Allegations of sexual assault have surfaced against one of three white officers accused in the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old unarmed black EMT and aspiring nurse in Louisville, Ky., who was fatally shot March 13 by police while they carried out a search warrant on the wrong apartment.
The allegations against Officer Brett Hankison — raised last week by two women on social media — attracted the attention of Louisville Metro Police, which has reached out to the women so the department’s Public Integrity Unit “can initiate and conduct an investigation,” police spokesman Dwight Mitchell tells PEOPLE.
An attorney for Hankison could not immediately be reached. PEOPLE was unable to reach or independently verify the accounts of either woman.
Taylor’s case has been swept up in protests across the country over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died May 25 in police custody when a white Minneapolis police officer held his knee to Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. That officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with Floyd’s murder while three others on the scene were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter. None have entered pleas.
After Taylor’s shooting, Hankison, who is white, and two other Louisville officers, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove, were placed on administrative leave while the department investigates their actions.
None have been criminally charged in connection with Taylor’s shooting.
Since Taylor was killed, Hankison has drawn renewed scrutiny as the subject in an ongoing civil lawsuit in federal court that accuses him of unrelated unnecessary arrests and harassment of another man, which Hankison has denied, reports the Courier-Journal.
In that lawsuit, according to Louisville TV station WHAS, Kendrick Wilson describes Hankison as “a dirty cop with a vendetta” who arrested Wilson three times between 2016 and 2018 at bars where Hankison occasionally was employed as off-duty security.
The lawsuit also alleges Wilson and Hankison had interactions outside of those arrests, “including over a relationship with the same woman,” reports the Courier-Journal.
A criminal case is pending against Wilson stemming from a June 2018 arrest by Hankison for alleged drug possession, according to the newspaper.
In the more recent sexual assault allegations against Hankison, a woman who identified herself on Facebook as Margo Borders wrote that in April 2018, “a police officer who I had interacted with on many occasions at bars in St. Matthews offered me a ride home. He drove me home in uniform, in his marked car, invited himself into my apartment and sexually assaulted me while I was unconscious.”
“I never reported him out of fear of retaliation,” she writes, before naming Hankison as her alleged assailant. “I had no proof of what happened and he had the upper hand because he was a police officer. Who do you call when the person who assaulted you is a police officer? Who were they going to believe? I knew it wouldn’t be me.”
In the second instance, a woman who identified herself as Emily Terry took to Instagram to write that last fall, “I began walking home from a bar intoxicated. A police officer pulled up next to me and offered me a ride home. I thought to myself, ‘Wow. That is so nice of him.’ And willingly got in.”
She continued: “He began making sexual advances towards me; rubbing my thigh, kissing my forehead, and calling me ‘baby.’ Mortified, I did not move. I continued to talk about my grad school experiences and ignored him. As soon as he pulled up to my apartment building, I got out of the car and ran to the back. My friend reported this the next day, and of course nothing came from it.”
Asked whether any formal complaint alleging sexual harassment or sexual misconduct involving Hankison had been received or previously investigated, the police department spokesperson would only reiterate that they are looking into the current allegations.
“We encourage anyone with direct information about this situation to contact us and share that information with an investigator at (502) 574-7144,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to PEOPLE.
According to a lawsuit in Breonna Taylor’s case, filed against the police department by her family, the EMT was killed in her home shortly after midnight March 13 by Louisville officers executing a drug warrant, reports the Courier-Journal, the Washington Post, and WDRB.
The lawsuit, which was filed on April 27, alleges police were looking for a man who lived in Taylor’s building, but not her apartment, who had been apprehended before officers allegedly entered Taylor’s apartment unannounced on the no-knock warrant.
Taylor was shot eight times, according to the lawsuit, which accuses the officers and the department of wrongful death, excessive force and gross negligence. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was in her apartment at the time, according to the lawsuit, which further alleges that Walker — a licensed gun owner — shot at police as they breached the front door.
The suit alleges that officers responded by firing more than 20 bullets into the apartment. Walker, 27, was unharmed but he was arrested on charges of attempted murder of a police officer and first-degree assault after one of the shots he allegedly fired struck Sgt. John Mattingly, according to the reports.
Walker pleaded not guilty to the charges, which later were dropped.
Attorney Ben Crump, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, also represents the families of George Floyd, as well as relatives of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was shot and killed in Georgia while on a jog earlier this year. A white father and son were arrested and charged with Arbery’s murder, after they alleged they believed him to be a burglar.