Wanton endangerment charge: What it means in the Breonna Taylor case

Wanton endangerment charge: What it means in the Breonna Taylor case

A grand jury indicted former Louisville police officer Brett Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree in connection with the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in March.

The charges drew immediate criticism from demonstrators who wanted more serious charges, as well as the arrests of the three officers involved.

Hankison is not charged with causing the death of Taylor. Rather, the police department said, he “wantonly and blindly” fired into her apartment — shooting 10 rounds.

According to the Kentucky statute, someone “is guilty of wanton endangerment in the first degree when, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, he wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person.”


It is a Class D felony, the lowest of four classes of felonies. The maximum sentence is five years; the minimum is one year.

If convicted, Hankison faces five years imprisonment for each count, Attorney General Daniel Cameron said at a press conference Wednesday. A Class A felony — for example, a murder charge — carries a sentence of up to 50 years or life, and a minimum sentence of 20 years.

Hankison’s shots came “from outside a sliding glass door and through a bedroom window,” according to a statement from the attorney general’s office. Some of the bullets went through Taylor’s apartment and into one next door, where three people were inside, including a pregnant woman and a child.

“There is no conclusive evidence that any bullets fired from Detective Hankison’s weapon struck Ms. Taylor,” the statement said.

Taylor was shot multiple times in her home by police carrying out a drug investigation. Her death sparked months of protests and has garnered attention across the country. Cameron told reporters that the officers were “justified in their use of force” because Taylor’s boyfriend fired at officers first.

Sgt. John Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove were not charged.

“This is the latest miscarriage of justice in our nation’s long history of denying that Black lives matter,” the ACLU of Kentucky said in a tweet. “Once again, a prosecutor has refused to hold law enforcement accountable for killing a young Black woman.”

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