Breonna Taylor supporters relieved by police charges


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (TNZT) — Louisville activists worked long hours on phones and on the streets, working tirelessly to demand arrests in the deadly police shooting of Breonna Taylor — but it was mostly two years of frustration.

This week saw their fates suddenly change, as U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced federal charges against four officers involved in the March 13, 2020 raid that ended in Taylor’s death.

After a series of disappointing setbacks, the charges brought welcome relief.

“It’s such a weight that has been lifted,” said Sadiqa Reynolds, president of Louisville’s Urban League, who has advocated for Taylor’s family and led protest marches. “What this decision did yesterday is start lifting the cloud that hung over us.”

The charges represent the first time police officers in Louisville have been held responsible for Taylor’s death at her home. Most of the new charges revolve around the erroneous warrant that led officers to Taylor’s front door.

The 26-year-old black woman was shot dead after officers used a battering ram to kick in her door during a drug search. None were found. Taylor’s friend fired a defensive shot that hit one of the officers as he came through the door. The friend later said he thought the officer was an intruder. Several police officers fired back and punched Taylor multiple times.

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The spring and summer of 2020 became a time of reckoning over how police treat black communities. Protesters shouted Taylor’s name along with George Floyd, a black man who died of suffocation three months after Taylor when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.

Last year, federal officials indicted four officers on Floyd’s death and federal hate crime charges against three white men involved in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black Georgia man who was murdered in February 2020. All were convicted of the charges in February this year.

When that happened, “we celebrated, but there was a part of us that felt like we never got anything like this in Louisville,” Reynolds said Friday.

In Breonna Taylor’s case, the officers who fired the fatal shots were not involved in the making of the warrant and were unaware that it was defective, Garland said. The two officers who shot Taylor have not been charged this week.

The charges uncovered Thursday call former Louisville officers Joshua Jaynes and Brett Hankison, along with current officers Kelly Goodlett and Sgt. Kyle Meany. The Louisville Police Department wants to fire Goodlett and Meany.

Jaynes and Meany both knew that the search warrant used to search Taylor’s home contained information that was “false, misleading and outdated,” the indictment said. Both are charged with conspiracy and deprivation of rights. She and Hankison face a maximum life sentence. Taylor family lawyer Ben Crump said Goodlett pleaded guilty to a lower charge.

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The search warrant used to search Taylor’s apartment claimed she received packages for a suspected drug dealer who was an ex-boyfriend. Investigators later found out that Jaynes had not confirmed package delivery to the postal inspector.

Hankison was the only officer on the scene Thursday night of the murder. He was indicted on state charges in 2020, but they were related to bullets he fired that nearly hit Taylor’s neighbors. He was acquitted of willful threats in March. The new federal indictment charges Hankison with excessive force for shooting Taylor and a neighbor’s apartments.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican running for governor, has been the target of much anger from protesters since he announced in September 2020 that only Hankison would be charged.

Speaking at a 2020 press conference to announce the findings of a grand jury, Cameron said the jurors “agreed” that murder charges were not justified against the officers because they were being shot at. That prompted three of the jurors to come forward and dispute Cameron’s story, arguing that Cameron’s staff limited their scope and would not let them consider more serious charges.

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“The federal government had the audacity to do what Daniel Cameron didn’t,” said Lonita Baker, one of the Taylor family’s attorneys. “The crime that the Kentucky Attorney General’s office denounced in this case shows that his political career must now end.”

Cameron said this week that some “want to use this moment to divide Kentuckians, misrepresent the facts of the state investigation, and broadly challenge the character of our law enforcement.”

“I don’t participate in that kind of rancor,” he said in a press release. “It’s not productive.”

Another longtime activist, Tamika Mallory, moved to Louisville more than two years ago, along with members of the social justice group Until Freedom, when she learned about Crump’s Taylor case. Her aim was to bring attention to Taylor’s death at a time when the growing coronavirus pandemic dominated the headlines.

“We needed a ground movement here,” said Mallory, who moved from New York.

On Thursday, minutes after the indictment was announced, she spoke in a downtown park that was the launch pad for hundreds of days of protests after Taylor’s death. Protesters had renamed it “Injustice Square.”

“There were a lot of people trying to tell us we were wasting our time,” Mallory said. But we knew that “we still had a fallen soldier who will never come back in Breonna Taylor.”


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