LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Four Louisville police officers involved in the deadly raid at Breonna Taylor’s home were charged Thursday with civil-rights violations, the Justice Department announced, including a former detective who was fired for lying on the search warrant that led to her death.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced federal charges against former officers Joshua Jaynes, Brett Hankison, Kelly Goodlett and Sgt. Kyle Meany.
Garland said federal officials “share but cannot fully imagine the grief” felt by Taylor’s family.
“Breonna Taylor should be alive today,” Garland said.
Taylor, a 26-year-old Black medical worker, was shot to death by Louisville officers who knocked down her door while executing the search warrant. Taylor’s boyfriend fired a shot that hit one of the officers as they came through the door and they returned fire, striking Taylor six times. Officers fired 32 rounds in total. Her death became a rallying cry for protesters around the country during 2020 demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism.
Civil-rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented Taylor’s family through a historic $12 million settlement, said it was “a great day” after Thursday’s announcement and, in a statement with other attorneys who represented the family, called it a “huge step toward justice.”
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Detective who lied on search warrant among those charged
Hankison, who was dismissed from the department in 2020, was one of the officers at Taylor’s door and one of three who fired shots that night.
Hankison faces two civil-rights charges alleging he used “unconstitutionally excessive force during the raid on Ms. Taylor’s home” for firing 10 shots that went into an occupied, neighboring apartment “without a lawful objective justifying the use of deadly force,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division announced during a Thursday morning news conference alongside Garland in Washington.
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Bullets flew into a neighbor’s apartment, nearly striking one man. Garland said the officers at Taylor’s home “were not involved in the drafting of the warrant, and were unaware of the false and misleading statements.” Hankison was the only officer charged Thursday who was on the scene that night.
Both counts against Hankison allege that he used a dangerous weapon and that his conduct involved an attempt to kill, according to the Justice Department. Earlier this year, a jury found Hankison not guilty on state charges related to the shooting. He was the only officer charged in the case at the state level.
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Jaynes applied for the warrant to search Taylor’s house. He was fired in January 2021 for inserting what then-interim Chief Yvette Gentry found to be an untruthful statement in his sworn affidavit for the warrant to search Taylor’s apartment.
In the affidavit, which he swore to before a judge, Jaynes wrote that he’d verified through a U.S. Postal inspector that Taylor’s ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, a drug-trafficking suspect, was having packages delivered to her apartment.
But Jaynes had actually spoken to another officer, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, who had gotten information from Shively Police, not the postal inspector. According to the Shively officers, postal inspectors said there were no packages.
Meany and Jaynes are facing federal civil rights and obstruction offenses related to preparing and approving the false search warrant, the Justice Department announced.
Goodlett was charged with with one count of conspiring with Jaynes to falsify the search warrant for Taylor’s home and to cover up their actions, according to the Justice Department.
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Louisville police said Chief Erika Shields started termination proceedings Thursday against Meany and Goodlett following the announcement of federal charges.
“It is critical that any illegal or inappropriate actions by law enforcement be addressed comprehensively in order to continue our efforts to build police-community trust,” the department said in a statement.
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Garland said the federal charges focused on the conduct of LMPD’s Place-Based Investigations Unit, which lawyers for Taylor’s family labeled in a 2020 lawsuit as a “rogue” group that targeted people and drugs in Louisville’s West End.
Garland said members of the PBI Unit “falsified the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant of Ms. Taylor’s home,” which violated federal civil-rights law and “resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death.”
Jaynes, Meany and Goodlett sought the warrant for Taylor’s home “knowing that the officers lacked probable cause for the search,” Garland said, and that they knew the affidavit in support of the warrant “contained false and misleading information and that it omitted material information.”
Garland also alleged Jaynes and Goodlett met in a garage in May 2020 and “conspired to knowingly falsify an investigative document” and “conspired to mislead federal, state and local authorities” who were investigating the shooting that left Taylor dead.
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DOJ’s probe of Louisville police
The FBI has been investigating Taylor’s death since May 2020, when it opened its “color of law” case that focuses on allegations of police officers or other officials improperly using their authority, including excessive force, false arrest or obstruction of justice.
Last year, the Justice Department also opened a “patterns and practices” investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department and Louisville Metro Government.
Garland said last year that the probe, which is pending, would focus on several areas, including whether the department:
- Used unreasonable force, including during peaceful protests;
- Engaged in unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures, including unlawful search warrant executions on private residences;
- Discriminated against people based on race; and
- Failed to provide public services in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Justice Department, as part of its probe, has been completing a comprehensive review of the police department’s policies and training, along with an assessment of the effectiveness of its supervision of officers and its system of accountability, including its misconduct investigations.
Contributing: The Associated Press