Mistrial declared for US officer charged in Breonna Taylor killing

AFP

The federal civil rights trial of a former Louisville, Kentucky, police officer charged in the 2020 death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman whose killing fueled a wave of racial justice protests, was declared a mistrial on Thursday.

US District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings declared the mistrial in the trial of Brett Hankison - charged with civil rights violations for allegedly using excessive force - after the jury told her they could not reach an unanimous verdict.

Federal prosecutors must now decide if they will try Hankison again.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said in a written statement that the department "is actively considering all of our available options".

Hankison, who is white and whom prosecutors said fired 10 bullets that did not strike anyone during the botched raid on Taylor's apartment, was acquitted by a state court last year in a separate trial, in which he was accused of putting Taylor's neighbours' in danger by firing his weapon. Hankison was the only officer of the three who fired their weapons to face criminal charges.

A Kentucky grand jury did not indict the other two officers, after Kentucky's Attorney General Daniel Cameron did not recommend charges for them.

The killing of Taylor, along with other 2020 killings - George Floyd in Minneapolis and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, among others - sparked outrage and galvanised protests across the US and around the globe that summer.

Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was asleep with her boyfriend on March 13, 2020, when police conducted a no-knock raid and burst into her apartment.

Police wanted to search the home in connection with a drug investigation in which Taylor's ex-boyfriend, who did not live with Taylor at that time, was a suspect.

After police broke down Taylor's door, her new boyfriend, fearing a break-in and saying he did not hear police identify themselves, fired one shot from a handgun that wounded an officer. That officer and another returned fire. Six shots struck Taylor, killing her.

Aside from Hankison, federal prosecutors last year charged three other former Louisville police officers for what they said were their roles in knowingly including false information in an affidavit that convinced a judge to approve the warrant that led to the raid on Taylor's apartment.

One of the other officers charged - Kelly Goodlett - pleaded guilty last year. The other two officers - Joshua Jaynes and current Sergeant Kyle Meany - are awaiting trial in federal court.

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