Enforcing ‘No Guns’ Order In Ky. Relies On Defendant’s Honor System Thursday, Oct 15 2020 

Hankison mug shot

The attorney for Brett Hankison had one request during his arraignment in a Jefferson Circuit Court earlier this month: that his client, who is charged with three felony counts of first degree wanton endangerment, could keep his guns.

Hankison, a former Louisville Metro Police officer, had received threats against his life since he shot into the apartments of Breonna Taylor and her neighbors, according to attorney Stew Mathews, and he needed the guns for “self defense purposes.”

Judge Ann Bailey Smith rejected the plea and ordered Hankison to give up his guns, saying anyone charged with a crime involving a firearm would be expected to do the same. But in the days that followed that court date, Louisville’s law enforcement agencies were not instructed to confiscate Hankison’s guns, and they made no effort to do so. Both the Louisville Metro Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff suggested the other was responsible. 

Ultimately, Hankison handed over four shotguns, four rifles, and four handguns to the sheriff’s office in Spencer County, where he owns a home, on October 6. That was the same day KyCIR asked Mathews whether Hankison’s firearms had been confiscated. The agency is not required to search for additional firearms and the documents do not indicate the sheriff searched Hankison’s property for additional firearms.

The confusion about which agency was responsible for confiscating the weapons, and the lack of aggressive enforcement of the court order, is typical. That’s because there is no system in Kentucky to enforce orders like these, which depend on the proactive honesty of a criminal defendant.

Given the lack of a formal system, it’s difficult to determine if a person accused of a violent crime has surrendered any guns and impossible to know if they gave up all of them. This puts victims, the public, and even police and other first responders at risk, according to criminal justice experts, victims’ rights advocates, and law enforcement officials.

“An ‘honor system’ alone is insufficient,” said Sam Levy, senior counsel at Everytown For Gun Safety, a gun safety advocacy group backed by former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. 

Levy said if there is probable cause to believe a person possesses firearms when they’ve been ordered not to, law enforcement should actively seek to remove those guns.

“Court orders that prohibit firearm possession only work if their terms are clearly communicated and rigorously enforced,” he said.

‘Nothing We Can Do’

An order to not possess guns is common in cases involving violence or threats of violence, said Ingrid Geiser, Jefferson County Attorney First Assistant.

Ensuring that condition is met, however, is virtually impossible, she said.

“There’s really nothing we can do,” she said. “It’s up to the individual to follow the order.”

Chances are slim that law enforcement would seek a warrant to search a person’s home for a gun, said Geiser, the former head of the county attorney’s criminal division. A search warrant requires probable cause, and judges that issue orders prohibiting a person from possessing a gun rarely even ask if the defendant does, in fact, have guns, she said.

When it comes to protective orders related to domestic violence, which often come with a mandate that the perpetrator give up any guns, there is a system: the Jefferson County Sheriff is tasked with confiscating and keeping prohibited firearms.

Carl Yates, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County Sheriff, said the agency serves about 7,500 protective orders annually, and has more than 3,000 confiscated weapons in the agency’s property room “at any given time.” But the sheriff’s department is not tasked with enforcing judges’ orders to defendants that specifically mandate they relinquish firearms.

On rare occasions, Yates said a protective order will list certain guns that should be seized. Other times, a sheriff deputy might see a gun while delivering the protective order. But, he emphasized that sheriff deputies don’t search for guns. And that means it is up to the individual to voluntarily surrender their guns, he said.

“We actually never know if we have all of them or not,” he said.

What’s left unknown is most concerning when victims are at risk — oftentimes in domestic violence cases, said Geiser. In such cases, and other cases where the threat of violence seems imminent, prosecutors will often ask a judge to keep a defendant in jail. If that doesn’t happen, prosecutors will seek an order prohibiting the possession of guns. 

But, the court order is no guarantee.

“No one knows there is another gun, until we know,” she said.

‘It’s complicated’

Hankison was fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department in June. Shortly after that, the department’s public integrity unit took his “one loaner weapon” that Hankison was issued after his service weapon was collected as evidence following the death of Breonna Taylor, said Lamont Washington, an LMPD spokesperson.

As for his other guns, Washington told KyCIR on October 6 — a week after Hankison’s arraignment — that the Jefferson County Sheriff or the Kentucky Attorney General would be responsible for the confiscation and collection of those.

But Yates, the spokesperson for the sheriff, said such a task would be the responsibility of the Louisville Metro Police Department. And Elizabeth Kuhn, a spokesperson for the Attorney General said the agency wasn’t involved in the confiscation of the guns, but they “were surrendered to the proper authorities.” She did not specify which agency.

