WASHINGTON: The US Justice Department charged four police officers on Thursday (Aug 4) over the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed in a botched 2020 raid on her home in Louisville, Kentucky.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the four officers were being charged with civil rights offenses, unlawful conspiracy, unconstitutional use of force and obstruction.
“We allege that these offenses resulted in Miss Taylor’s death,” Garland said.
The deaths of the 26-year-old Taylor and George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May 2020, became the focus of a wave of mass protests in the United States and beyond against racial injustice and police brutality.
Garland said three of the Louisville police officers – Joshua Jaynes, Kelly Goodlett and Kyle Meany – have been charged with falsifying a search warrant in a suspected drug trafficking case.
They are accused of violating Taylor’s rights by seeking a warrant to search her home when they knew they lacked probable cause.
“We allege that the defendants knew that the affidavit in support of that warrant contained false and misleading information and that it omitted material information,” Garland said.
He added that the officers also allegedly “took steps to cover up their unlawful conduct after Miss Taylor was killed.”The fourth police officer, Brett Hankison, was charged with using excessive force by opening fire wildly during the raid which left Taylor dead.
Hankison had previously been found not guilty in March of this year of state charges of “wanton endangerment” for his actions during the raid on Taylor’s home.
Taylor, 26, and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were sleeping in her apartment around midnight on March 13, 2020 when they heard a noise at the door.
Walker, believing it was a break-in, fired his gun, wounding one police officer.
Police, who had obtained a controversial no-knock warrant to make a drug arrest, fired some 30 shots back, mortally wounding Taylor.
While Taylor’s boyfriend Walker said police battered down the door unannounced, the officers insisted they had identified themselves.
Two of the officers involved were fired but Hankison had been the only one to face state charges – which related not to the death of Taylor but to endangering residents of neighboring apartments.
The city of Louisville, the largest in Kentucky, settled a wrongful death suit with Taylor’s family for US$12 million in September 2020.