LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville's police chief is firing Det. Brett Hankison, who fired multiple shots in the early-morning raid that killed Breonna Taylor, for violating department policies on using deadly force and following internal rules.
Acting Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert Schroeder told Hankison in a termination letter dated Friday that the detective's conduct in Taylor's shooting was "a shock to the conscience."
"I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion," Schroeder wrote.
"Your actions displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life," the chief wrote, referring to Hankison "blindly" firing ten rounds into Taylor's apartment.
In a brief statement at Metro Hall around 11:30 a.m., Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said LMPD was "initiating termination procedures" against Hankison but that he could not discuss specifics. He took no questions.
“Unfortunately, due to a provision in state law that I very much would 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.
But in the termination letter, Schroeder made clear that Hankison's actions during the raid of Taylor's home on March 13 violated standard procedure.
Schroeder wrote that Hankison "wantonly and blindly fired 10 rounds" into a patio door and window of Taylor's apartment, creating a "substantial danger of death and serious injury" to Taylor and three occupants of other apartments.
Hankison failed to "be cognizant of the direction" of his shots, which went into other apartments, the termination letter says.
"I find your conduct a shock to the conscience," Schroeder wrote. "I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion."
Schroeder made his decision after he received the Public Integrity Unit's investigative file on Tuesday evening, the letter says. He noted that Hankison previously was disciplined in early 2019 for "reckless conduct that injured an innocent person."
In that case, Hankison drove the wrong way down South 1st Street to a drug scene and struck a detective, causing serious injuries.
Hankison can present "additional information or mitigating factors" to the chief, the letter says, although the date and time of that event are redacted.
An attorney for Hankison could not immediately be reached on Friday.
River City Fraternal Order of Police union president Ryan Nichols did not immediately return messages left Friday.
If Schroeder upholds his action, it could go to the police merit board. Hankison is in his third term as a member of that board, having been elected by fellow officers. From there, the firing could be appealed to Jefferson Circuit Court.
"That's the way that it was negotiated to the contract that the city agreed to," said Metro Council President David James, a former police officer.
Sam Aguiar, an attorney for Breonna Taylor's family, said Hankison already should have been dismissed.
"It's about time and this is the poster child of the dirtiest of dirty cops and the most dangerous of dangerous cops," he said. "I hope to God he's never back to working our streets again."
In a later statement, Aguiar said it was "about damn time" for Hankison to be fired.
"And if this wasn’t wanton murder and attempted murder, then I don’t know what the hell would be," Aguiar said. "We expect and demand these charges. Lots of explaining to do if they don’t come."
The Hankison firing "is an important step, but still falls short of everything that needs to be done to win justice for Breonna Taylor," said Shaunna Thomas, executive director of the national women's group UltraViolet.
Thomas said the other officers in the shooting should be fired, arrested and held accountable "to the fullest extent of the law." She called on the police department to revoke the officers' pensions and for Fischer and police to address the department's use of force.
The firing is "an an unbelievable feeling," said Chanelle Helm, the core lead organizer of Black Lives Matter Louisville.
"While we are still perplexed why the other officers haven’t been fired we know that is still coming," she said. "We want to thank the community for coming together in support of the Louisville protesters in spite of the violence we have experienced from the police while fighting for justice.”
Fischer's announcement came as the FBI was at the apartment near Pleasure Ridge Park where Taylor was shot and killed. The agency said in a statement it continues to conduct an independent investigation into all aspects of Taylor's death.
The FBI and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron have opened their own criminal investigations into the shooting; Cameron's office also is reviewing information from Louisville police.
Speaking in Frankfort on Thursday, Cameron declined to provide a timeline for his office's work to conclude but said his staff is "working around the clock to follow the law to the truth."
Protesters have pressed Fischer for weeks to fire Hankison and the other officers who shot and killed Taylor during the March 13 raid on her home. The mayor has repeatedly cited Kentucky law and the police union's contract with the city as his reason against taking any action.
He referred questions to Jefferson County Mike O'Connell's office. "We will provide our opinion to both the Mayor and Metro Council regarding obligations under KRS 67C.326 (the state law)," O'Connell spokesman Josh Abner said.
The shooting of Taylor, a black woman, has drawn national scrutiny and outrage during racial justice protests that have swelled across the U.S. and in Louisville in recent weeks.
Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at officers when they rushed in, hitting one in the leg. Walker has told police that he thought he and Taylor were being robbed. Walker initially was charged with attempted murder, but the charge has been dismissed.
Nothing illegal was found at the home.
Jefferson Circuit Judge Mary Shaw approved the "no-knock" warrant for the raid, allowing the undercover narcotics detectives to burst in without announcing their presence. Their main target was a suspected drug dealer, Jamarcus Glover, who had once dated Taylor. Police argued before Shaw that they believed Glover was using Taylor's apartment for deliveries.
Hankison, Sgt. Jon Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove were not wearing body cameras. Police said they knocked and used force to enter the apartment, according to a statement from Mattingly; Walker said he did not hear the officers identify themselves; Aguiar said at least six neighbors have said they didn't hear a knock or LMPD announce themselves. At least three have made similar statements to WDRB News directly.
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