A grand jury returned their decision yesterday, September 23, 2020, to indict Brett Hankison on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, a Class D felony. Hankison, one of three officers charged for the death of 26-year-old emergency-room technician Breonna Taylor, was the only officer indicted for Taylor’s death. If convicted, he will serve a maximum sentence of five years.
Adding to mounting feelings that the judicial system failed to deliver justice for Taylor and her family, Hankison’s charge stems not from Taylor’s death, but from the officer recklessly firing bullets into a neighbor’s apartment. The charge, per Kentucky law, applies to conduct that generates a significant risk of death or serious injury and shows indifference to human life.
As for the two other police officers, Sgt. John Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove, who also discharged their weapons into Taylor’s apartment, the grand jury returned no indictments. Sgt. Mattingly fired six times, while Det. Cosgrove fired 16 times—with Cosgrove delivering the shot that killed Taylor, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ballistics analysis.
The grand jury’s decision was met with protests from social justice organizations and individuals who have waited six months for justice for Breonna Taylor’s death.
“My team shares in the overwhelming grief and frustration over the deficiency of the grand jury’s decision,” said William Pintas, founder of Pintas & Mullins Law Firm. “But we believe this case is far from over, and we stand committed to playing our role as part of the solution—one that brings justice to Breonna Taylor and her family, and peace to the community.”
The city of Louisville, Kentucky has agreed to pay $12 million to the family of Breonna Taylor in a historic wrongful death settlement that includes significant reform to current police department procedures.
Attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are proud to be part of the legal team that negotiated for the Breonna Taylor settlement.
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A Tragedy Created by Flawed Police Procedures
On the evening of March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician and aspiring nurse, was asleep in her apartment when members of the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department (LMPD) burst through the door with a “no-knock” search warrant.
Kenneth Walker, Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend and a legal gun owner, fearing the unannounced men were intruders, fired a single shot, according to The Washington Post. Three officers returned with a flurry of gunfire, with more than 20 shots fired, including the fatal shot that killed Ms. Taylor.
The outcry caused by this deadly encounter between an unarmed Black woman and police officers sparked protests among the city’s inhabitants, adding to the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement.
Louisville’s Troubled History of Racial Injustice
This was not the first incident of racial injustice in Louisville, nor is the Breonna Taylor settlement the first time that the city has had to pay damages for police misconduct.
Edwin Chandler, a Black man who served nine years in prison on a wrongful conviction for murder, was awarded $8.5 million in damages after being released.
Turbulence between Black and white communities in Louisville dates back to the Civil War, according to a study published on JSTOR. Kentucky declared itself a neutral state between the North and the South, but many of its white residents supported the Confederacy.
The city also saw racial protests in May 1968, a year of large-scale unrest and turbulence. The protests were in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. the month before.
$12 Million Award to Victim’s Family
The Breonna Taylor settlement is believed to be the largest amount awarded for the wrongful death of a Black woman by police officers. As important as this compensation is for the family of Breonna Taylor, the settlement also affects the entire city of Louisville as sweeping reforms begin to take place.
Even before the settlement was finalized, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and the Louisville Metropolitan City Council passed a ban on future “no-knock” search warrants. Called “Breonna’s Law” in honor of Ms. Taylor, the ban may prevent future injuries and deaths from this type of search warrant.
The “no-knock” type of search warrant allows police to enter a building without alerting occupants of their presence. It was intended to prevent alleged criminals from destroying or hiding evidence including drugs, weapons, and counterfeit money.
Important Changes to Police Procedures
Attorneys with Pintas & Mullins Law Firm contributed to the sweeping police reforms that are included in the Breonna Taylor settlement.
“It is our hope that these changes in how Louisville police officers respond to potential threats will result in enhanced community relations, improved communication between law enforcement and citizens, and an overall sense of unity,” stated Mr. Pintas of Pintas & Mullins Law Firm.
Widespread Changes to Louisville Police Department
The combined efforts of the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department, Mayor Fischer, City Council, and attorneys created a framework to improve police procedures and the relationship that officers have with Louisville residents.
These changes include:
- Housing Credit Program: Establishes a housing credit program so officers can live within the districts that they patrol.
- Community Building: Creates a program designed to bring police officers and citizens together through volunteering with a community organization.
- Hire Social Workers: Proposes retaining social workers to support and assist police officers on dispatched calls where social workers would be most effective.
- Revise Search Warrant Policy: In addition to banning “no-knock” search warrants, police officers will implement a stricter review and approval policy for search warrants.
- Currency Seizures: Requires police officer’s body cameras to be activated during currency seizures for all money recovered from a search warrant.
- Proactive Training: Establishes an early warning system to track ‘use of force’ incidents, Professional Standards Unit investigations, and citizens’ complaints to identify police officers who would benefit from additional training or assistance.
- Random Drug Testing: Resumes the practice of random drug testing to reduce the risk of unnecessary force, violence, or other misconduct from officers who are under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription medications.
- Increased Background Records: Expands and enhances the information contained in personnel records for up to five years when an officer separates from the police force, either through retirement, resignation, or forced leave.
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Our Firm Continues to Call for Criminal Charges
Although robust, the Breonna Taylor settlement does not address the important issue of criminal charges against the three white police officers involved in the flawed raid. According to CNN, Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove were identified as the officers who returned multiple shots to Mr. Walker’s single shot, killing Ms. Taylor in the exchange.
Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm
Our attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are here to help clients nationwide who have been harmed, injured, or suffered the loss of a loved one from negligence. We have a large and varied practice area that includes wrongful death, medical malpractice, and personal injury. Please contact our firm for a free, no-obligation case review at (800) 794-0444.