Indicted former cop in Breonna Taylor case said he thought at the time he fired his gun that officers were being 'executed' with an AR-15 (Haven Orecchio-Egresitz)
·6 min read
Breonna Taylor
A demonstrator holds a sign with the image of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers, during a protest against the death George Floyd in Minneapolis, in Denver, Colorado on June 3, 2020.
  •  Former Louisville officer Brett Hankison told a grand jury he thought officers were being fired at by someone in Breonna Taylor's apartment with an AR-15 at the time he fired back.

  • Hankison, who was fired, is the only officer who faces charges related to the night of Breonna Taylor's killing. 

  • More than 15 hours of grand jury and investigation testimony that was released Friday include Hankison's recollection of that March night to the public integrity unit.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Former Louisville Metro Police officer Brett Hankison told investigators he believed someone inside Breonna Taylor's apartment was executing his partners with an AR-15 when he fired into Taylor's apartment on March 13, 2020.

Hankison, who has since pleaded not guilty to three counts of wanton endangerment, recounted the night that he and other officers executed a warrant at Taylor's apartment in an interview with the Louisville Metro Police Department's public integrity unit. The testimony was replayed for a grand jury and released to the public on Friday. 

"I thought they were being executed. I was under the impression that they were all getting hit with bullets," Hankison said in his testimony, describing what he said was rapid fire coming from the apartment where Taylor lived. "I returned fire at the angle that I believed that he was shooting from." 

Hankison is the only officer who fired into Taylor's apartment facing criminal charges. A grand jury indicted the fired officer for shots he fired into the apartment of Taylor's neighbor, not for killing her. 

In his testimony to the public integrity unit in March, Hankison said that, initially, there was reason to believe that the early morning raid seeking weapons and drugs at Taylor's apartment would turn violent.

The woman who lived there had little or no criminal record, he said. 

That's why the officers decided to knock on Taylor's door before entering, even though they had a "no-knock" warrant that didn't require them to alert the occupants before entering, he said. 

When nobody came to the door after about 30 seconds, police used a battering ram to break down the door, Hankison and other detectives on scene testified.

Officers described being fired upon as they entered the apartment.

Hankison testified that he saw a "large figure in a shooting stance" being illuminated by the muzzle flash from a gun that he believed at the time was an AR-15 rifle. 

He said that he felt trapped in a tight spot and retreated back toward the parking lot. 

When he did, he said he heard that Det. John Mattingly had been hit. 

"He appeared to be in a military-style stance, like they were just waiting to get the last hits in," Hankinson said, describing who he believed was the shooter. "

"I thought they were taking fire. I kind of felt at the time they were sitting ducks," he added. "That's when I felt, to protect myself, and to protect my partners who have already been shot, I returned fire. As soon as I fired through that window, the threat stopped."

At that point, after Mattingly had been taken away for treatment, officers called into the apartment to see if anyone else was inside, Hankinson told the PIU. 

Soon after Kenneth Walker, Taylor's boyfriend, came out of the apartment and was on a cellphone, Hankinson said.

Officers ordered him to his knees and handcuffed him. Walker then told them that his girlfriend was dead inside the apartment, Hankinson said. 

"Immediately my mind was like, did we come to something that already happened. That's what flickered in my mind. He said 'no, she was shooting at you with her 9 millimeter [handgun]," Hankinson testified. "He said that she was the one that shot at us. And that she was dead in the apartment." 

Walker was arrested and charged with assault and attempted murder of a police officer, but the case was later dismissed as the state's attorney general called for further investigation.

breonna taylor emt
This undated photo provided by Taylor family attorney Sam Aguiar shows Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky.

Police didn't alert dispatch about Breonna Taylor until 27 minutes after they shot her

Taylor suffered without medical care for at least five minutes before she died, the Louisville Courier Journal previously reported. 

It wasn't until 27 minutes after she was struck by gunfire that officers called for EMS, the Journal reported. 

Walker told investigators that he fired his gun that night because he was "scared to death" and didn't know who was entering their home. 

According to Hankison's testimony, by the time Walker was out of the apartment and he and members of a SWAT team were able to enter, Taylor was already dead.

Hankinson said that after Walker was removed from the scene, he took two steps into the apartment and could see "a female laying in sort of a slumped position, and she appeared deceased." 

A state investigator told the grand jury Taylor had been shot in the abdomen, upper breast, left forearm, lower thigh, and twice in the foot. 

The shot that struck her upper chest likely killed her. 

Mattingly was shot once in the thigh and recovered.

breonna taylor2
In an aerial view from a drone, a large-scale ground mural depicting Breonna Taylor with the text 'Black Lives Matter' is seen being painted at Chambers Park on July 5, 2020 in Annapolis, Maryland.

The grand jury didn't indict officers over Taylor's death, but rather for firing into her neighbor's apartment. 

Chelsey Napper was pregnant and at home with her 5-year-old son and partner, Cody Etherton, on March 13 when officers executed the warrant on Taylor's home next door.

When police opened fire into Taylor's apartment, bullets also shattered Napper's sliding glass door and struck objects inside her home, according to a lawsuit she filed against the police department in May. 

Napper's attorney, Brandon Lawrence, told Insider Friday that the case is ongoing and that he is seeking at least $5,000 in damages, which is the jurisdictional minimum for civil cases. 

"They're holding up the best they can under the circumstances," he said of Napper and her family. 

She was friendly with Taylor and wanted justice for her killing, Lawrence said.

"She thought that there were going to be charges," Lawrence told Insider. "She was hoping, like everyone else." 

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