Four current and former Louisville police officers involved in the deadly raid on Breonna Taylor’s home – including detectives who worked on the search warrant and the ex-officer accused of firing blindly into her home – have been charged with civil rights violations and other counts, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday.
The charges mark the first federal counts leveled against any of the officers involved in the botched raid. In addition to civil rights offenses, federal authorities charged the four with unlawful conspiracies, unconstitutional use of force and obstruction, Garland said.
Taylor’s mom, Tamika Palmer, said she’s waited 874 days for federal charges to be filed and has beaten “everything sent to break” her. Her daughter’s death has taken her to a “place that we can’t even imagine,” she said.
“Every day’s been March 13 for me,” Palmer said, referring to the day Taylor was killed in 2020.
Former Detective Joshua Jaynes, 40, Detective Kelly Goodlett and Sgt. Kyle Meany, 35, were charged with submitting a false affidavit to search Taylor’s home ahead of the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department’s raid, and then working together to create a “false cover story in an attempt to escape responsibility for their roles in preparing the warrant affidavit that contained false information,” according to court documents.
Ex-detective Brett Hankison is alleged to have “willfully used unconstitutionally excessive force … when he fired his service weapon into Taylor’s apartment through a covered window and covered glass door.” He is charged with depriving Taylor and a guest in her home “of their constitutional rights by firing shots through a bedroom window that was covered with blinds and a blackout curtain,” the US Department of Justice said.
The 46-year-old also faces charges of depriving three of Taylor’s neighbors of their constitutional rights as, according to the indictment, the bullets he fired traveled through a wall in Taylor’s home and into an adjacent apartment.
Jaynes and Meany stand accused of willfully depriving Taylor of her constitutional rights by drafting and approving a false affidavit to obtain a search warrant, while knowing “the affidavit contained false and misleading statements, omitted material facts, relied on stale information, and was not supported by probable cause,” the DOJ statement said. Both men “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,” it said.
Goodlett conspired with Jaynes and Meany to “falsify the search warrant for Taylor’s home and to cover up their actions afterward,” the statement said.
Jaynes and another detective tried to cover up their actions by drafting a bogus investigative letter and making false statements to investigators, according to the statement. Jaynes falsified a report in hopes of impeding a criminal probe into Taylor’s death; Meany also made false statements, the statement said.
Goodlett and Jaynes met in a garage weeks after the botched raid and conspired to relay false information to investigators, the attorney general alleged.
“We allege that Ms. Taylor’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when defendants Joshua Jaynes, Kyle Meany and Kelly Goodlett sought a warrant to search Ms. Taylor’s home knowing the officers lacked probable cause for the search,” Garland said.
The affidavit falsely claimed officers had verified that the target of their drug trafficking investigation had received packages at Taylor’s address, but Jaynes and Goodlett knew that was not true, Garland said.
Jaynes, appearing virtually from a detention facility wearing shorts and a polo shirt, entered a not guilty plea. Prosecutors are not requesting that he be detained pending trial, but they ask that he be prohibited from contacting any possible witnesses or defendants in the case.
Hankison, who fired 10 shots into Taylor’s home and was acquitted on state wanton endangerment charges earlier this year, was indicted on two federal counts of deprivation of rights under color of law. Hankison’s attorney declined to comment. Only Hankison was charged at the state level.
Officers who carried out the search warrant were not involved in the drafting of the warrant and were unaware it contained false information, the attorney general said.
“We share but we cannot fully 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.”
A conviction on the charge of willfully violating someone’s rights carries a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison when the violation leads to death, according to the DOJ. A conviction on an obstruction count commands a maximum penalty of 20 years, and the conspiracy and false statement charges each carry maximum sentences of five years, the department says.
Attorney: ‘Huge step toward justice’
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Taylor’s family, applauded the charges, as well the “tough fight” waged by Taylor’s family, attorneys, advocates and community members. In 2020, Crump and his team secured a settlement that paid Taylor’s family $12 million and led to sweeping police reforms, including the use of social workers to provide support on certain police runs and the requirement that commanders review and approve search warrants before seeking judicial approval.
“Today was 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. 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,” Crump said in a statement. “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.”
Clarke said in a statement, “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.”
In January 2021, the LMPD terminated Jaynes and his colleague Myles Cosgrove. Cosgrove was fired for his use of deadly force in unleashing 16 rounds into Taylor’s home and failing to activate his body camera, according to a copy of his termination letter.
Jaynes was fired for “failing to complete a Search Warrant Operations Plan form” and being untruthful about verifying that Taylor’s previous boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, had been receiving packages at Taylor’s home, the termination letter said.
Following his termination, Jaynes’ attorney, Thomas Clay, said the move was not unexpected and promised to fight to have his client reinstated.
“It’s our position that he did nothing wrong in any of the activities relating to this search,” Clay told CNN in January 2021.
Cosgrove fired the shot that killed Taylor, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has said, adding that the shooting was justified because Taylor’s boyfriend fired at officers first. Kenneth Walker II, Taylor’s boyfriend, has repeatedly said he thought the officers were intruders and fired one shot when they broke down the door.
Crump co-counsel Lonita Baker took aim at Cameron following Garland’s announcement Thursday, saying the attorney general “has no right holding any political offices” representing Kentucky.
“The federal government had the guts to do what Daniel Cameron did not,” she said.
The Louisville police union said at the time the firings were “unjustified.”
“There is certainly no evidence in this case that policies and procedures of the LMPD were violated to the extent that warranted termination,” the River City Fraternal Order of Police said in a statement. “Interim Chief (Yvette) Gentry not only made the wrong decision, but also sent an ominous message to every sworn officer of the Louisville Metro Police Department.”
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, was shot and killed in her apartment during a flawed forced-entry raid in the early hours of March 13, 2020. Her death, along with that of other Black people at the hands of law enforcement – including George Floyd in Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia – sparked a summer of protests calling for police reform.
No officer who took part in the raid has previously been charged for Taylor’s actual killing.
State prosecutors charged only Hankison in connection with the shooting. The LMPD fired Hankison in June 2020, and in September 2020, a grand jury charged Hankison with three counts of felony wanton endangerment for blindly firing 10 shots into Taylor’s home.
A jury acquitted Hankison on all charges in March.
CNN’s Amir Vera and Michelle Watson contributed to this report.