A former Louisville police detective has been found not guilty of recklessly endangering neighbours during the chaotic night-time raid that led to the death of Breonna Taylor.
Brett Hankinson fired 10 shots during the incident, which took place during a “no-knock” search of the black woman’s home in Kentucky in March 2020.
In court, Mr Hankinson maintained he did nothing wrong during the melee.
Ms Taylor’s death sparked racial injustice rallies across America. Mr Hankinson, 45, was the only officer charged in the case.
The jury delivered the verdict on Thursday about three hours after closing arguments wrapped in the week-long trial, clearing him on all three wanton endangerment charges.
In dramatic court testimony on Wednesday, Mr Hankinson said he believed he was coming under automatic weapons fire during the raid. He described seeing silhouettes and muzzle flashes after police used a battering ram to knock down Ms Taylor’s door.
During the raid, Ms Taylor’s boyfriend shot and wounded one of the officers. Mr Hankinson said he quickly turned a corner and opened fire to “stop the threat”.
A total of 32 shots were fired. Prosecutors alleged some were by Mr Hankinson as he entered a neighbouring flat, endangering three people inside: Cody Etherson, his pregnant wife Chelsey Napper, and their five-year-old son.
When asked if he believed he did anything wrong during the raid, Mr Hankinson said “absolutely not”. He went on to say, however, that Ms Taylor, a 26-year-old hospital worker who was shot multiple times, “didn’t need to die that night”, prompting her mother to angrily storm out of the courtroom.
Prosecutors cast doubt on his version of events, and argued he was shooting “wildly” but Mr Hankinson’s defence attorney, Stewart Matthews, said he “did what he had to do” in a chaotic situation. “This all happened in such a short span,” he said.
Mr Hankinson’s trial was the only one stemming from the death of Ms Taylor. A grand jury cleared the two white officers who fatally shot Ms Taylor in September 2020.
Mr Hankinson was sacked four months after the raid. In 2020, the Taylor family sued Louisville police and reached a $12m (£9m) settlement.