LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Mayor Greg Fischer announced Friday that Louisville Metro Police is moving to fire Brett Hankison, one of three LMPD officers to fire weapons on March 13 at Breonna Taylor’s apartment, killing her.
Hankison is accused by the department’s interim chief, Robert Schroeder, of “blindly” firing 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment, creating a substantial danger of death and serious injury.
“I find your conduct a shock to the conscience,” Schroeder wrote in a Friday letter to Hankison laying out the charges against him. “I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion.”
“The result of your action seriously impedes the Department’s goal of providing the citizens of our city with the most professional law enforcement agency possible. I cannot tolerate this type of conduct by any member of the Louisville Metro Police Department,” he added. “Your conduct demands your termination.”
Specifically, Hankison is accused of violating departmental policies on adherence to rules and regulations and use of deadly force. Schroeder, who wrote that he received the department’s Public Integrity Unit investigation into the case on Tuesday evening, notes Hankison was previously disciplined for reckless conduct in early 2019.
The pretermination letter Schroeder sent Friday will be followed up with a pretermination hearing, expected to take place in the next week, where Hankison and his legal representation, attorney David Leightty, will respond to the allegations.
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Schroeder will then issue a final decision, which Hankison can appeal to the Police Merit Board within 10 days. That board will consider if the chief’s decision was justified. If it determines it was not justified, it can levy its own punishment.
The other two officers who fired their weapons at Taylor’s apartment — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove — remain on administrative reassignment.
Fischer, in a brief Friday news conference announcing Hankison’s termination, declined further comment.
“Unfortunately, due to a provision in state law that I would very much like to see changed, both the chief and I are precluded from talking about what brought us to this moment or even the timing of this decision,” Fischer said.
According to state law, “no public statements shall be made concerning the alleged violation” by local government officials “until final disposition of the charges.”
Hankison in recent weeks also has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women in viral social media posts. The allegations are similar, saying that he offered intoxicated women a ride home from bars before sexually assaulting them.
Attorneys representing Hankison in a civil lawsuit and the LMPD investigation did not immediately respond to Courier Journal requests for comment on Friday.
Ryan Nichols, the president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police chapter representing Louisville Metro Police officers, declined to comment at this time.
Sam Aguiar, a Louisville-based attorney for Taylor’s family, said Friday about Hankison’s firing: “It’s about damn time.”
“Maybe, finally, the mayor realized that sometimes you just need to do what the best thing is for the city, and since day one, the best thing to do for the city (has been) to take this dirty cop off the payroll and off the streets,” Aguiar said.
In Schroeder’s letter, he writes that Hankison blindly fired shots without “supporting facts” that the deadly force was directed at someone who posed an immediate threat.
“In fact, the ten (10) rounds you fired were into a patio door and window which were covered with material that completely prevented you from verifying any person as an immediate threat or more importantly any innocent persons present,” he adds.
Some of the bullets, Schroeder writes, traveled into Taylor’s neighbor’s apartment, “endangering” three people.
In a court filing last week, Aguiar also alleged that Hankison “could not be located” after the shooting took place.
Aguiar said that “following the initial flurry of gunshots, witnesses state that an officer (presumably Hankison) yelled ‘reload’ and then proceeded to fire more into Breonna’s home.”
Photos of Taylor’s apartment provided by Aguiar show the sliding glass patio door boarded up from the outside. But inside, shards of glass can be seen on the apartment’s carpeted floor, and bullet holes riddle the curtains.
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Taylor, 26, was shot at least eight times and died in her hallway after officers returned gunfire from Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Walker has said he fired one shot as police entered, hitting Mattingly in the leg, because he thought they were intruders.
Police were at Taylor’s apartment on a no-knock warrant signed by Circuit Judge Mary Shaw in connection with a narcotics investigation. Department officials have said officers knocked and announced their presence, but attorneys and neighbors disagree.
A fourth officer, Joshua Jaynes, who sought the no-knock warrant, has also been reassigned pending investigation.
The three officers who fired their weapons were under internal investigation by Louisville Metro Police’s Public Integrity Unit. That investigation has been shared with the FBI and state attorney general, who are expected to conduct additional investigation.
Neither the FBI nor the Kentucky attorney general have announced any criminal charges.
Louisville FBI officials were at Taylor’s apartment on Friday morning executing a search warrant as part of their independent investigation and taking a “fresh look” at the evidence.
Spokesman Tim Beam said the FBI will investigate “all aspects” of Taylor’s death, including interviewing witnesses who have and haven’t already spoken to Louisville Metro Police. Officials will also examine all physical evidence and video evidence to better understand what transpired, he said.
The FBI’s Civil Rights Division, based in Washington, D.C., is working with the Louisville Field Office on the case.
The division can bring charges under civil rights statutes, including deprivation of rights, which makes it a crime for anyone acting on behalf of the law to deprive someone of constitutional rights.
