Former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison has been indicted on criminal charges after shooting into the apartment next door to Breonna Taylor.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When Breonna Taylor’s mother learned there were only three wanton endangerment charges filed against one officer at her daughter’s home the night Louisville police shot and killed her daughter, she fell apart.
Tamika Palmer made the hourlong drive from Louisville to Frankfort on Wednesday to hear the news from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron directly — only to learn she wouldn’t get the justice she sought.
And when she learned those three charges weren’t even for her daughter’s slaying, she fell apart again.
“I said, ‘Tamika, I hate to have to tell you this,'” attorney Lonita Baker recounted to The Courier Journal on Thursday, “‘but I can’t let you leave here and see it on the news, on social media or anything else. Do you know what the three counts of wanton endangerment was for?’
“She looked at me and it instantly clicked, and she broke down again,” Baker said.
“The neighbors,” Palmer replied.
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Attorneys for Palmer, furious about the grand jury’s decision and at the case Cameron presented, are also frustrated by how he handled relaying that news to Taylor’s mother.
Had they known the decision, they would not have sent Palmer to Frankfort.
“Everything that happened with Tamika was foreseeable,” said Sam Aguiar, Baker’s Louisville-based co-counsel. “And shame on the attorney general’s office for not recognizing that.”
Aguiar told The Courier Journal he twice conveyed to Cameron’s office through local activist Christopher 2X that he only wanted Palmer to travel to Frankfort if there were indictments against the officers who killed her daughter.
Otherwise, the drive would be torture for Palmer, and it wouldn’t be worth it, Aguiar said.
“To get that news in Frankfort and then basically be cooped up in a car … it would be awful,” Aguiar said, recalling his message.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron spoke about the grand jury’s decision and outlined the findings.
Louisville Courier Journal
2X confirmed he told Cameron’s office that Palmer didn’t want to meet if there weren’t indictments. He also said the invitation to meet in person Wednesday was the result of a promise made during an Aug. 12 meeting, in which Cameron told Palmer he’d tell her the decision in person.
But on Wednesday, after they got the call to come to Frankfort and made the trip, Aguiar’s fear came true.
There was an indictment — but not for Taylor’s death.
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As Cameron met with Taylor’s family and attorneys in Frankfort, Jefferson Circuit Judge Annie O’Connell read the indictment returned by the grand jury over a public video call.
Only former LMPD Detective Brett Hankison would be charged. He faces three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for shots he fired that went into an apartment next to Taylor’s with three people inside.
There were no charges for any of the officers who shot Taylor, according to Cameron’s investigation — Detective Myles Cosgrove and Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly — or for the shots from Hankison that hit her Taylor’s apartment.
Baker said Cameron began the conversation with a discussion of the grand jury presentation and how the justice system doesn’t always give people what they want.
“And so he says that the grand jury decided only to charge Brett Hankison, and it charged him with wanton endangerment,” Baker said. “Tamika immediately breaks down.”
It was Aguiar who asked how many counts of wanton endangerment Hankison faced.
Cameron told them three.
For Baker, a former prosecutor, it clicked immediately.
“The wanton endangerment charges were not even for Breonna,” she said. “Daniel Cameron never said anything about who the counts were for.”
Outside, after the meeting was done, Palmer collapsed to the ground.
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But Baker still had to deliver more unwanted news — that’s when she told Palmer the charges were for the neighbors.
Baker said she is angry Cameron put her in that position. She noted as the state’s top law enforcement official, he’ll have to deal with many victims during his tenure.
“Even if you think it’s something they don’t want to hear, you have to fully communicate with them,” Baker said. “Not only is it the right thing to do, we have a legal obligation to do it.”
Only Bianca Austin, Taylor’s aunt, was composed enough to console Palmer without betraying her sadness, anger and frustration. Austin had to drive back to Louisville because Palmer couldn’t.
“They never expressed any sort of apology,” Aguiar said. “They did not explain the process to her. They did not explain what they presented to the grand jury. The only thing they basically said was that the grand jury came back with an indictment for wanton endangerment.”
A day after the news, Palmer walked through Jefferson Square — the hub of protests demanding justice for her daughter — with supporters, snapping a few photos, then walked to Market Street to her car.
There, she said it was the first time she’d been at the square since the grand jury decision.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “The love is still here.”
She recalled her reaction to his announcement a day earlier.
“Mad. Pissed. Upset. Hurt. A lot of emotions,” she said.
“I wasn’t surprised, though. I didn’t have faith in them to begin with. I was holding out hope.”
Follow Darcy Costello on Twitter: @TessaDuvall.
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