US indicts four Kentucky police officers in murder of Breonna Taylor

WASHINGTON, Aug 4 (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors on Thursday charged four current and former Louisville, Ky., police officers with their roles in the botched 2020 raid that killed Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was in her home, in a case that sparked nationwide protests.

The charges represented the latest effort by the Justice Department to crack down on racial abuse and disparity in policing, following a spate of controversial police killings of black Americans.

Former Louisville Metropolitan Police Department Detective Joshua Jaynes and current Sergeant Kyle Meany have been charged with civil rights violations and obstruction of justice for using false information to obtain the search warrant that was authorized the botched March 13, 2020, raid that killed Taylor in his home, the Justice Department said. Current Detective Kelly Goodlett has been charged with conspiring with Jaynes to tamper with the warrant and then covering up the tampering.

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A fourth officer, former Detective Brett Hankison, has been charged with civil rights violations for allegedly using excessive force, U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland said.

“Breonna Taylor should be alive today,” Garland said at a press conference. “The Department of Justice is committed to defending and protecting the civil rights of every person in this country. That was the founding purpose of this department, and it remains our urgent mission.”

The death of Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was one of three cases that fueled a summer of protests against racial injustice and police brutality two years ago, in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today was a big step towards justice,” lawyers for the Taylor family said in a statement after the news broke.

Louisville police began the process of firing Meany and Goodlett on Thursday, the department said in a statement. Hankison and Jaynes have already been fired by the department.

The Department of Justice is also investigating whether the Louisville Metro government and Louisville police have engaged in a pattern or practice of abusing the civil rights of residents.

SMOOTH RAID

Louisville police were investigating a suspected drug deal when they broke down the door of Taylor’s home in a ‘no knock’ raid, leading her boyfriend, who was carrying a legally owned firearm, to shoot the officers, who then fired 22 shots into the apartment, killing Taylor, prosecutors said.

Hankison, prosecutors said, walked away from the door, firing 10 shots into Taylor’s apartment through a window and glass door covered with blinds and curtains.

Hankison told a Kentucky grand jury that he opened fire once the shooting began. When he saw lightning illuminating the room, he said, he mistakenly believed that one of the occupants was firing an assault rifle at his colleagues. Instead, what he mostly heard were other police officers firing their guns. Read more

Prosecutors said Jaynes and Goodlett met in a garage days after the shooting to agree on a false story to cover up the false evidence they had submitted to justify the botched raid.

Attorney Stew Mathews, who represented Hankison in a trial in Jefferson County Circuit Court where he was acquitted in March of wanton endangerment, said he spoke with the former Thursday morning detective as he was about to surrender to the FBI.

Mathews said the federal charges were similar to previous state charges Hankison had faced. Until Thursday, Hankison had been the only officer to face charges in connection with the raid.

“I’m sure Brett will challenge this as he did the other indictment,” Mathews said.

Attorney Thomas Clay, who represents Jaynes, could not immediately be reached for comment. It was not immediately clear whether Meany and Goodlett had attorneys.

Taylor’s murder, along with other high-profile killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, in 2020, sparked nationwide protests.

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Reporting by Scott Malone in Washington and Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Marla Dickerson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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