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Federal prosecutors wrap up their case against Louisville police detective

Former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison speaks with his lawyer Stew Mathews, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, during his trial in Louisville, Ky.  Prosecutors begin their case against Hankison, charged with wanton endangerment for shooting through Breonna Taylor's apartment into the home of her neighbors during botched police raid that killed Taylor.  (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, Pool)
Timothy D. Easley, Pool
/
AP
Former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison speaks with his lawyer, Stew Mathews, during his state court trial last year.

Prosecutors rested their case against former Louisville police detective Brett Hankison Wednesday afternoon, handing things over to his defense team. The 17-year veteran of the Louisville Metro Police Department is facing two federal civil rights charges for his role in the deadly 2020 raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment.

Prosecutors opened their case last week with a splash, calling Taylor’s neighbor to the witness stand. She described waking up to gunfire as bullets flew through her kitchen and living room. Taylor’s sister and boyfriend also provided emotional testimony about what Taylor meant to them and the events of March 13, 2020, when she was killed by police.

The prosecution’s case ended without fanfare Wednesday, as jurors heard from a former police officer who was “shocked” Hankison would fire through an obscured window and sliding glass door, and an FBI special agent who described LMPD policy in detail. This echoed testimony from earlier witnesses who spoke about the importance of an officer being able to see what they are shooting toward.

The first witness Hankison’s defense attorneys called was former LMPD officer Mike Nobles, who also participated in the botched raid. In describing the events of that night, Nobles testified he never saw anyone try to shine a flashlight into the apartment through the window or sliding glass door.

“It would have given up our position,” Nobles said.

That contradicted earlier testimony from former LMPD detective Myles Cosgrove, who fired the shot that killed Taylor, according to an FBI ballistics report. Cosgrove said he shined his flashlight at the window and door Hankison shot through and couldn’t see anything from outside.

In his state court case last year, Hankison testified that he could see a muzzle flash from inside the apartment, which is what he decided to shoot at. A jury acquitted him.

Nobles described officers' attempts to serve the search warrant at Taylor’s apartment, ultimately using a battering ram to beat in her front door. As they attempted to enter, there was a shot from inside the apartment that struck former LMPD Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, he said.

Nobles also contradicted prosecutors and other eyewitnesses, who said Hankison fired ten shots after everyone else had stopped firing and there was no longer a threat. Nobles said all the gunfire, from police and from inside the apartment, happened simultaneously.

On cross-examination, prosecutors pointed out that Nobles and Hankison have been friends since 2006. He admitted that he would like to help out Hankison if he could.

Nobles also admitted to telling the FBI in a previous interview that he was “infuriated” when he learned about Hankison’s actions, firing through the window and sliding glass door. Nobles told FBI interviewers the botched raid made them all look like “horrible cops and criminals.”

In court, Nobles called Hankison “a hero,” although he said he would not have made the same decisions Hankison did.

The defense will continue to call witnesses and present evidence Thursday. The trial is expected to last through at least next week.

The civil rights charges Hankison faces could carry up to a life sentence if the jury determines the crime “involves an attempt to kill," according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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