Over two years after civil rights groups requested a federal investigation into the killing of Breonna Taylor, the Department of Justice is finally bringing charges against the Louisville Metro Police Department officers responsible for her death.
In a press conference, Thursday morning, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke announced that four officers involved in the incidents leading to Breonna’s killing were charged through two separate indictments. Garland explained the charges involving unconstitutional use of force and obstruction, including falsifying a search warrant and false information in an affidavit used to get the warrant.
In the first indictment, the Justice Department charged former LMPD detective Joshua Jaynes and current LMPD Sergeant Kyle Meany with willfully depriving Breonna of her rights under color of law by specifically “aiding and abetting” an unreasonable search and seizure. As Garland outlined in a Thursday morning press conference, the officers are accused of falsifying information and knowing they lacked probable cause for the search.
“Among other things, the federal charges announced today allege that members of LMPD’s Place-Based Investigations Unit falsified the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant of Ms. Taylor’s home, that this act violated federal civil rights laws, and that those violations resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death,” Garland explained. “Breonna Taylor should be alive today. The Justice Department is committed to defending and protecting the civil rights of every person in this country. That was this Department’s founding purpose, and it remains our urgent mission.”
Part of the false information used for the affidavit and repeated to the media in the aftermath of Breonna’s killing was a claim that the officers had verified her address was used to receive packages in an alleged drug trafficking operation. The DOJ says the officers knew this was false, something the family and community members have pointed out for over two years.
Jaynes was also charged with conspiracy for “knowingly falsifying an investigative document” created after Breonna’s killing. Specifically, the two were said to lead an effort to “mislead” authorities at multiple levels of government and concocted a false story to deflect from their actions.
Meaney was also charged with making false statements to federal investigators. And LMPD detective Kelly Goodlett was charged with conspiring with Jaynes to falsify the search warrant for Breonna’s home and subsequent cover-up.
The second indictment involves charges against former LMPD detective Brett Hankison for two civil rights offenses use of unconstitutionally excessive force while acting in his official capacity.
“Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home as usual on the morning of March 13, 2020,” Clarke said. “Tragically, she did not.”
Clarke explained that after the raid began, Hankison moved from the doorway of the apartment and fired ten shots through a bedroom window and a sliding glass door, both covered with blinds and curtains.
“Today’s indictment alleges that Hankison’s use of excessive force violated the rights of Brianna Taylor and her guest and also of her neighbors whose lives were endangered by bullets that penetrated into their apartment,” Clarke explained. “At the Justice Department, we are to follow the facts and the law and today, after a full and comprehensive investigation, the facts and law have brought us here to these indictments.”
Both Clarke and Garland reiterated Breonna’s humanity and expressed condolences to her loved ones and all those impacted by the officers’ actions on March 13, 2020. These charges are separate from the ongoing pattern and practice investigation into the LMPD. The civil rights investigation examines whether LMPD as a department engages in excessive force, improper searches and racially discriminatory policing.
“Since the founding of our nation, the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution has guaranteed that all people have a right to be secure in their homes, free from false warrants, unreasonable searches and the use of unjustifiable and excessive force by the police,” Clarke said. “These indictments reflect the Justice Department’s commitment to preserving the integrity of the criminal justice system and to protecting the constitutional rights of every American.”