This story was updated at 8:11 p.m. Eastern.
Four current and former Louisville Metro Police Department officers are facing federal civil rights charges for their actions related to the police killing of Breonna Taylor in March 2020.
Former detectives Brett Hankison and Joshua Jaynes, and active LMPD sergeant Kyle Meany were indicted by federal grand juries this week. Active officer Kelly Goodlett was charged on information.
This investigation was entirely separate from an ongoing U.S. Department of Justice probe into whether Louisville police officers have a “pattern or practice” of using excessive force or violating residents’ civil rights, officials said.
Indictments and charges
The first indictment charges Jaynes and Meany on a total of four counts.
One charges them with obstruction and civil rights violations for knowingly using false, misleading and incomplete information to get a search warrant for Taylor’s home. Prosecutors say that violated her constitutional rights and resulted in her death.
“We further alleged that defendants Jaynes and Meany knew the search warrant would be carried out by armed LMPD officers and that conducting that search could create a dangerous situation for anyone who happened to be in Ms. Taylor’s home,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a news conference Thursday morning in Washington, D.C.
In the next count, prosecutors allege Jaynes conspired with Goodlett to falsify investigative documents and statements in an effort to cover up the made-up details in the warrant application. The third count charges Jaynes for intentionally falsifying reports meant to impede the investigation into Taylor’s death. And the fourth count charges Meany with lying to federal investigators.
The DOJ separately charged Goodlett on information — which means a grand jury did not indict her — with one count of conspiracy for working alongside Jaynes to falsify the warrant application for Taylor’s home and fabricating reports to cover it up after the fact. Goodlett is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 12, records show.
The second indictment charges Hankison with two civil rights offenses for willfully using unjustified and unconstitutional excessive force. He fired his gun through a covered window and glass door during the raid of Taylor’s home.
Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for civil rights with the DOJ, spoke about the indictments during the news conference.
“Community safety dictates that police officers use their weapons only when necessary to defend their own lives or the lives of others and even then, that they must do so with great care and caution,” Clarke said. “Today’s indictment alleges that Hankison’s use of excessive force violated the rights of Breonna Taylor and her guest and also of her neighbors whose lives were endangered by bullets that penetrated into their apartment.”
The civil rights violations could carry sentences of life in prison “where the violation results in death or involves an attempt to kill,” according to a DOJ press release. The statutory maximum for obstruction is 20 years. For conspiracy and false-statements charges, the maximum is five years each.
Employment status, arrests and previous charges
On Thursday, LMPD Chief Erika Shields initiated the process to terminate Meany and Goodlett, the department said in a statement.
Jaynes’ attorney Thomas Clay did not respond to requests for comment from WFPL News. But he told WDRB the FBI took Jaynes into custody Thursday morning. LMPD fired him in January 2021 for the “untruthful” search warrant application for Taylor’s home. Jaynes unsuccessfully appealed his termination twice.
Hankison was previously charged with wanton endangerment for bullets he fired into a neighboring apartment as police raided Taylor’s apartment after midnight on March 13, 2020. He was the only officer indicted by a Kentucky grand jury following an investigation led by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office, and was acquitted earlier this year.
Ben Crump, Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker — the civil rights and personal injury attorneys who represented Taylor’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city that resulted in a record settlement — said in a statement that the DOJ’s indictments set a precedent for accountability.
“There are still so many families who are fighting and praying for justice and accountability in situations where their loved ones were wrongfully killed by the police. We need to stand with them,” the statement read.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s statement shared similar sentiments about the two-year federal investigation.
“While we cannot reverse [Taylor’s] tragic death, we can and must continue to pursue justice for her,” Fischer said. “While I know some may feel that this process has taken too long, as I have said from the beginning there can be no shortcuts to due process, no shortcuts to justice.”
Fischer was the subject of close scrutiny over his response to LMPD’s actions connected to the raid, and for months later when police responded — at times with force — to protesters demanding accountability.
ACLU of Kentucky Interim Executive Director Amber Duke said in a statement Thursday that the advocacy organization is continuing its lawsuit over alleged excessive force used by police officers.
“Today, for the first time, Louisville police officers are being held directly accountable for Breonna Taylor’s murder. Breonna’s family members and the Louisville community have been pleading for justice for Breonna Taylor for years, and today these cries were finally heard,” Duke said.