warrant in an attempt to cover up the circumstances of what transpired the night of the raid.
A non-criminal investigation the Justice Department launched after Taylor’s death found that the Louisville Police Department exercised a pattern of using excessive force and conducting unreasonable search and seizures, which ultimately resulted in the most recent charges against Hankison and the other officers. Taylor’s death generated national awareness of the dangers of no-knock warrants, and some police departments have phased out the practice in the years since.
Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was sleeping at home with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, when officers stormed the apartment, using a battering ram to break down the door. The noise woke the couple, and Walker fired a single shot from a handgun he lawfully possessed, believing intruders broke into the house. Hankison and three officers returned dozens of shots. Ballistics reports determined that one of the shots fired by former officer Myles Cosgrove killed Taylor.
However, prosecutors determined that Cosgrove and the third officer, retired police sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, were justified in returning fire after Mattingly was shot in the leg. They argued that Hankison fired blindly into the building.
None of the officers involved in the raid were ever charged with Breonna Taylor’s death.
Hours into jury deliberations, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings received a note from jurors stating they were at an impasse. She pressed them to continue to work to come to a unanimous decision, but they ended up deadlocking after finally deciding they could not reasonably and honestly come to a verdict.
“I think the totality of the circumstances may be beyond repair in this case,” Judge Jennings said. “They have a disagreement that they cannot get past.”
Before the mistrial was declared, the lead federal prosecutor, Michael Songer, said in court that it would take “enormous resources … to retry this case.“
It’s unclear what next steps the Department of Justice might take, but a spokesperson did say that federal prosecutors are “actively considering all of our available options.”
Taylor’s family’s attorney, Lonita Baker, feels confident that Hankison will appear in front of a jury again.
“The attorneys from the Department of Justice did indicate that it is their intention to retry Brett Hankison in this case again,” Baker said.
A hearing is set for Dec. 13 to determine if the federal government will bring Hankison to trial again.
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