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 March 2020 raid. In addition to civil rights offences, federal authorities charged the four with unlawful conspiracies, unconstitutional use of force and obstruction, Garland said.
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.” Hankison, who fired 10 shots into Taylor’s home and was acquitted of state wanton endangerment charges earlier this year, has been indicted on two federal counts of deprivation of rights under color of law. Only Hankison was charged at the state level.
The death of 26-year-old Taylor, an emergency room technician, along with that of George Floyd and others, sparked nationwide protests in 2020, leading to changes in policing policy and laws.
Here’s a look at the raid, Taylor’s death and its aftermath.
On March 12, 2020, a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge approved five search warrants for locations linked to Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, a conviction felon suspected of supplying a local drug house. One of those locations was Taylor’s residence.
In the early hours of March 13, Hankison and other officers executed a warrant at Taylor’s apartment. Taylor was in bed with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker III, when the officers announced their presence and then battered down the front door.
Taylor and Walker yelled to ask who was at the door but got no response, Walker said afterward. Thinking they were intruders, Walker grabbed a gun he legally owned and fired a shot when the officers broke through the door.
That triggered a volley of fire from the officers. Taylor, who was standing in a hallway with Walker, was shot multiple times. Walker was not injured.
“Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend,” Walker said in a 911 call.
Hankison had been standing outside the apartment and is accused of blindly firing through a door and a window. His bullets entered a neighboring apartment, where a pregnant woman, a man and a child were home, according to the state attorney general.
Walker was at first charged with attempted murder of a police officer and first-degree assault – Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly was shot in the leg – but prosecutors later decided to drop the charges.
None of the police officers at the raid were wearing body cameras, and there is no video of the night Taylor bled to death in her hallway.
Hankison was fired from the police department in late June 2020.
The two other officers who fired shots, Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, were not dictated by the state or the federal government. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has said they were justified in shooting in self-defense, because Taylor’s boyfriend fired first.
No drugs were found in the apartment, and Taylor’s family and their attorney have maintained she was not involved in her ex-boyfriend’s alleged drug deals.
Taylor’s death at first went largely unnoticed outside Louisville. CNN covered the story for the first time on May 13, 2020, about two weeks before Floyd died.
By the end of May, Walker’s distressed 911 call from the night Taylor died had been released, and Floyd had died days earlier at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Protests In Louisville turned violent, with gunfire erupting during protests. Seven people were shot downtown overnight May 28. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the shots were fired from within the crowd, not from the police.
In July, protesters marched to Cameron’s front lawn, and 87 people were arrested for criminal trespass, among other charges.
In September, protests began to take place nightly in Louisville after a grand jury didn’t charge the other police officers involved in Taylor’s death, indicting only Hankison.
By then, Taylor’s name was known nationally and beyond, just as Floyd’s was, and her death was a central part of the protests that rocked the country throughout much of 2020.
Celebrities took up the subject of Taylor’s death, including NBA star LeBron James and Oprah Winfrey, who put Taylor on the cover of her magazine.
Those protests sparked a movement demanding a change in policing and even seeking to defund police departments.
Police and some witnesses gave conflicting reports on whether the officers announced themselves before battering down Taylor’s door, but her death drew attention to no-knock search warrants. The officer who rammed the door at Taylor’s apartment tested at Hankison’s state trial that police announced themselves four or five times.
In Louisville, the controversy led to the passing of “Breonna’s Law” in June 2020, which bans such warrants and requires officers to wear body cameras when carrying out search warrants.
Almost a year later, in April 2021, the Kentucky state legislature passed a bill setting restrictions on no-knock warrants but did not outlaw them outright.
In June 2020, the Louisville police chief was fired after it came to light officers involved in a fatal shooting during a protest were not wearing body cameras.
In September 2020, the city of Louisville agreed to pay a historic $12 million in a settlement with Taylor’s family. It included an agreement for the city to introduce police reforms.
The settlement stipulated the city would establish a housing credit program as an incentive for officers to live in the areas they serve, use social workers to provide support on certain police runs and require commanders to review and approve search warrants before seeking judicial approval, among other changes.
“Justice for Breonna means that we will continue to save lives in her honor,” Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, said at the time.
“No amount of money accomplishes that, but the police reform measures that we were able to get passed as a part of this settlement mean so much more to my family, our community, and to Breonna’s legacy.”
In late June 2020, more than three months after Taylor’s death, Hankison was fired.
Cosgrove was fired in January 2021 for use of deadly force for firing 16 rounds into Taylor’s home and failing to activate his body camera, according to a copy of his termination letter. Sgt. Mattingly retired in April 2021.