LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Jurors hearing the case against the only person criminally charged in the raid that resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor stepped off a gold-colored sheriff’s bus Friday and walked silently through the apartment complex where the Louisville woman died almost two years ago.
While Taylor's apartment, located in the southwestern part of Kentucky's largest city, has been renovated, one bullet hole remained visible outside of her bedroom.
Jurors visited the scene to better understand the exhibits brought forth in the trial of Brett Hankison, a former Louisville police officer. He is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment, a felony that carries a sentence of one to five years in prison.
Joined by attorneys representing Hankison and the Attorney General's office, the jurors also visited an adjacent apartment. Hankison, who was in court Friday morning, was not present during the site visit. Fifteen minutes after arriving, jurors returned to the bus and joined a small caravan of Jefferson County Sheriff's vehicles headed back to the courthouse.
Taylor, 26, a Black woman, worked as an emergency medical technician and was settling down for the night on March 13, 2020, when Louisville officers with a narcotics warrant kicked in her door. They drew fire from Taylor’s boyfriend, who thought an intruder was breaking in. Two officers at the door returned fire, killing Taylor. Neither was charged in her death. The City of Louisville settled with her family for $12 million.
Hankison was not charged in Taylor’s shooting death, but some bullets he fired through Taylor’s sliding glass door and bedroom window went into a neighbor’s apartment, coming close to striking a man inside. Police officials who dismissed him said he fired “blindly” into Taylor’s apartment.
Taylor’s death sparked months of demonstrations in downtown Louisville in the summer of 2020. Many protesters demanded that the officers involved in the raid be charged with murder, but Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron did not give a grand jury the option of charging anyone with killing her.
Cameron determined that the officers fired into her apartment in self-defense after Taylor’s boyfriend shot at them first.
Judge Ann Bailey Smith instructed jurors not to speak to the attorneys or with each other during the visit to Taylor's apartment.
A total of 10 men and five women have been sworn in as jurors and alternates. The judge has not released information about their race or ethnicity.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and sister, Juniyah Palmer, also sat in on the trial Friday morning.
Earlier this week, prosecutors argued that Hankison's decision to fire blindly through Taylor’s apartment endangered her neighbors and that he escalated the situation by yelling at a neighbor to go back inside. Once the shooting started, she noted that Hankison was shooting in a different direction than the other officers.
Defense attorney Stewart Mathews insisted that Hankison was justified in shooting during the 10 to 15 chaotic seconds from when Taylor’s door was breached to when the shooting stopped. The former officer was attempting "to defend and save the lives of his fellow officers,” Mathews said.
The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.