Kuhn’s comments came on the same day Hankison turned in his guns to the Spencer County Sheriff. His attorney said the timing had nothing to do with KyCIR’s questions before hanging up on a reporter.

The court order simply states that Hankison “shall not possess any firearms,” and does not specify any timeline or instructions for relinquishing his guns. Judge Ann Bailey Smith, her assistant and other court officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the order.

Simply taking a gun doesn’t ensure a defendant won’t be able to get another gun, said Meg Savage, legal counsel at the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

In Kentucky, guns can be bought and sold online, in stores, and between individuals — and there’s no law requiring they be registered. Here, it can be easier to get a gun than to take one away, she said.

Taking guns can be a barrier that can keep victims and first responders safe, she said.

“From a law enforcement point of view, they would appreciate it if there are fewer guns in the hands of potentially violent people,” she said.

Presently, though, the measures to remove guns from people ordered by a court to not possess firearms are largely toothless, she said. 

But enforcing court orders that prohibit gun possession is a complex task, said Kellie Lynch, an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Lynch received her doctorate from the University of Kentucky and extensively studied the processes related to court ordered gun confiscation in the state. Her big takeaway: “it’s complicated.”

Lynch said a solution wouldn’t necessarily require new laws, but rather a more efficient and enforced implementation of current mandates.

“The responsibility bounces around a bit between agencies,” she said. 

And that is a problem which could be addressed by assigning the task of gun confiscation to a central agency, and ensuring that agency has the resources needed to take and store guns. 

The cultural status of gun ownership and protection in Kentucky is a bigger barrier to improving processes for taking a person’s guns, Lynch said.

“These are political issues,” she said. “One person told me that, ‘taking away someone’s gun is like taking away their life.’”

Contact Jacob Ryan at jryan@kycir.org.

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Despite the grand jury’s ruling, this is far from over Thursday, Oct 8 2020 

By Catherine Brown-

A grand jury convened to determine whether LMPD officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove would be under indictment for the murder of Breonna Taylor. On Sept. 23, the jury charged only one officer, Hankison, with three counts of wanton endangerment.

This means that the officer is accused of endangering Taylor’s neighbors when he shot into the surrounding apartment walls. No officer was charged for killing Taylor, an innocent black woman who was asleep in her bedroom.

The protests following her death have made an impact on some policy. Since protests have started, we’ve seen progress in getting justice for Breonna Taylor and for the Black community of Louisville.

Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, tweeted a list of impacts that protests have made in Louisville.

In this list, she includes the exiting of former Police Chief Robert Schroeder, who was replaced by interim Police Chief Yvette Gentry. Gentry is the first black female police chief for the LMPD, a point which Reynolds notes in her list.

“I know some want total defunding but whatever exists in this country should include us,” Reynolds said.

She also lists that LMPD is receiving a top to bottom review, and body cameras are now mandatory for search warrants.

Additionally, social programs are being implemented for the west end. These programs will build 100 homes in the west end for Black homeowners. Reynolds says corporations are even donating gifts to support rebuilding in the area. Social workers are also becoming involved in family resettlement.

These are just a few of the progressions made for the local community.

Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott and her daughter Ashanti, a political science major at U of L, were arrested after demonstrating in a Breonna Taylor protest on Sept. 24. Scott recently introduced “Breonna’s Law,” which seeks to ban no-knock warrants in Kentucky.

The two were participating in the protest and were seeking sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church, a church in downtown Louisville that was open after curfew. Houses of worship were exempt from the curfew policy.

Scott said she was arrested at 8:58 p.m., curfew started at 9 p.m.

“There was never a need for no-knock search warrants like the one used in Breonna’s case, and while this type of warrant is now banned here in Metro Louisville and appears to have little use elsewhere, I want to make sure statewide law keeps it from ever coming back. In addition, I want to make sure a judge specifically approves any use of violent entry when a warrant is carried out, and I want all law enforcement officers to have to wear body cameras and be required to use them when serving any warrant.”

In the law, she states videos would have to be made available when complaints are filed. Those that violate these requirements will face suspension or even termination. She always wants law enforcement officers to undergo a drug and alcohol screening after a deadly incident or firing a weapon while on duty.

We have quite a long way to go until justice is ever met though. Hankison was only in jail for a little more than half an hour. Due to the double jeopardy defense, he will not be brought back to trial for re-sentencing on the same charge as before. But the public understands that the murder of a black woman not only in Louisville, but anywhere in the world, will not be tolerated nor will we forget the crime.

