Former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison told investigators he feared his fellow officers were "sitting ducks" as they faced fire while executing a no-knock warrant that led to the death of Breonna Taylor. File Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE
Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Jurors in the trial of the lone officer charged in connection with the 2020 no-knock raid that led to the killing of Breonna Taylor heard an interview he gave about two weeks after the March 13 shooting in Louisville, Ky.
In the interview on March 25, former officer Brett Hankison, who faces charges of wanton endangerment for firing bullets that made their way into a neighboring apartment, said he fired the 10 shots because he feared he and his fellow officers were under fire from an assault rifle as they entered the apartment.
Hankison said he "saw an immediate illumination of fire" as officers breached the door of Taylor's apartment as her boyfriend Kenneth Walker III fired a shot while she lay in bed behind him. Walker said the couple yelled to ask who was at the door and received no response.
"What I saw at the time was a figure in a shooting stance. And it looked like he or she was holding an AR-15 rifle, or a long gun," Hankison said in the recording.
Kentucky Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley said during opening arguments Wednesday that only a Glock pistol was found inside the apartment and Sgt. Jason Vance, who worked with the police department's public integrity unit, testified that no AR-15 casings or bullets were recovered -- nor was there evidence of that type of weapon being fired.
Hankison told the investigators he believed his only option was to return fire after another officer was shot saying he was under the impression that they "were all being sprayed with bullets" and that he felt they "were sitting ducks."
He added that he felt he "needed to get out of there as quickly as possible" so he ran from Taylor's front door to the side of the apartment.
Whaley said that as Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly was shot, Hankison began shooting perpendicular to where the shots were coming from, firing the shots that prosecutors say endangered a man, woman and child in the neighboring apartment.
"I didn't know if John was down and they couldn't get his body out. All I could hear was the firing and I saw the flashes. I thought they were just being executed because I knew they were helping John," he said in the recording.
"As soon as I returned fire through that window the threat stopped," he continued. "And I felt pretty helpless, like there is no way we can challenge this guy with an assault rifle."
Jurors were also shown video from a camera mounted on the helmet of a Lousiville Metro Police Department SWAT team member who responded to the scene after the shooting.
It showed Taylor's body at the end of the hallway and Hankison asking if any firearms "like a long gun" were visible as he entered the apartment and was asked to leave what was now a crime scene.
Sgt. Brandon Hogan also testified that SWAT officers entered the apartment and confirmed there were no other threats present.
Judge Ann Bailey Smith told jurors they will visit the apartment complex where the shooting took place Friday afternoon.