Feds charge 4 officers over Taylor raid
Activists, family laud civil rights action in fatal Louisville case
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The federal government filed civil rights charges Thursday against four Louisville police officers over the drug raid that led to the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman whose fatal shooting helped fuel the racial justice protests that rocked the nation in 2020.
The charges are another effort to hold law enforcement accountable for the killing of the 26-year-old medical worker after one of the officers was acquitted of state charges earlier this year.
“Breonna Taylor should be alive today,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in announcing the charges, which include unlawful conspiracy, use of force and obstruction of justice.
The charges named former Officers Joshua Jaynes and Brett Hankison, along with current Officers Kelly Goodlett and Sgt. Kyle Meany. Most of the charges stem from the faulty drug warrant used to search Taylor’s home.
Hankison was the only officer charged Thursday who was on the scene that night. Louisville police said they are seeking to fire Goodlett and Meany.
Taylor was shot to death by officers who knocked down her door while executing a 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 multiple times.
Local activists and members of Taylor’s family celebrated the charges and thanked federal officials.
“This is a day when Black women saw equal justice in America,” family lawyer Benjamin Crump said.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said she has waited nearly 2½ years for police to be held accountable. “Today’s overdue, but it still hurts,” she said. “You all (are) learning today that we’re not crazy.”
The Justice Department is also conducting a non-criminal investigation of the Louisville Police Department, announced last year, that is probing whether the department has a pattern of using excessive force and conducting unreasonable search and seizures.
In the protests of 2020, Taylor’s name was often shouted along with that of George Floyd, who was killed less than three months after Taylor by a Minneapolis police officer in a videotaped encounter that shocked the nation.
Protesters who took to
the streets over months in Louisville were especially critical of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who presented only wanton endangerment charges against Hankison for a grand jury to consider in 2020. Members of the grand jury later came forward to complain that Cameron’s office had steered them away from charges for the other officers involved in the raid.
“Thank God that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron did not get the last word in regard to justice for Breonna Taylor,” Crump said Thursday.
Cameron, a Republican running for governor next year, said in announcing the indictment against Hankison
in September 2020 that he would leave “issues regarding potential civil rights violations” to federal officials to investigate.
Garland said the officers who were at Taylor’s home just after midnight March 13, 2020, “were not involved in the drafting of the warrant, and were unaware of the false and misleading statements.”
Hankison was indicted on two deprivation-of-rights charges alleging he used excessive force when he retreated from Taylor’s door, turned a corner and fired 10 shots into the side of her two-bedroom apartment. Bullets flew into a neighbor’s
apartment, nearly striking one man.
He was acquitted by a jury of state charges earlier this year in Louisville.
A separate indictment said Jaynes and Meany both knew the warrant used to search Taylor’s home had information that was “false, misleading and out of date.” Both are charged with conspiracy and deprivation of rights.
Meany ran a police unit that focused on aggressive drug investigations. Police served five warrants the night of the Taylor raid, four of them in a concentrated area where drug activity was suspected, and the fifth
at Taylor’s apartment nearly 10 miles away.
The warrant for Taylor’s house alleged that she was receiving packages for a suspected drug dealer who was a former boyfriend. The warrant, signed by Jaynes and approved by Meany, said Jaynes had confirmed with the postal service that packages for the ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, were going to the apartment. Investigators later learned that Jaynes had not confirmed that with the postal inspector.
Jaynes was fired in January 2021 for violating department standards in the preparation of a search warrant execution and for being “untruthful” in the Taylor warrant.