LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Officer Brett Hankison has been fired, effective June 23, for his role in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, Louisville Metro Police announced.
In a letter, interim Chief Robert Schroeder wrote that after Tuesday’s pretermination hearing, Schroeder decided to proceed and terminate Hankison.
Schroeder notes that Hankison may appeal the decision to the Police Merit Board in writing within 10 days.
A request for comment from David Leightty, an attorney for Hankison, was not immediately returned Tuesday evening.
“It’s another good, small step,” said Sam Aguiar, an attorney for Taylor’s family. “We won’t be satisfied until rightful charges are brought against him, until charges are brought against everyone responsible for Breonna’s death.”
A spokeswoman for LMPD declined to comment further, citing state law.
Taylor, a 26-year-old ER technician, was in her South End apartment when Louisville Metro police fatally shot her just before 1 a.m. March 13 while serving a search warrant as a part of a narcotics investigation.
Court records show that police obtained a warrant with a no-knock provision for Taylor’s apartment signed by Circuit Judge Mary Shaw.
Even so, officials have said that plain-clothes officers knocked and announced their presence before breaking in Taylor’s door with a battering ram.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was also in the apartment, fired one shot in response, hitting Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh. Mattingly, Hankison and officer Myles Cosgrove all fired their weapons, killing Taylor.
Walker has said he fired because he thought intruders were breaking in. He and neighbors have said they never heard police announce themselves before entering, according to his attorney and lawyers for Taylor’s family.
Mattingly and Cosgrove remain on administrative reassignment.
No officers have been criminally charged in Taylor’s death.
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Schroeder’s Tuesday letter to Hankison reiterated the allegations made against him in his pretermination letter Friday: Hankison showed “extreme indifference to the value of human life” and his use of deadly force was improper because he failed to verify it was directed against someone who posed an immediate threat.
Schroeder accuses Hankison of “blindly” firing 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment and the one next door.
“I find your conduct a shock to the conscience,” Schroeder repeated. “I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion.”
Quoting from the Police Merit Board’s rules, Schroeder notes that any appeal from Hankison is due in writing within 10 days and “must include a statement of the grounds for appeal.”
The board will then schedule a public hearing to review the chief’s move to terminate Hankison, considering whether it was “unjustified or unsupported by proper evidence.” It will only consider evidence presented in the public hearing.
If it determines the action was unjustified, it can set aside the chief’s order and create a new penalty or opt to reinstate Hankison’s employment.
Mark Dobbins, an attorney for the merit board, said Friday that in many past cases, officers who have criminal matters pending will ask for the merit board proceeding to be held “in abeyance,” meaning delayed until the resolution of the criminal case.
That could mean that any hearing for Hankison could be scheduled after a decision on criminal charges is made by the state attorney general and U.S. Department of Justice, and until any future cases are resolved.
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What is the Police Merit Board?
Per state law, the merit board has five members appointed by the mayor and approved by Metro Council, who serve four-year terms.
The board is tasked with reviewing police applicants and setting rules around promotions, qualifications and discipline for officers.
It also considers the chief’s disciplinary actions when officers appeal their suspension, termination or demotion.
In discipline cases, two police officers elected by LMPD to two-year terms serve as additional members of the board, with voting powers.
One of those two police officers, in recent years, has been Hankison himself.
The rules set out how board members who are appointed by the mayor can be removed “for neglect, incapacity, misfeasance or malfeasance.” It does not lay out how a police officer would be removed.
One of the requirements of serving, however, is that you are a police officer.
If a vacancy comes up during an officer’s two-year term on the merit board, a new election is supposed to be held within 60 days of the date of the vacancy.
Merit board rules say employees may be disciplined for “any cause which promotes the efficiency of the service.” That includes:
- Incompetency or inefficiency in job performance.
- Conduct unbecoming, either on- or off-duty.
- Violations of departmental rules, Metro-wide policies or laws.
- Behavior that threatened or injured the health and safety of the employee or of others.
- Absence without leave.
- Solicitation or acceptance of gift or remuneration outside of regular compensation.
An officer has the right to appeal the merit board’s decision within 30 days to circuit court.
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.
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