LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CN) — U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Thursday the indictment of four Louisville police officers on federal criminal charges related to the shooting of Breonna Taylor, including conspiracy charges stemming from an allegedly false affidavit used to secure a search warrant.
Garland told reporters two federal grand jury indictments had been unsealed, while another charging document was also filed.
Former Louisville Metro Police Department detective Joshua Jaynes and current LMPD sergeant Kyle Meany were named in the first indictment, which lists civil rights and obstruction charges related to "preparing and approving a false search warrant affidavit" that led to the raid of Taylor's apartment and, ultimately, her death.
The second indictment names a single defendant, former LMPD detective Brett Hankison, and charges him with civil rights violations and the use of excessive force during the execution of the search warrant.
Current LMPD detective Kelly Goodlett is charged with conspiring to falsify the search warrant affidavit in the third charging document.
“Among other things," Garland said at a press conference, "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.
"Breonna Taylor should be alive today," he added. "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.”
Taylor, a Black woman, was shot and killed in her apartment on March 13, 2020, after police executed a no-knock warrant and opened fire on Taylor and her boyfriend, who had a weapon and shot at police when they entered the residence.
A 26-year-old emergency room technician at the time of her death, Taylor became a nationwide symbol of the struggle against systemic racism and police brutality.
Her estate sued the city of Louisville and won a record-breaking settlement of $12 million – and a bevy of police reforms – less than five months after the lawsuit was filed.
Detective Myles Cosgrove, who fired the fatal shot, and Jaynes were fired by the city in January 2021, while Hankison was the only officer criminally charged by Kentucky in the wake of the shooting. Hankison was charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment but was acquitted by a jury in March 2022.
Thursday's press release from the Department of Justice says Jaynes and Meany knew information used to obtain the search warrant for Taylor's apartment was false, and that the execution of the warrant would likely create a dangerous situation for Taylor and the officers involved.
Jaynes is also charged with attempting to cover up the false affidavit by lying to criminal investigators and drafting a "false investigative letter" in the aftermath of the shooting.
The excessive force claims against Hankison stem from shots fired through a covered glass door, a covered window, and a bedroom window that was covered with blinds and a blackout curtain.
None of the shots fired by Hankison struck Taylor or any of her neighbors, but his charges include language that his conduct involved an "attempt to kill," which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Goodlett faces several conspiracy charges for her role in the false warrant and the subsequent coverup.
The obstruction charges in the indictments carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison, while the conspiracy and false-statement charges have maximum sentences of five years in prison.
"On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home as usual, but tragically she did not,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. “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. 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.”
The attorneys representing Taylor's family – Ben Crump, Lonita Baker and Sam Aguiar – said in a joint statement Thursday that the charges are "a huge step toward justice."
"We are grateful for the diligence and dedication of the FBI and the DOJ as they investigated what led to Breonna’s murder and what transpired afterwards," they said. "The justice that Breonna received today would not have been possible without the efforts of Attorney General Merrick Garland or Assistant AG for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke.
"We hope this announcement of a guilty plea sends a message to all other involved officers that it is time to stop covering up and time to accept responsibility for their roles in causing the death of an innocent, beautiful young Black woman."
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