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The Justice Department announced on Thursday it has charged four former and current police officers involved in the 2020 shooting death of Breonna Taylor.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said that civil rights offenses, including a falsified search warrant, led to the killing of the 26-year-old Black woman and emergency room technician in Louisville, Ky.
“We share but we cannot imagine the grief felt by Breonna Taylor’s loved ones and all of those affected by the events of March 13, 2020,” Garland said. “Breonna Taylor should be alive today.”
Former officers Joshua Jaynes and Kelly Goodlett, along with current Sgt. Kyle Meany, were charged with using false information to obtain the search warrant. A fourth officer, former Louisville cop Brett Hankison, was charged with using excessive force. According to Reuters, all four officers were arrested on Thursday.
“The federal charges announced today that members of the Place-Based Investigations unit falsified the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant of Ms. Taylor’s home,” Garland said at a morning press conference. “That this act violated federal civil rights laws and that those violations resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death.”
Garland alleged that Taylor’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when three of the officers obtained the warrant knowing they lacked probable cause, understanding it contained false information and omitted other information. He claimed that the defendants knew that allegations of drug trafficking occurring at Taylor’s address were not true and that the warrant would be executed by armed officers.
According to Garland, the officers who executed the search warrant were not involved in obtaining it and were not aware it had false information. Garland said the officers involved with obtaining the warrant created false documents and conspired to lie to investigators in the aftermath of Taylor’s death.
“We allege that the defendants knew their actions and falsifying the affidavit could create a dangerous situation, and we allege these unlawful acts resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death,” Garland said. “The charges announced today also allege that the officers responsible for falsifying the affidavit that led to the search took steps to cover up their unlawful conduct after Ms. Taylor was killed.”
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said that other investigations into the death were still ongoing. Hankison, a former Louisville Metro Police officer who fired 10 shots through a window and sliding glass door during the raid on Taylor's home, was acquitted in March on state charges of endangering Taylor’s neighbors with his actions that night.
The officers were looking for a drug suspect who lived 10 miles away and was already in police custody. During the execution of the “no-knock” warrant, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired one shot, to which more than 20 rounds were returned, striking and killing Taylor. Her death, combined with other killings such as those of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, helped lead to the wave of social justice protests during the summer of 2020.
Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney who has been representing Taylor's family, issued a statement calling the charges "a huge step toward justice.”
"On behalf of Breonna's family, thank you to all who have continued to say her name, continued to pray, continued to fight, and continued to shut down all of the hate, negativity, and lies,” Crump said. “There have been so many dark days, so many times when hope was lost. We cannot emphasize enough how pivotal your voices and support have been to keep us going."