Breonna Taylor Supporters See Justice in Officers Charged

FThe FBI arrested the FBI on Thursday, three of our officers who were involved in the raid by police that resulted in Breonna Taylor’s death. Three of them are charged with violating Taylor’s civil rights, which carries a maximum of life in prison, if convicted.

The raid on Taylor’s Louisville apartment was the result of lies, the federal indictment alleged. A warrant for the no-knock police raid that led to Taylor’s death should never have been granted, and “Breonna Taylor should be alive today,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.

For Taylor’s family and her supporters in Louisville, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement was the beginning of justice that they believe had been denied to them. Only one officer involved in the 26-year-old Black woman‘s killing was charged under Kentucky law, and he was acquitted at trial.

Continue reading: Breonna Taylor’s Killing Sparked Restrictions on No-Knock Warrants

“I’ve waited 874 days for today,” Tamika Palmer, Breonna’s mother said. “Today is overdue but it still hurts. They shouldn’t have been there and Breonna didn’t deserve that.”

The Taylor family, community leaders and others felt that justice was beyond reach for more than two decades. “The last two years have been so heavy because there was no sense of closure,” Sadiqa Reynolds, the president of the Louisville Urban League who’s worked closely with the Taylor family, tells TIME. “We’ve really been left with this sense of disregard. There had been this heaviness over Louisville.”

DOJ: Police ‘falsified’ documents

Thursday’s federal charges may vindicate those who argued the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department (LMPD) raid on Taylor’s home was conducted on false pretenses—something that a Louisville police internal investigation had determined.

“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 told reporters on Thursday.

In March 2020, officers raided Taylor’s home using a no-knock warrant. Kenneth Walker was her boyfriend and believed that intruders were entering the house. Walker shot at one officer, striking him in the leg. Taylor was then killed by multiple shots fired from the officers.

Taylor’s death, along with George Floyd’s murder two months later, led to widespread protesting against police brutality and systemic racism in the country.

According to the DOJ, former Detective Joshua Jaynes and Sgt. Kyle Meany, and Detective Kelly Goodlett worked together in getting the warrant for Taylor’s home even though they did not have probable cause. They told a judge that a former boyfriend of Taylor, their real target, was getting packages delivered to her home—but there was no evidence of that, according to the DOJ indictment.

“The indictment also alleges that Jaynes and Meany knew that the execution of the search warrant would be carried out by armed LMPD officers, and could create a dangerous situation both for those officers and for anyone who happened to be in Taylor’s home,” a DOJ statement said.

Jaynes and Goodlett were charged with preparing a false warrant statement and filing a false reporting to conceal the fact. They allegedly met at a garage in which Taylor had been killed during the raid. After that, they agreed to lie to the investigators. Jaynes was fired in January 2021.

Goodlett was charged with conspiracy. Jaynes was charged with conspiracy, civil rights violations and falsification records. Meany is charged with violating Taylor’s civil rights and lying to federal investigators.

In addition, Brett Hankinson was charged by the DOJ with violating Taylor’s civil rights by using excessive force. Hankinson was the only officer to be charged and was then fired by Louisville Police.

Hankinson fired 10 shots through a window in Taylor’s apartment the night of the raid, though he was not the one who killed Taylor. His argument that his colleagues were under fire from him was the reason he wasn’t guilty of any state charges against him in March 2022.

According to the DOJ, the other officers involved in the raid were unaware that the warrant had been falsified. They are therefore not being charged.

Feeling vindicated

“After two long years of relentless investigations, today’s indictments are a critical step forward in the process toward achieving justice for Breonna Taylor,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement.

There’s a real sense of vindication on the ground in Louisville, Reynolds says—in large part because of fury over how the state investigation was handled.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron was involved in the investigation. He met Reynolds and other community leaders before he took over. “We were assured that there would be a thorough investigation,” Reynolds said. “I was not prepared for what seemed like a lackluster investigation.”

Many in the community feel that Cameron failed to disclose all of his information to the grand jury. The grand jurors publicly stated that Cameron misrepresented their feelings when they announced no charges against the department.

Continue reading: 2020 Requires Americans to Face Racism. Many Looked Away In 2021

“It’s one thing to disagree with the outcome of a grand jury decision, it is another to feel that a grand jury didn’t get to hear the entire story,” Reynolds says.

Elle also feels that federal charges would not have been brought under the prior Administration.

Reynolds says she and others in Louisville believe that the arrest of the officers—and the hefty federal sentences that they face, could be the beginning of a shift in how law enforcement is held accountable.

“I hope that we see a line of police officers not just in Louisville, but across the country who are willing to step up and tell the truth about what the bad apples are doing,” she says. “I hope that we will finally use these cases to look at the system and the corruption within the system.”

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