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A demonstrator holds a sign with the image of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers, during a protest against racial injustice and the death George Floyd in Minneapolis, in Denver, Colorado on June 3, 2020.

A demonstrator holds a sign with the image of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed by Louisville Metro Police Department officers, during a June 3, 2020 Denver protest against racial injustice and the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, in Denver, Colorado on June 3, 2020. (Photo: Jason Connolly / AFP via Getty Images)

'It's About Damn Time': 4 Louisville Cops Charged in Killing of Breonna Taylor

"Breonna Taylor should be alive today, and the people who killed her must be held accountable," asserted one civil rights campaigner.

Brett Wilkins

Following two years of racial justice activism, the U.S. government on Thursday charged four current and former Louisville, Kentucky officers for alleged federal crimes related to the March 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old unarmed Black woman who was shot dead in her own home during a botched police raid.

"Justice delayed is justice denied. But it's never too late to do the right thing."

Detective Joshua Jaynes, former officer Brett Hankison, former detective Kelly Hanna Goodlett, and Sgt. Kyle Meanie are facing federal charges that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said include "civil rights offenses, unlawful conspiracies, unconstitutional use of force, and obstruction offenses."

The Louisville Courier Journal reports all four defendants were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Justice Department alleges that Jaynes, Goodlett, and Meany violated Taylor's Fourth Amendment rights when they attempted to obtain a warrant to search her home while knowing they lacked probable cause, and that their affidavit supporting the warrant was based on lies related to alleged drug trafficking by Taylor's ex-boyfriend.

A separate indictment charges Hankison—a former Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officer who was fired in July 2020 for firing blindly into Taylor's apartment— with using "unconstitutionally excessive force during the raid on Ms. Taylor's home" by firing 10 shots into a neighboring apartment "without a lawful objective justifying the use of deadly force."

No officers have been directly charged with killing Taylor, including Myles Cosgrove, the LMPD officer who shot her and was fired nine months later.

"The federal charges announced today allege that members of a Police Investigations Unit falsified the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant of Ms. Taylor's home and that this act violated federal civil rights laws, and that those violations resulted in Ms. Taylor's death," Garland told reporters.

"Among other things, the affidavit falsely claimed that officers had verified that the target of the alleged drug trafficking operation had received packages at Ms. Taylor's address," said Garland. "In fact, defendants Jaynes and Goodlett knew that was not true."

Civil rights defenders welcomed the prospect of some justice for a police killing that fueled Black Lives Matter and other racial justice protests in 2020 and beyond.

"Today, by moving forward with criminal charges against the four police officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor as she slept in her bed, federal officials are recognizing what we have all known for years: Breonna Taylor should be alive today, and the people who killed her must be held accountable," Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project, said in a statement.

Browne Dianis continued:

Police departments across the country routinely use excessive force or murder Black people without facing accountability. These killings are horrific and unacceptable. That's why people across the country took to the streets in the uprisings of 2020, sparked by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, to urgently call for an end to police violence. They recognized that policing does not create safe communities.

It is critical to bring police to account for the use of violence against communities they have sworn to protect. And yet, these charges will not bring back Breonna and will never make her family and community whole again. To truly address the criminalization, arrests, and killings of people like Breonna Taylor, we must build a world that fundamentally values and protects Black people.

Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) tweeted that "on March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor was murdered by Louisville law enforcement. Today is finally a step toward justice for her mother, Tamika Palmer, who led the way to ask the Justice Department to hold accountable the officers responsible. #SayHerName."

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, national deputy director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement, "We commend the Justice Department for pursuing federal charges against the officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor. When local officials like Attorney General [Daniel] Cameron fail to conduct proper investigations into police shootings, the federal government should step in to ensure accountability."

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) tweeted: "Justice delayed is justice denied. But it's never too late to do the right thing. Despite Daniel Cameron's best efforts, accountability is finally coming for those responsible for Breonna Taylor's death. It’s about damn time."

Cameron was accused of lying multiple times while attempting to explain why a grand jury did not charge any of the officers involved in Taylor's death. The state attorney general eventually admitted that he never asked the jurors to consider charging the officers with homicide.

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