Breonna deserves justice. Don’t stop saying her name and continue fighting.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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AG Cameron To Release Breonna Taylor Grand Jury Recordings Today Friday, Oct 2 2020 

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Attorney General Daniel Camerons office must make public more than 20 hours of audio recordings of grand jury proceedings related to the Breonna Taylor case by midday Friday.

A Jefferson County judge ordered the release as part of the criminal proceedings against former Louisville Metro Police detective Brett Hankison. Parties ranging from lawyers for Taylors family to politicians to concerned citizens have called for the public release of the recordings, as well as other evidence presented to the grand jury, since last week.

Thats when the grand jury indicted Hankison on wanton endangerment charges for bullets that entered an apartment of Taylors neighbors. No one was charged for her March 13 killing, a decision that has intensified national scrutiny of Louisville, the justice system and Cameron.


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Former LMPD Officer Indicted In Breonna Taylor Case Pleads Not Guilty Monday, Sep 28 2020 

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Former Louisville Metro Police officer Brett Hankison entered a plea of not guilty in his initial court appearance before a Jefferson County judge Monday afternoon.

The proceeding was conducted via telephone. Hankison was on the call.

Hankison is one of three officers who fired their weapons while participating in the March 13 raid that left Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, dead in her south Jefferson County home. He was fired by the Louisville Metro Police in June.


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Brett Hankison, Charged With Wanton Endangerment, Has History Of Misconduct Allegations Thursday, Sep 24 2020 

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The only charges to come out of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s investigation into the police killing of Breonna Taylor are three wanton endangerment charges for one of the three officers involved in the shooting.

Former Louisville Metro Police Officer Brett Hankison has been charged with showing “extreme indifference to human life” by shooting into an apartment where three people lived in Taylor’s complex.

Hankison was one of the officers that went to Taylor’s apartment on March 13 to serve a search warrant. Taylor’s boyfriend said he believed they were intruders, so he fired one shot at them, striking Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg.


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Campus responds to Breonna Taylor charges Wednesday, Sep 23 2020 

By Joseph Garcia — 

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced a Jefferson County Grand Jury would charge only one officer, former LMPD detective Brett Hankison, with wanton endangerment in the case of Breonna Taylor’s murder.

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi called the announcement “a reminder that we must recommit to pursuing racial justice and pushing for changes in law enforcement, our legal system, public policy and our educational curricula.”

Taylor was killed March 13 when three LMPD officers entered her home with a “no-knock” warrant. When the police came through the door, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a one round at police after asking who was there and receiving no response. The officers returned more than two dozen shots. Taylor’s death certificate says she was shot five times, however today, Cameron said she was actually struck six times.

Hankison is the only one of the three officers indicted. He is charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for firing into neighbor’s apartments, not for the death of Taylor.

A wanton endangerment charge is a class D felony, it comes with a penalty of one to five years.

“While I am pleased that the grand jury has acknowledged the unlawful actions of this police officer and that he will be tried for the unnecessary violence he caused that night,” Bendapudi told students, faculty and staff.  “I am disappointed that our justice system allows these atrocities to occur all too often with relatively little consequence.”

Bendapudi said the attorney general’s announcement does not change the fact that Taylor was killed in her home.

“It does not fix a system that allowed that to happen,” she said, citing a Harvard study which found that Black people are three times more likely on average than white people to be killed during a police interaction.

U of L’s Student Government Association Top 4 said they too are disappointed that Taylor will “not receive the justice she so deserved.”

“For many of our students, waiting for this announcement has been an incredibly emotional time,” SGA said in a statement on social media. “These results will be very difficult to handle, especially for our Black students.”

The university is offering resources for students, faculty and staff to heal during this time.

Faculty and staff may use the Employee Assistance Program to receive counseling services. While U of L’s Counseling Center is offering virtual and personal counseling sessions for students, which SGA said is free to students as part of the $50 insurance fee billed at the start of the year.

“As long as you have not voided this fee on ULink, your visit to the Counseling Center will be covered,” they said.

Some professors have already begun listening to what their student’s are feeling and have canceled their classes.

“I want to respond to the needs of my students,” Siobhan Smith-Jones said after cancelling her 4 o’clock Mass Communications course.

Smith-Jones said she would have continued with class had the students wanted to, pushing down her own feelings of hurt.

“Because I am hurt, I know many of my students are too,” she said. “They are also confused, disappointed and disgusted. They want to protest or protect themselves and their families.”

“I’m here to help, not hinder,” Smith-Jones said.

She also added that the ramifications of this decision will impact Louisville, and therefore U of L, for years to come.

“Our students will have a hand in making the changes needed to our socio-political systems,” she said. “They have a perspective that no one else has; this is their city.”

