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Brett Hankison trial: 3 takeaways from fellow officer Myles Cosgrove's testimony

Originally Published 5:50 p.m. ET Nov. 3, 2023


Myles Cosgrove sits with attorney in court room
Photo by Pat McDonogh - Courier Journal

The former Louisville Metro Police detective whose gunfire killed Breonna Taylor in a botched 2020 raid testified in federal court Friday that his colleague Brett Hankison was firing his weapon from the apartment building’s parking lot after other officers had already ceased firing and moved away from Taylor’s front door.


He labeled the conduct as “unfathomably dangerous.”


Former detective Myles Cosgrove was testifying on the second day of the federal trial of Hankison, who is facing charges he violated the civil rights of Taylor, her boyfriend and three neighbors when he fired 10 bullets through a covered sliding-glass door and window during the March 13, 2020, police raid that killed Taylor.


Hankison, Cosgrove and former LMPD Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly all fired their handguns after Mattingly was struck in the leg by a bullet fired by Taylor’s boyfriend when the apartment door was breached.


Hankison moved away from the front door and fired 10 rounds through a window and sliding-glass door that were facing the South End apartment building’s parking lot. Prosecutors are arguing he did not have a target and put lives in danger.


None of the bullets fired by Hankison hit anyone. It was determined a bullet fired by Cosgrove killed Taylor, a 26-year-old Black ER tech whose death sparked months of protests in Louisville.


Here are three takeaways from Cosgrove’s testimony during the second day of the trial:


Myles Cosgrove said Hankison was firing after other officers stopped


Cosgrove told jurors he and Mattingly returned fire from Taylor’s doorway “simultaneously” before retreating toward the building’s parking lot. As Cosgrove moved away from the doorway area, he said he saw muzzle flashes coming from the parking lot.


He later learned those muzzle flashes had come from Hankison.


“I was concerned. I was kind of shocked, actually. I was upset at the fact that that happened,” Cosgrove said about the moment he learned it was a police officer who had been firing from a vantage point where he said a target could not be identified because of drapes and blinds covering the apartment’s windows.


“In my opinion, it’s dangerous to do that. It put my life in danger and anyone else’s life in danger,” he added.


Cosgrove’s testimony conflicts with Hankison’s previous statements in his state-level trial last year that he was firing at muzzle flashes he could see through the window.


However, during opening statements on Thursday, Hankison defense attorney Jack Byrd said a police witness would tell jurors Hankison was not the last officer to fire during the raid.


While Cosgrove was critical of Hankison’s actions, he was himself fired from LMPD in 2020 for not properly identifying a target when he fired 16 shots during the raid that killed Taylor.

“In your statement, you did not describe target isolation or target identification and instead described flashes that you did not properly evaluate as a threat,” then-Interim Chief Yvette Gentry wrote in Cosgrove’s 2020 pre-termination letter. “Had you evaluated the threat accurately, you would have likely stopped firing once the gunfire had stopped.”


In court on Friday, Cosgrove said he clearly identified a silhouette of a target illuminated by a muzzle flash when the door to Taylor’s apartment was breached.


Window, sliding-glass door like a ‘wall’


Before officers serving the warrant on Taylor’s home knocked on her door, Cosgrove said he approached the sliding-glass door and window Hankison later fired through and tried to shine a flashlight through them to see inside.


However, he said he was unable to see anything because of curtains and blinds covering them.


“It is essentially a wall that my light is shining on,” he told the court.


The covered sliding-glass door and window are key points of the trial, with prosecutors saying Hankison was unable to see a target through them and was thus firing blindly.


Byrd, a defense attorney for Hankison, said in opening arguments on Thursday that light could be seen around the coverings of the sliding-glass door and window. Hankison has previously said he saw muzzle flashes and believed his fellow officers were being “executed.”


While Cosgrove acknowledged that some curtains become more transparent when he shines a flashlight on them, the ones at Taylor’s apartment did not. He estimated he was “inches” from the window when he shined his flashlight.


Cosgrove thinks about raid every day


Cosgrove, who currently works for the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department, said he thinks about the raid that killed Taylor every day and appeared emotional at points while talking about the incident.


At one point, a prosecutor asked Cosgrove how it felt knowing it was one of his bullets that killed Taylor. Cosgrove paused for a long time and was difficult to understand when he started speaking.


“It’s so powerful to take someone’s life,” he said. “…It’s not the outcome that I wanted. There’s not a day that I don’t think about it. I really wish you hadn’t asked me that question.”


However, he stood by his actions.


“I know what I did was justified,” he said of the 16 shots he fired. “What I did protected my life and protected Jon’s [Mattingly’s] life. I can live with that, humbly, knowing that. But the outcome is the least desirable thing I would ever wish.”


The prosecutor then asked if would have been able to live with himself if he had fired through a window he couldn’t see through. The judge upheld an objection from the defense to that question being asked.


Reach reporter Josh Wood at jwood@courier-journal.com or on Twitter at @JWoodJourno



 

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