The ex-Louisville officer who fatally shot Breonna Taylor during a botched police raid took the witness stand Friday and criticized the actions of a former officer who is on trial on charges of violating Taylor’s civil rights.
Myles Cosgrove was one of the officers at Taylor’s apartment door as it was breached during the 2020 raid. Taylor’s killing, along with George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minnesota police, ignited protests that summer around the country over racial injustice and police brutality.
Cosgrove testified Friday that his former fellow officer, Brett Hankison, fired “haphazardly” into the apartment after Taylor’s boyfriend shot another officer. Hankison moved away from the door after officers returned fire, and shot into the side windows of Taylor’s apartment. Some of the bullets went into a neighbour’s unit, near where a child was sleeping.
“In my opinion, it’s dangerous to do that,” Cosgrove said of Hankison’s shots. “You have to have a target to shoot at.”
Hankison is one of four officers who were charged by the U.S. Department of Justice last year with violating Taylor’s civil rights. The two federal counts against him carry a maximum penalty of life in prison if he is convicted.
None of Hankison’s shots hit anyone, but prosecutors argued that his actions were reckless and put Taylor, her boyfriend and her neighbours in danger.
Cosgrove fired 16 times during the raid, including the fatal shot that killed Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman. Cosgrove was fired by Louisville police in 2021 for failing to “properly identify a target” during the raid. He was recently hired by a nearby Kentucky county sheriff’s department, upsetting some who said he should no longer be in law enforcement.
Cosgrove testified Friday that he returned fire after a fellow officer, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, was shot in the leg by Taylor’s boyfriend. Cosgrove said he shot into the darkened apartment at a figure he saw at the end of the hallway. The figure was Taylor, who was unarmed.
Cosgrove became emotional on the witness stand when asked how he felt about Taylor’s death.
“It’s so powerful to have taken someone’s life. The outcome, it’s horribly powerful that I had to do that,” he said. “It’s not the outcome that I wanted. There’s not a day I don’t think about it.”
Federal prosecutors did not charge Cosgrove or Mattingly in the shooting, saying their actions were justified because they were returning fire.
The trial is the second attempt to convict Hankison for his actions during the March 13, 2020, raid. He was acquitted in a state trial last year.
Federal prosecutors are attempting to demonstrate that Hankison couldn’t have seen what he was shooting at when he fired into Taylor’s windows, because they were covered with “black out” curtains. Cosgrove said the night of the raid, he tried to shine a flashlight through them, but couldn’t see anything inside.
Another witness, Taylor’s sister Juniyah Palmer, testified Friday that Taylor, who was studying to become a nurse, kept dark curtains on the windows because she worked a late emergency room shift, and had to sleep during the day. Palmer also lived in the apartment with Taylor, but was out of town on the night of the raid.
Palmer said she returned home quickly when she learned of her sister’s death, and when she went back to the apartment a few days later, she saw a mess left by the raid.
There was glass on the carpet, furniture moved around, and bullet holes through her bedroom window and in the walls of her shower, she said.
“It was devastating to know my whole room was riddled with bullets,” Palmer said.
Hankison’s lawyers have argued that he was making a “tactical move” when he spun away from Taylor’s front door, ran to the side of the apartment and shot through the windows.
Cosgrove said the officers who went to Taylor’s apartment were told she would be there alone. But when they knocked on her door after midnight, they got no response, and eventually decided to breach the door with a battering ram, Cosgrove testified.
Once the door was knocked down, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a shot down the hallway. Walker later said he thought an intruder was breaking in.
“Just as I make it to the threshold we are met by a gunshot inside the apartment,” Cosgrove said. “I was able to see the muzzle flash which was directly in front of me.”
Cosgrove testified he fired 16 shots into the apartment in about five seconds.