If convicted, the individual could face life in prison or a death sentence.
Aguiar said Friday, “if this wasn’t wanton (endangerment) and attempted murder, then I don’t know what the hell would be.
“We expect and demand these charges,” he said.
‘This is just the start’
Demonstrators in Louisville have called for weeks for the officers in Taylor’s shooting to be fired and criminally charged.
On Friday, after hearing that Hankison’s termination was underway, some called it a “start,” but suggested they’d continue to demand more.
Protester Antonio Brown called Hankison’s firing a “baby step” toward getting justice for Taylor, David McAtee and other Black people who have died at the hands of LMPD.
True justice, he said, won’t be achieved unless the other people involved, including those who sought and approved the no-knock warrant, are also reprimanded.
“If one should get in trouble, all should get in trouble,” Brown said. “It’s a team that did it. We, actually, we got a long way to go.”
Pam Sheehan, a board member with Kentucky’s Alliance Against Racism & Political Repression, said word of Hankison’s firing spread quietly among the dozens hanging out in the park Friday morning.
“This is just the start,” Sheehan said. “I really think people are going to stay dug in until he (Hankison) gets charged.”
Catrell Mosby, another protester outside Friday, told The Courier Journal, “We want more justice.”
“I want him locked up and … to suffer, just like she did,” Catrell said, referring to Taylor. “He took away her life.”
Metro Councilman Brandon Coan, D-8th District, called Hankison’s firing “the first and most important employment decision (Fischer) could have made in this case and the aftermath.”
“Thank you, and be bold as to the many others remaining,” Coan wrote on Twitter.
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Hankison has faced allegations of planting drugs, sexual misconduct
A spokeswoman for LMPD said last week that the department was “looking into the allegations” made on social media regarding sexual misconduct by Hankison.
In one allegation, a woman identified on Facebook as Margo Borders wrote that she went to the bar with friends in April 2018 when Hankison offered her a ride home.
“He drove me in uniform, in his marked car, invited himself into my apartment and sexually assaulted me while I was unconscious,” Borders said on June 4.
On Instagram, a second woman recounted walking home from a bar in early fall while intoxicated. That’s when a police officer pulled up next to her and offered her a ride home, Emily Terry wrote.
“I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that is so nice of him,'” Terry wrote. “And willingly got in. He began making sexual advances towards me; rubbing my thigh, kissing my forehead, calling me ‘baby.’ Mortified, I did not move. I continued to talk about my grad school experiences and ignored him. As soon as he pulled up to my apartment building, I got out of the car and ran to the back.”
Fischer has since said the Kentucky Public Corruption/Civil Rights Task Force would also investigate those misconduct allegations against Hankison.
He also called for Hankison to be removed from his elected position on the Police Merit Board — on which he serves as one of two officers selected to represent the department in disciplinary cases.
Per Police Merit Board rules, a vacancy on the board means a new election is to be held within 60 days of the date the vacancy occurs.
A transfer log from Hankison’s personnel file shows he worked in LMPD’s Sixth Division before joining the Narcotics Unit in 2016. Former Police Chief Steve Conrad said Hankison joined the department in 2003.
Hankison has collected more than $150,530 in overtime pay since 2015, according to city records.
Salary data shows he regularly collected thousands on top of his base salary while working for the department’s Narcotics Unit. The job switch only slightly bumped his salary, but boosted his overtime by more than $20,000 — a jump that made his 2016 overtime the 23rd highest in LMPD.
The following year, in 2017, he collected $48,046.30 in overtime, nearly doubling his salary of $58,593.60. That overtime payment was the department’s 12th highest.
Besides the recently surfaced sexual assault allegations, Hankison has also been investigated at least twice by LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit for accusations involving sexual misconduct. Both cases found no wrongdoing.
In 2015, a probation and parole officer told investigators that a parolee had informed her that Hankison told her he wanted to “date her.” In an initial interview, the parolee said he had “come on to her” and said a ticket could be taken care of if she had sex with him.
She later retracted those statements. An investigator, in recommending the case be closed, said no evidence was found, and it was clear she was being “deceptive.”
In 2008, Hankison was accused of receiving oral sex in exchange for not arresting a woman with an outstanding warrant, but the woman denied it occurred.
She said she wasn’t arrested because she gave information on a drug dealer.
He is also being sued in federal court by a man named Kendrick Wilson, who alleges that the detective has repeatedly arrested and planted drugs on him as a part of a “vendetta.”
It also says that Wilson and Hankison have had various interactions outside of the arrests, “including over a relationship with the same woman.”
Reporters Billy Kobin, Bailey Loosemore and Kala Kachmar contributed to this report. Darcy Costello: 502-582-4834; email@example.com; Twitter: @dctello. Tessa Duvall: firstname.lastname@example.org; 502-582-4059; Twitter: @TessaDuvall.