“So in that,” she said. “Canceling class is a small thing.”

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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Metro Council Could Mandate Drug And Alcohol Testing After Police Use Force Tuesday, Jun 23 2020 

Louisville officials may mandate that police officers be tested for drugs and alcohol soon after shooting or using force.

Metro Council members Barbara Sexton Smith (D-4) and president David James (D-6) filed an ordinance late last week that proposes requiring the testing “as soon as practicable after the critical incident.”

Sexton Smith said she was “shocked” to learn the Louisville Metro Police Department may not have mandatory drug and alcohol testing after such events. She said the such testing could aid investigations.

“It would be one more piece of important information in the investigation that would either clear someone, had they been accused of that, or it would bring evidence to bear that may have had some role in the incident,” she said.

This legislation follows the unanimous passage of a ban on no-knock warrants in Louisville earlier this month. Both are inspired by the police killing in March of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, in her home.

Sexton Smith said she did not know if such testing was performed on any of the police who were involved in the raid on Taylor’s home: Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and officers Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove.

City officials on Tuesday announced that Hankison has been fired, after first announcing their intention to fire him last week. He still has the right to appeal based on the police union contract. Protesters in Louisville and supporters across the country continue to demand that all three be fired and charged.

The department’s standard operating procedures allow for testing if “reasonable suspicion exists to indicate that a member’s health or ability to perform work may be impaired.” While that document calls for testing “as soon as possible,” the ordinance proposes a more firm deadline: “as soon as practicable after the critical incident, but no later than the end of the
involved officer’s shift and before any interviews are conducted regarding the incident,”

LMPD spokesperson Jessie Halladay confirmed that drug and alcohol testing is not currently mandated after critical incidents, which the ordinance defines as the use of deadly force by an officer or “an action taken in the line of duty by a sworn Louisville Metro Police Department officer which results in, or potentially could have resulted in, the death or serious physical injury to the sworn officer or any other person.”

“We are reviewing the language of the ordinance to see what, if any, recommendations we may have on the language,” Halladay said in an email.

Halladay declined to comment on the Taylor case specifically, saying it is ongoing.

The proposed ordinance was not a response to any specific incident beyond the larger context of the Taylor shooting, Sexton Smith said. Instead, she called it a “common sense” measure. In any industry, there are people dealing with drug and alcohol addiction who may need help, she said.

Sexton Smith said she expected the ordinance to go through the regular process of being read into the record, heard in committee, then moved to the full Metro Council for a vote.

“I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to support this,” she said. “What is one reasonable justification for not supporting this?”

After the council votes on the city’s budget on Thursday, the body will recess until July 16.

Officer Brent Hankison Has Been Formally Fired By LMPD Tuesday, Jun 23 2020 

Louisville Metro Police said in a letter released Tuesday evening that Officer Brett Hankison has been terminated due to his conduct during the shooting death of Breonna Taylor.

According to the letter, Hankison’s pre-termination hearing was held Tuesday. LMPD interim chief Robert Schroeder announced his intention to fire Hankison last Friday.

(Read the letter here.)

Hankison has 10 days to file an appeal in writing with the merit board, the letter said.

Hankison was one of three officers who have been on administrative leave since they served the warrant at Taylor’s house, and one of at least two who fired weapons. No announcements have been made about discipline related to the other two officers, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove, who are still on administrative paid leave.

Mattingly was shot in the leg by a bullet fired by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Walker was initially charged with attempted murder and assault, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine announced in late May he was dropping the charges, pending further investigation by the FBI and Kentucky Attorney General’s office.

Schroeder said in letters to Hankison, released by LMPD, that he was terminated for blindly fired 10 rounds in Taylor’s apartment, creating a “substantial danger of death and serious injury” to Taylor and her neighbors.

Hankison’s conduct “has severely damaged the image of our department we have established with our community,” Schroeder wrote.

This story will be updated.

LMPD Firing Brett Hankison, One Of Three Officers In Breonna Taylor Shooting Friday, Jun 19 2020 

Mayor Greg Fischer announced Friday morning that Brett Hankison is getting fired after the chief found he “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he shot 10 rounds in Breonna Taylor’s apartment.

Kate Howard | wfpl.org

Hankison was one of three officers who has been on paid administrative leave since the March 13 shooting, when Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot and killed by plainclothes LMPD officers while they were executing a search warrant.

Until Friday, city officials have said action couldn’t be taken against the officers who killed Breonna Taylor until investigations were complete. But on Friday, Fischer said interim chief Robert Schroeder is initiating termination proceedings.

