U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday that the Department of Justice has filed charges against four former and current Louisville police officers in connection with the death of Breonna Taylor. The charges include civil rights offenses, unlawful conspiracies, unconstitutional use of force and obstruction offenses.
"The federal charges announced today allege that members of a Police Investigations Unit falsified the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant of Ms. Taylor's home and that this act violated federal civil rights laws, and that those violations resulted in Ms. Taylor's death," Garland said in a news conference.
The federal charges against detective Joshua Jaynes, former Louisville detective Kelly Goodlett and sergeant Kyle Meany allege they violated Taylor's Fourth Amendment rights when they sought a warrant to search Taylor's home while knowing they lacked probable cause, and that they knew their affidavit supporting the warrant contained false and misleading information and omitted other material information, resulting in her death.
"Among other things, the affidavit falsely claimed that officers had verified that the target of the alleged drug trafficking operation had received packages at Ms. Taylor's address. In fact, defendants Jaynes and Goodlett knew that was not true," Garland said during a press conference.
Garland also alleged that Jaynes and Goodlett knew armed officers will be carrying out the raid at Taylor's home, and that conducting the search could create "a dangerous situation for anyone who happened to be in Ms. Taylor's home."
Prosecutors allege that Jaynes and Goodlett met in a garage after Taylor's death "where they agreed to tell investigators" looking into the botched raid "a false story."
Charges have also been filed against Brett Hankison a former Louisville Metro Police officer who was involved in the death of Breonna Taylor. Hankison has been charged in a two-count indictment for deprivation of rights under color of law, both of which are civil rights offenses.
Hankison allegedly used unconstitutional excessive force during the raid when he fired 10 shots through a window and sliding glass door in Taylor's home that was covered in blinds and curtains after there was no longer a "lawful objective justifying the use of deadly force."
Hankison went to trial on state charges relating to the raid on Taylor's apartment and was found not guilty on all counts. He was charged with recklessly shooting into a neighboring apartment during the course of the raid that ended with the death of Breonna Taylor, not guilty on all three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree.
Taylor's death sparked protests nationwide, and outrage was further inflamed after no officers were charged in relation to her fatal shooting.
"The lack of accountability showcased in every aspect of Breonna’s killing speaks to how much more work there is to be done before we can say our justice system is fair and our system of policing is protective of people of color," Taylor's attorney, Ben Crump said after Hankison's trial in March.
The Justice Department has had a pattern or practice investigation ongoing into the Louisville Police Department since April 2021. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke from DOJ's Civil Rights Division told reporters the separate investigation remains ongoing and that DOJ has a team on the ground still conducting interviews with stakeholders and are conducting ride-alongs with police there.
Louisville officers conducted a raid of Taylor's apartment on March 13, 2020, at around 12:45 a.m. When officers broke down the door to the apartment, a guest in Taylor's home, thinking it was an intruder, fired a single gunshot using a legally purchased firearm, hitting the first officer at the door. Two Louisville officers then fired a total of 22 shots into the apartment, one of which hit Taylor in the chest, according to an information filed by the Justice Department.
A third officer moved from the doorway to the side of the apartment and fired ten more shots through a window and a sliding glass door, both of which were covered with blinds and curtains, according to an information filed by the Justice Department.
Garland also alleged that officers who carried out the raid were not involved in drafting the warrant and were unaware of the false and misleading statements it contained when they carried out the raid.
Garland said he spoke with Taylor's family earlier Thursday and informed them of the charges.
"We share, but we cannot fully imagine, the grief felt by Breonna Taylor's loved ones and all of those affected by the events of March 13, 2020. Breonna Taylor should be alive today," Garland said.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump praised the Department of Justice for the charges, calling them "profound."
"The federal government went through and dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't'. It’s not something that we have seen historically done on behalf of Black people, especially Black women. I can't think of a Justice Department being this committed to civil rights since Robert Kennedy and the civil rights movement, with Martin Luther King and John Lewis," Crump said.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, told reporters, "Today's overdue but it still hurts," saying these charges show the officers should not have been there. "Breonna didn't deserve that," she added.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement that the indictments are a "critical step forward" in achieving justice for Taylor and praised the federal government for pursuing this case.
"While we cannot reverse her tragic death, we can and must continue to pursue justice for her," Fischer said in a statement.