LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A grand jury weighing evidence in one of the country’s most contentious recent police shootings indicted a former Louisville police detective on charges of reckless endangerment Wednesday for his role in the raid on the home of Breonna Taylor, but the two officers who shot Taylor six times faced no charges.
Hours after the grand jury results were announced, authorities said two officers had been shot in Louisville during demonstrations. They were both stable. A suspect was in custody.
Protesters insisting that all three officers be held to account for Taylor’s death poured into the streets in Louisville, where the botched drug raid took place in March, as well as in New York, Chicago, and other cities.
In the March incident, the three white officers fired a total of 32 shots after they stormed her apartment with a warrant. Prosecutors found that the two officers who shot Taylor, who was Black, were justified in their use of force because they had identified themselves as officers and had then come under fire from her boyfriend, who said he thought it was intruders forcing their way inside. The charges against former detective Brett Hankison were for firing recklessly into a neighbor’s apartment.
Taylor’s death, which came months before George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis police, became a rallying cry for racial justice protesters nationwide. On Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of demonstrators chanted Taylor’s name between sobs and scowls as they wound their way through the streets of Louisville. They carried signs that said “abolish police’’ and “Black lives matter.’’ Dozens of cars followed, honking their horns.
At a news conference earlier Wednesday in Frankfort, Kentucky’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, walked through the grand jury’s decision in detail in an effort to defuse the rage.
“The decision before my office is not to decide if the loss of Breonna Taylor’s life was a tragedy — the answer to that question is unequivocally yes,’’ he said.
Cameron, a Republican, acknowledged that not everyone would be satisfied with the charges and said that as a Black man, he understood the pain that was brought about by Taylor’s death.
“Justice is not often easy and does not fit the mold of public opinion. And it does not conform to shifting standards,’’ Cameron said.
The grand jury decision to indict Hankison came after more than 100 days of protests on the streets of Louisville and after a monthslong investigation into the death of Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician.
Grand jurors indicted Hankison on three counts of “wanton endangerment,’’ saying he had imperiled the lives of three of Taylor’s neighbors by firing bullets that reached their apartment.
Hankison fired through a door and window of Taylor’s apartment building that were covered with blinds, violating a department policy that requires officers to have a line of sight. At least some of his rounds reached the apartment directly behind Taylor’s, where a pregnant woman, her husband, and their 5-year-old child were asleep. The rounds shattered the family’s glass door but did not harm anyone.
Hankison is the only one of the three officers who fired their weapons who was dismissed from the force, with a termination letter stating that he showed “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.’’
Taylor’s mother, who had sued the city of Louisville for wrongful death in April, received a $12 million settlement last week. But she and her lawyers insisted that nothing short of murder charges for all three officers would be enough, a demand taken up by thousands of protesters in Kentucky and across the country.
In downtown Louisville on Wednesday afternoon, crowds who had gathered to listen as the indictment was read aloud cried out in fury and grief.
After the announcement, protesters shrieked in disgust. Shouts of “That’s it?’’ rose from the crowd. Several people broke down in sobs.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for the family, wrote on Twitter that the lack of additional charges was “outrageous and offensive.’’
But many legal experts had predicted that indictments would be unlikely, given that a state statute in Kentucky allowed citizens to use lethal force in self-defense and that it was Taylor’s boyfriend who had fired first.
During the raid, two officers, Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, returned fire after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired one shot that struck Mattingly in the leg, Cameron said. Walker’s bullet pierced Mattingly’s femoral artery, and the other officers scrambled to drag him out of the apartment and apply a tourniquet to his leg.
The officers who broke down Taylor’s door shortly after midnight on March 13 had come with a search warrant, signed by a local magistrate. They had court approval for a “no-knock’’ warrant, which Louisville has since banned, but the orders were changed before the raid, requiring them to knock first and announce themselves as the police.
Walker has said that he and Taylor did not know who was at her door. Only one neighbor, out of nearly a dozen interviewed by The New York Times, reported hearing the officers shout “police’’ before entering.
The warrant for Taylor’s apartment was one of five issued in a case involving her ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, who is accused of running a drug trafficking syndicate. At the other addresses that were searched, officers found a table covered in drugs packaged for sale, including a plastic sachet containing cocaine and fentanyl, police logs and a laboratory report show.
The announcement Wednesday revealed several new details in the case. Investigators at an FBI laboratory reviewed the ballistics evidence and concluded that the shot that killed Taylor was fired by Cosgrove. A total of 32 shots were fired by the police: 16 by Cosgrove, 10 by Hankison, and six by Mattingly. The attorney general said none of Hankison’s rounds struck Taylor.
Wednesday evening in Louisville, scuffles broke out between police and protesters, and some were arrested. Officers fired flash bangs and a few small fires burned in a square that’s been at the center of protests, but it had largely cleared out ahead of a nighttime curfew as demonstrators marched through other parts of downtown. Dozens of patrol cars blocked the city’s major thoroughfare and more police arrived after the officer was shot.
Demonstrators also marched in cities like New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Philadelphia.
In Minneapolis, activists with groups including Black Lives Matter Minnesota announced plans to march to the Capitol in neighboring St. Paul.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, said she was activating the city’s emergency operations center and deploying city dump trucks and other vehicles to protect commercial areas in advance of anticipated protests there.
Material from The Washington Post and the Associated Press was used in this report.