Read Schroeder’s pre-termination letter here.

Fischer said he and the chief couldn’t discuss the decision. But the LMPD immediately released the pre-termination letter Schroeder sent to Hankison Friday, saying he was being terminated for blindly fired 10 rounds in Taylor’s apartment, creating a “substantial danger of death and serious injury” to Taylor and her neighbors. The letter doesn’t directly address whether any of Hankison’s gunshots hit Taylor.

Hankison’s conduct “has severely damaged the image of our department we have established with our community,” Schroeder wrote in the letter.

Kate Howard | wfpl.org

Sam Aguiar, one of the Taylor family’s lawyers, told WDRB “it’s about time.”

“I hope to God he’s never back working our streets again,” Aguiar told WDRB.

Hankison was one of three officers who served the warrant at Taylor’s house and one of at least two who fired weapons. No announcements were made about the other two officers, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove, who are still on administrative paid leave.

Mattingly was shot in the leg by a bullet fired by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Walker was initially charged with attempted murder and assault, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine announced in late May he was dropping the charges, pending further investigation by the FBI and Kentucky Attorney General’s office.

Fischer Said He Can’t Talk About Firing

Fischer blamed state law in saying he couldn’t elaborate or take any questions from the media during the briefing, which lasted less than a minute.

“Both the chief and I are precluded from talking about what brought us to that moment,” Fischer said.

He referred questions about that to county attorney Mike O’Connell. O’Connell’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The law Fischer cited states that, when a police officer has been charged with violating departmental rules or regulations, “no public statements shall be made concerning the alleged violation by any person or persons of the consolidated local government or the police officer so charged, until final disposition of the charges.”

Last week, Fischer announced that a task force would investigate two women’s claims of sexual assault against Hankison. Those allegations weren’t mentioned in the letter.

What Happens Next?

In the letter to Hankison, Schoeder said he received the file from the Public Integrity Unit’s investigation on June 16 and found that he violated procedures governing obedience to rules and regulations and use of deadly force. According to the letter, Hankison fired into a covered area, where he couldn’t have verified whether anyone was an innocent person present or even posted a threat.

Hankison will be given the opportunity to meet with the chief, along with a union representative or lawyer, and provide any additional information or mitigating factors, the letter said. The date and time of that meeting are redacted.

Ryan Nichols, the president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police, declined to comment on Hankison’s termination. He said he was unaware of the chief’s decision until his saw it on the news.

Under state law, Hankison is allowed to appeal his firing. He has a 10-day window to submit a written notice to the police chief and the Louisville Metro Police Merit Board of his intention to appeal any disciplinary action taken against him. He also has the right to have an attorney present for the hearing, and to present evidence and confront any accusers.

The merit board can overturn disciplinary actions handed down by the police chief. Hankison himself was an elected representative for the FOP on the merit board, a role Fischer recently called on the FOP to terminate.

The board’s rulings can be appealed to the Circuit Court within thirty days.

Meanwhile, the FBI and the Kentucky Attorney General’s office are still investigating the events that led to Taylor’s death. On Friday, the FBI was at Taylor’s apartment on Springfield Drive “conducting judicially authorized activity.”

This story has been updated. Jacob Ryan contributed to this report.

Mayor: Task Force Will Investigate Sexual Assault Allegations Against LMPD Officer Thursday, Jun 11 2020 

Mayor Greg Fischer has announced a more thorough review of sexual assault allegations against Louisville Metro Police officer Brett Hankison, and has asked that he be removed from his role on the Louisville Police Merit Board.

Hankison is one of three officers who fired on Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman killed by police in her home in March. He’s currently on paid administrative leave while the investigation into that shooting continues.

Last week, two women came forward on social media to accuse Hankison of sexual assault, and claimed there were several other victims as well. 

LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit had been investigating the recent claims, but the Mayor said in a statement today that Hankison is now also being investigated by the Kentucky Public Corruption/Civil Rights Task Force. 

That task force involves the FBI, LMPD, the Kentucky State Police and the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General.

The statement said this investigation would proceed separately from the Taylor investigation, which has also been handed off to the Attorney General. 

Fischer also called for Hankison to be removed from the Louisville Police Merit Board, which reviews disciplinary appeals. Hankison was one of two members of the board elected by the Fraternal Order of Police; the other five are civilians appointed by the mayor. 

In the letter to Ryan Nichols, the president of the River City FOP, Fischer said that if the FOP doesn’t remove him, “Louisville Metro will be taking any and all actions that it can to remove him.” 

Until Hankison is removed, Fischer has said no cases can be submitted to the merit board for consideration. 

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