Wellour officers involved in the March 2020 police action that killed Breonna Taylor were arrested by the FBI on Thursday. 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, federal indictments allege. A warrant for the police action that led to Taylor’s death should never have been issued, and “Breona 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 who feel they have been denied. Only one police officer involved in the killing of the 26-year-old black woman was charged under Kentucky law, and he was acquitted at trial.
“I’ve waited 874 days for today,” said Tamika Palmer, Breona’s mother. “He’s late today, but it still hurts. They shouldn’t have been there and Breona didn’t deserve this.
For more than two years, family and community leaders felt like justice was out of reach. “The last two years have been so difficult because there was no sense of closure,” Sadika Reynolds, president of the Louisville Urban League, which works closely with the Taylors, told TIME. “We were really left with this sense of neglect. There was this weight over Louisville.
DOJ: Police ‘falsified’ documents
Thursday’s federal charges may vindicate those who argued that the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department (LMPD) raid on Taylor’s home was carried out under false pretenses — something that An internal Louisville police investigation found.
“Among other things, the federal indictments announced today allege that members of LMPD’s Local Investigations Unit falsified the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home, that this act violated federal civil rights and that these violations resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death,” Garland told reporters Thursday.
In March 2020, police raided Taylor’s home using a restraining order. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, believed intruders were breaking into the home and fired at the officers, hitting one of them in the leg. The officers then fired multiple shots into the apartment, killing Taylor.
Taylor’s death, along with that of George Floyd murder two months later led to mass protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the country.
The DOJ alleges that former Detective Joshua Janes, Sgt. Kyle Meaney and Detective Kelly Goodlett worked together to get the warrant for Taylor’s home, even though they didn’t have probable cause. They told a judge that an ex-boyfriend of Taylor’s, 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 Janes and Meaney knew that the execution of the search warrant would be carried out by armed LMPD officers and could create a dangerous situation for both those officers and anyone who happened to be in Taylor’s home,” DOJ statement said.
Goodlett and Janes are accused of writing a false warrant affidavit and then filing a false report to cover up the affidavit. The two allegedly met in a garage after Taylor was killed in the attack and agreed to lie to investigators. Janes was fired from the department in January 2021.
Goodlett is charged with conspiracy. Janes is charged with civil rights violations, conspiracy and falsifying records. Meaney is accused of violating Taylor’s civil rights and lying to federal investigators.
Additionally, Brett Hankinson was charged by the DOJ with violating Taylor’s civil rights by using excessive force. Hankinson was the only officer indicted by a grand jury and was later fired from the Louisville Police Department.
Hankinson fired 10 shots through a window in Taylor’s apartment the night of the attack, although he was not the one who killed Taylor. He was found not guilty of the state charges in March 2022, arguing that he thought his fellow officers were under fire.
The other officers who carried out the raid did not face charges because they did not know the warrant was falsified, according to the DOJ.
A sense of rehabilitation
“After two long years of relentless investigations, today’s indictments are a critical step forward in the process toward justice for Breonna Taylor,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in statement.
There’s a real sense of rehabilitation on the ground in Louisville, Reynolds says — in large part because of anger over how the state investigation was conducted.
When Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron took up the case in 2020, he met beforehand with community leaders, including Reynolds. “We were confident there would be a thorough investigation,” Reynolds said. “I was not prepared for what appeared to be a vague investigation.”
Many members of the community believe that Cameron did not present all the information to the grand jury. Grand juries have publicly speaking said they believed Cameron had misrepresented them when he announced there were no serious allegations against the department.
“It’s one thing to disagree with the outcome of the grand jury’s decision, it’s another thing to think the grand jury didn’t get to hear the whole story,” Reynolds says.
She also believes the federal charges would never have arisen under the previous administration.
Reynolds says she and others in Louisville believe the arrest of the officers — and the stiff federal sentences they face — could be the start of a change in how the law enforcement authorities take responsibility.
“I hope we’ll see a number of police officers, not only 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 we can finally use these cases to look at the system and the corruption in the system.”
More must-see stories from TIME