Darcy Costello and Tessa Duvall
Louisville Courier Journal
Published 1: 35 PM EDT Jun 19, 2020
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Mayor Greg Fischer announced Friday that Louisville Metro Police is initiating termination of Officer 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 obedience to rules and regulations and use of deadly force. Schroeder, who wrote that he received the investigation on Tuesday evening, notes Hankison was previously disciplined for reckless conduct and was disciplined in early 2019.
The other two officers who fired their weapons at Taylor’s apartment — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove — remain on administrative reassignment.
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Fischer, in a Friday news conference announcing the 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.
Attorneys representing Hankison in a civil lawsuit and the LMPD investigation looking into his conduct 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.”
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.
Aguiar told The Courier Journal on Friday that Hankison should have been let go “from Day 1.”
“Maybe, finally, the mayor realized that sometimes you just need to do what the best thing is for the city, and since Day 1, the best thing to do for the city (has been) to take this dirty cop off the payroll and off the streets,” he said.
In a court filing last week, Aguiar alleged that Hankison “could not be located” after the shooting took place.
The document also alleges that Hankison “fired more than 20 shots, the majority of which were fired blindly from outside the home through windows which were covered by shades and blinds.”
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.
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. Several of Hankison’s rounds went into an adjacent apartment in which a pregnant mother and 5-year-old son were located.”
“There are legitimate concerns regarding LMPD’s propensity to cover up incriminating evidence implicating criminal conduct of Hankison,” Aguiar said in the document.
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All three officers 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.
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.
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. They’ll also examine all physical evidence and video evidence to better understand what transpired, he said.
“Today’s action is part of the process,” Beam said.
Hankison has faced allegations of planting drugs, sexual misconduct
A transfer log from Hankison’s personnel file shows he worked in LMPD’s 6th 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.”
This story will be updated.
Darcy Costello: 502-582-4834; [email protected]; Twitter: @dctello. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/darcyc.