The tragic shooting and death of Breonna Taylor have been in the news for months. Unfortunately, the allegations of police misconduct, excessive force, and other wrongdoing continue even though a grand jury charged a former police detective with wanton endangerment in the first degree. No criminal charges were issued against the other police officers involved in the raid, which resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death.

Ms. Taylor was at home in bed with her boyfriend. Police arrived at her apartment with a no-knock search warrant. When the police forced their way into the apartment, Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend shot at the officers believing that they were intruders. 

The police returned fire. Three of the officers shot more than 30 bullets into the apartment. At least six of the bullets struck Ms. Taylor, causing her death.

Ms. Taylor’s family settled a civil lawsuit against the City of Louisville, but the investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor continues. The grand jury did not indict any of the Louisville Metro Police Department officers in her death. Federal investigations into the matter are ongoing to determine if any of the officers or agencies violated Ms. Taylor’s civil rights

What is Wanton Endangerment?

Wanton endangerment is defined under Kentucky law as engaging in conduct that creates a substantial danger of serious physical injury or death to another person. The statute also states that the conduct is under circumstances that manifest an extreme indifference to the value of human life.

First-degree wanton endangerment is charged as a Class D felony. A person could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and receive a fine of up to $10,000 for a conviction. 

The Details of the Charges Against the Police Officer

The grand jury indicted Brett Hankison with three counts of wanton endangerment for his actions on the night of Breonna Taylor’s death. However, none of the ten shots that Mr. Hankison fired struck Ms. Taylor. 

Instead, the shots fired by Mr. Hankison passed through the walls in Ms. Taylor’s apartment and entered another apartment. The three occupants in the neighboring apartment were a husband and wife and their five-year-old child. None of the individuals in the neighboring apartment were struck by the bullets.

The police department fired Mr. Hankison after the raid on Ms. Taylor’s apartment. According to reports, he stood outside and fired into Ms. Taylor’s apartment through a window and a glass patio door covered by blinds. The department’s policy requires that police officers have a line of sight when discharging their weapons.

When Can a Person be Charged with Wanton Endangerment?

Wanton endangerment covers a wide variety of behaviors. As in the case of Breonna Taylor, the officer faces three counts of wanton endangerment for firing his weapon with extreme indifference to the value of human life. 

A civilian could face criminal charges of wanton endangerment for pointing a firearm at someone, even if they do not shoot at the person. Pointing a firearm at someone creates a substantial danger of serious injury or death. Firing warning shots at trespassers while standing on your property could constitute wanton endangerment in some cases. 

Wanton endangerment could be an additional charge in drug crimes, assault, domestic disputes, or theft crimes if the person committing the crime places the victim in substantial danger of injury or death.

For example, pointing a firearm at your spouse during an argument could result in a wanton endangerment charge. 

Driving under the influence could result in wanton endangerment charges if a passenger is in the car with you. Even if you do not wreck the car, you endanger your passengers by merely driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Wanton endangerment could occur when a drunk driver runs another vehicle off the road, even if the person in the other car was not injured. 

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer for Wanton Endangerment Charges?

Yes, you need to contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately if you are facing wanton endangerment charges. You are facing substantial jail time for a conviction of first-degree wanton endangerment.

A criminal defense attorney can evaluate the charges against you and develop a defense strategy based on the facts in your case. Potential defenses to wanton endangerment include self-defense, false accusations, and lack of danger to the other person.

If the police arrest you for wanton endangerment, do not try to explain what happened. It is best to remain silent and refuse to answer any questions without an attorney. Immediately ask for a lawyer and remain silent, even if the police officers continue to ask questions or make statements about the case.