It’s been over a week since the trial of Brett Harkison began. One of the officers involved in the shooting of Breonna Taylor almost 2 years ago, Harkison is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment. One count for each of the three bullets that went through Taylor’s apartment and into that of her neighbor, Cody Etherton.
Etherton, his then-pregnant girlfriend Chelsea Napper, and their five-year-old son. Three counts carrying a sentence of 1-5 years each.
Three for them.
None for her.
Yet, if not for those three bullets, there wouldn’t be a trial at all.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Kentucky Assistant Attorney General Barbara Whaley:
This case is about Cody and his partner Chelsea (Napper), who was 7 months pregnant at the time, and their 5 year old son who was sleeping in the bedroom closest to the front door when the bullets ripped through the apartment and out their sliding glass door, into the night.
Who else was sleeping? Breonna Taylor. Right before ex-officers Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly burst through her front door with a battering ram.
In what many consider a miscarriage of justice, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron declined to bring any of the officers involved before a grand jury. Even the officer responsible for shooting the round that killed Taylor.
Indictment and trial for the officer who endangered the lives of Taylor’s neighbors, but not for the officer responsible for actually taking hers.
Testimony in Harkison’s trial began last Wednesday, but it was the next day’s events that caused a stir. Breonna Taylor’s mom Tamika Palmer and her daughter Ju’Niyah Palmer were escorted from the courtroom. Tamika, wearing a letterman jacket with pictures of Breonna on the front and back with March 13, 2020 on the sleeve and Ju’Niyah wearing a hood with her sister’s face and the words ‘Arrest cops who killed Breonna Taylor’ printed on the front were wearing ‘improper’ attire.
Statement from the Circuit Court Judge’s Attorney:
Standard dress code for spectators in the courtroom is that no one should wear any attire or display any object that is so inherently prejudicial that it would deprive the defendant of a fair trial.
Several officers testified the first week. Officer Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly were scheduled to testify this week, but both invoked their fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.
Cosgrove was fired from LMPD in Jan. 2021 for failing to activate his body camera and for violation of deadly force operating procedure. He appealed, but the decision was upheld by a police merit board in December.
Jonathan Mattingly retired in June 2021.
An LMPD firearms instructor testified this past Tuesday as to proper procedure.
Instructor Matt Gelhausen:
You need to have target identification, target isolation, and an understanding of the target’s background.
Harrison blindly shot 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment.
After Harkinson’s request for a direct verdict was denied by the judge, Harkison took the stand Wednesday. While he expressed some remorse, he maintained he did nothing wrong. Doubling down on his that he only fired to protect himself and his fellow officers. The same things he said in an interview days after Breonna’s death.
The jury was played a tape of the interview:
I saw darkness in the apartment, but then saw immediate illumination. Fire. I knew where we were at was the worst possible place you could be. Period. In my mind I needed to get out of there as quickly as possible, so I spun out and ran directly back towards where, where we came from. I didn’t know if Jon was down, and they couldn’t get his body out. All I could hear was the firing. I saw the flashing. All I thought was they were being executed because I knew they were helping Jon. I returned fire at the angle That I believed him to still be shooting from. Cause I could still see those muzzled flashes and hear fire increased.
The “him”: Kenneth Walker. Boyfriend of Breonna Taylor. Who, believing to be the victim of a break-in, fired one shot from a Glock pistol. Not a high-powered assault rifle, as Harkison claims. One. Shot. Only.
The fire Hankison was hearing was coming from his fellow officers. Cosgrove and Mattingly. Cosgrove fired 16 shots, including the one that killed Breonna Taylor. Against policy and procedure, Mattingly also returned fire.
During his testimony, Harkison became choked up. Looking at Breonna’s mother from the stand, he said:
She didn’t need to die that night.
Taylor’s mother left the courtroom.
Between Harkison, Cosgrove, and Mattingly, a total of 32 bullets were fired into Breonna Taylor’s home.
32 rounds. 3 officers. 1 death. Zero justice.
The trial is ongoing. We will be watching closely. Whatever the outcome or punishment, one this is certain; it will never be enough.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick