Police Chief Robert J. Schroeder’s letter of intent to terminate Hankison, published Friday, did not make clear whether Hankison shot Taylor, but said he “wantonly and blindly” fired 10 rounds into Taylor’s home in “extreme indifference to the value of human life.” A police spokesman said Friday that detail remains under investigation.
“These rounds created a substantial danger of death and serious injury to Breonna Taylor and the three occupants of the apartment next to Ms. Taylor’s,” Schroeder said in the letter. He said Hankison fired into a patio door and a window that were covered with material, preventing him from seeing if there was a threat or innocent bystanders on the other side. Some rounds traveled into the apartment next door.
“I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion,” Schroeder said, adding that his conduct betrayed his training and “severely damaged” the police department’s image in the community.
At least three officers were involved in the raid, firing into Taylor’s apartment just after midnight. In a lawsuit filed in April, Taylor’s family said that Louisville police executed a search warrant at Taylor’s home, looking for a man who did not live there. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who reportedly was a licensed gun owner, shot at officers when they attempted to enter the apartment, and the officers returned fire.
Taylor was shot at least eight times and killed.
No-knock warrants have since been banned in Louisville.
Police have provided few details in the case, which is being investigated by state and local authorities and the FBI.
Hankison was previously disciplined in January 2019 for “reckless conduct” that injured an innocent person, Schroeder’s letter said.
Schroeder’s letter said Hankison will have an opportunity to challenge his termination, when it comes. The Courier-Journal said Hankison is expected to have a hearing in coming days to respond to the allegations. The police union and Hankison’s lawyer, David Leightty, did not immediately respond to calls and emails Friday.
Lonita Baker, an attorney for Taylor’s mother, who has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the police, told CNN that she was encouraged that authorities intend to fire Hankison, but said they have called for that for months. She said the other officers involved also should be fired and charged criminally.
“I don’t know why it’s happening now. We are happy that it is happening now,” Baker said. “We still want the other officers involved in Breonna’s murder terminated as well. And we still want them prosecuted.”
She said there “would have been a cover up if the public did not start paying attention to what happened here.”
Baker said the FBI was at Taylor’s apartment Friday interviewing witnesses and neighbors. The Kentucky attorney general is also investigating.
Taylor’s boyfriend was initially charged with attempted murder of a police officer, but prosecutors dropped the charge in late May. No officers have been arrested or charged in Taylor’s death.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the pending termination but said state law barred him from making public statements when a police officer has been charged with a violation of the department’s rules until the investigation is complete.
“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 (D) said in a statement.
The FBI said in a statement that it is “conducting an independent investigation into all aspects of the death of Breonna Taylor.”
“When investigating potential civil rights violations, the FBI will take a fresh look at all the evidence, including interviewing witnesses who have already spoken to the original investigating agency, interviewing witnesses who have not yet spoken to law enforcement, and examining all physical and video evidence to better understand what transpired,” the agency said.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who stepped in as special prosecutor to investigate Taylor’s death, expressed sympathy to her family Thursday and promised to conduct a fair investigation into her killing.
He acknowledged calls from around the United States to complete the investigation “as soon as possible,” but noted that he was asked to step in two months after her death.
“We hear you, and we are working around the clock to follow the law to the truth,” he said, according to a copy of his remarks. “Everyone involved in this case deserves nothing less.”
He said “an investigation of this magnitude, when done correctly, requires time and patience.”
“However, I can assure you, that at the end of our investigation, we will do what is right, and we will find the truth,” he said.