Former Louisville officer charged in Breonna Taylor case sued over alleged 2018 sexual assault

Brett Hankison was charged with wanton endangerment in the Taylor case.

November 11, 2020, 3:29 PM

A former Kentucky police officer facing criminal charges related to the Breonna Taylor shooting is being sued by a young woman who claims he sexually assaulted her in 2018 while she was intoxicated after giving her a ride home from a bar where he was moonlighting as a security guard.

The lawsuit filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Louisville on Tuesday alleges former Louisville Metro Police Detective Brett Hankison used his badge and uniform to cultivate a friendship with the 22-year-old woman before he allegedly assaulted her, "leaving her physically injured and mentally battered."

The lawsuit alleges a pattern of practice by Hankison to target unsuspecting women and contains statements from some of them who allege Hankison offered them rides home from various bars he worked at in Louisville before allegedly making unwanted advances.

"Brett Hankison is a 44-year-old sexual predator. For years, he has used his police uniform and secondary night club employment as mechanisms to prey on innocent women who are two decades younger than him," according to the lawsuit filed by Margo Borders, a law school student.

The lawyers who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Borders also represented the family of Taylor in a $12 million settlement reached with the City of Louisville over a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from the fatal March 13 shooting of Taylor by police who were attempting to serve a no-knock search warrant on her apartment.

Hankison was the only officer charged in the Taylor case. A grand jury indicted him on Sept. 23 on three counts of wanton endangerment for allegedly firing errant bullets into Taylor's apartment that penetrated a wall and entered an occupied apartment next door to Taylor's residence. Hankison has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Hankison was fired from the police force after an internal affairs investigation determined he violated department protocols and procedures during the Taylor incident.

“Our client, Margo, felt that it was necessary to come forward and pursue justice, and hold Brett accountable," Lonita Baker, one of Borders' lawyers, told ABC News on Wednesday. "He used his uniform and badge to target unsuspecting women whom he knew were in a possible state where they could not consent and took advantage of them. It’s disgusting."

Efforts to reach Hankison by ABC News were not successful. His criminal attorney, Stew Mathews, told ABC News that he has yet to speak to Hankison about the lawsuit and that he did not know if the former officer has hired a civil lawyer.

“I just found out it was filed yesterday. So I don’t know anything about it," Mathews said.

Borders first made allegations against Hankison in June in a Facebook post in which she alleged Hankison sexually assaulted her inside her residence while she was intoxicated and unconscious.

"It took me months to process what had happened and to realize that it wasn’t my fault and I didn’t ask for that to happen by allowing him to give me a ride home," Borders wrote in the Facebook post. "I never reported him out of fear of retaliation. I had no proof of what happened and he had the upper hand because he was a police officer. Who do you call when the person who assaulted you is a police officer? Who were they going to believe? I knew it wouldn’t be me."

Baker said Borders reached out to her law firm following the Taylor shooting when investigators named Hankison as one of three officers who fired a total of 32 shots in the 26-year-old Black woman's home after Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired one shot that hit a police sergeant in the leg when officers forced open the apartment door.

Kentucky State Attorney General Daniel Cameron said his office did not pursue homicide charges in the Taylor case because Walker fired the first shot and the officers were justified in their use of deadly force.

Borders' lawsuit also claims that multiple women filed complaints against Hankison for making unwanted advances toward them, but that his supervisors in the police department, including former Police Chief Steve Conrad, never disciplined Hankison.

Baker told ABC News the complaints "were swept under the rug."

Asked to respond to the lawsuit, Officer Beth Ruoff, a spokesperson for the Louisville Metro Police Department, told ABC News on Wednesday, "We are unable to speak publicly on matters before the court and must cite pending litigation as our reason for not commenting further."

The suit alleges that on April 20, 2018, Borders went to the Tin Roof bar in Louisville to meet friends for drinks. She claimed that Hankison, who was working at the bar as a security guard, offered to give her a ride home and she accepted. She claimed that she had known Hankison for about a year and Hankison would frequently contact her on social media.

"Margo had no objections to a ride home from a police officer. She wouldn’t have to pay for an Uber and felt protected with an officer making sure she got home safely," according to the lawsuit.

Borders, according to the suit, claimed Hankison walked her to the door and invited himself in.

She admitted that she was intoxicated, according to the lawsuit.

"Margo left Hankison on the couch and went to her room to change. She’d had plenty to drink and went to sleep rather than returning to the living room," the lawsuit said. "While Margo was unconscious, Hankison went into her room, stripped off his clothes and willfully, intentionally, painfully and violently sexually assaulted Margo."

Borders, according to the suit, did not consent to have sex with Hankison. She claimed that when she regained consciousness, she yelled at Hankison to get off her, according to the suit, adding that Hankison grabbed his uniform and left.

Borders claimed that Hankison messaged her the next day and tried to suggest they had engaged in consensual relations.

The lawsuit also names the owner and managers of the Tin Roof as defendants in the lawsuit.

In a statement released on Wednesday to ABC affiliate station WHAS in Louisville, management of the Tin Roof said Hankison was terminated in the spring.

"We feel there is an obligation to provide a safe environment for guests as they enter and exit the venue and would never deliberately put the safety of our patrons at risk especially by those contracted to serve and protect," the statement said. "We find the allegations to be reprehensible, and our company does not tolerate abuse of power or discrimination in any form."

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