On the fourth day of former LMPD detective Brett Hankison’s wanton endangerment trial on Tuesday, prosecutors rested their case after calling the pregnant woman who lived next door to Breonna Taylor’s apartment to the stand. That woman, Chelsey Napper, testified that she feared for her life, as well as the lives of her unborn child, her five-year-old son and her boyfriend as a result of the botched March 2020 raid on Taylor’s apartment, which saw three bullets fired by Hankison enter her apartment.
The defense will make its case tomorrow and is expected to call Hankison to the stand. According to Judge Ann Bailey Smith, closing arguments will take place on Thursday, and then 12 jurors will go into deliberations.
Hankison is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree. His charges are not for Breonna Taylor’s death, but rather shots he fired that entered the apartment next door to Taylor’s home, where Napper, her son and Napper’s boyfriend Cody Etherton were living.
On the witness stand for more than half an hour on Tuesday afternoon, Napper described the danger she felt for herself and her family after she was awoken by what sounded like “a bomb” in the early morning of March 13, 2020 as police breached the apartment next door to her home and gunfire broke out.
“I was scared for my life. I was scared for Cody’s life. I was scared for my unborn child’s life and my five-year-old’s life,” she said after Hankison’s attorney, Stew Matthews, asked what she meant by describing the situation as scary and crazy during cross-examination.
Proceedings appeared to briefly turn contentious when Matthews followed that question by asking if that was “right about the time when this was all going on.”
“What do you mean?” shot back Napper. “Of course I was scared; There was gunshots flying through my apartment.”
Napper also testified that her boyfriend, Cody Etherton, had guns trained on him by LMPD officers when he approached their apartment’s rear sliding-glass door, which had been shattered by gunfire that passed through their apartment from Taylor’s home. Ballistics analysts testified that that shot and two others that went into their apartment were fired by Hankison.
The prosecution also played 911 calls made by Napper that evening, in which she described gunfire hitting her apartment and police being “really aggressive” with her boyfriend and had aimed guns at him.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Napper testified that police would not let her family leave the apartment through the front door for hours after the shooting. When they finally were allowed to leave, she described trying to shield her son from seeing what had happened.
“The door to apartment four [Taylor’s apartment] is wide open, where a body laid for hours and hours, and I had to block my 5-year-old son who is wondering — I guess, I don’t even know what I told him had happened, but I tried to keep it from him forever,” she said.
Napper said when she later called LMPD to try to “hold someone accountable for their actions” and ask about compensation for furniture damaged by gunfire, she was told to contact the Kentucky Bar Association.
Earlier on Tuesday, jurors watched a video of a May 2021 deposition of Myles Cosgrove, the former LMPD detective who was determined to have fired the shot that killed Taylor. Most of that deposition, which was conducted by Steven Romines, the attorney for Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker, focused on whether LMPD policies were followed leading up to the raid.
Both Cosgrove and Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, the third officer who fired his weapon during the raid, have invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege and will not testify in Hankison’s trial. On Tuesday, Judge Smith told jurors that the two former officers were unavailable and that jurors should “draw no inference” from the fact that they were not testifying in person.
Jurors also heard from an LMPD firearms trainer and an officer who responded to the 3003 Springfield Drive apartment complex after the raid and mistakenly thought Napper’s apartment was the target apartment due to its shattered sliding-glass door. Jurors saw body camera footage of that officer training his rifle on the apartment, and he testified that he instructed Etherton, Napper’s boyfriend, to show his hands when he saw a person by the shattered glass.
After the jury departed on Tuesday, Matthews argued that the prosecution lacked sufficient evidence in their case and asked that Judge Smith issue a directed verdict, which would throw out the case. Matthews also argued that police did not know of the existence of the apartment next door to Taylor’s home and that Hankison should be immune to prosecution due to statutes that allow defense of oneself and others. Judge Smith rejected the motion.
Court resumes on Wednesday at 10 a.m.
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