Saying “Breonna Taylor should be alive today,” Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday that four current and former Louisville Metro Police officers have been federally charged in Taylor’s March 2020 slaying that touched off a firestorm of protest in the city and across the nation.
Former Louisville Metro Police detective Joshua Jaynes, 40, who was fired for lying on the search warrant that led to the deadly 2020 raid at Taylor’s apartment, was taken into custody Thursday morning by the FBI and booked in the Oldham County Detention Center, according to attorney Thomas Clay, who is representing Jaynes.
Sgt. Kyle Meany, 35; Officer Kelly Hanna Goodlett, 35; and former detective Brett Hankison, 46; also were charged in the federal investigation of the March 13, 2020, death of Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician whose name became a rallying cry for protesters during demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism.
The four face different charges related to violating Taylor’s civil rights, including lying on the search warrant, obstructing investigators and, in Hankison’s case, jeoparding Taylor’s neighbors with his reckless gunfire.
Garland announced the indictments during a news conference Thursday at the Department of Justice headquarters.
Hankison, Jaynes and Meany all made their first appearance Thursday before Magistrate Judge Regina Edwards and were ordered released on the condition they have no contact with other defendants or victims.
Edwards also ordered them to have no guns in their homes as a condition of their release and set unsecured bonds on all three of $50,000, which they must pay only if they violate the terms of their release.
She ordered Hankison to appear for further proceedings on Sep. 14 and set a trial date of Oct. 13.
LMPD fired Hankison in June 2020 for wantonly shooting into Taylor’s apartment the night she was killed, resulting in several bullets piercing the walls into a neighboring occupied apartment. He was indicted on state charges of wanton endangerment but acquitted by a jury.
Until now, no officers had faced charges for Taylor’s death.
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, praised the decision to charge the officers at a press conference Thursday morning, saying: “What we’ve been saying was the truth, that they shouldn’t have been there and that Breonna didn’t deserve that.
“Today’s overdue, but it still hurts.”
Goodlett was charged by information, according to the DOJ, which typically occurs when a defendant has agreed to plead guilty before facing formal charges. It was not immediately clear if Goodlett had an attorney to comment on her behalf, with Butler also appearing for Hankison but only for the initial court appearance.
Clay, representing Jaynes, told The Courier Journal he had no comment at this time.
LMPD said in a statement after the DOJ’s announcement that Chief Erika Shields began termination proceedings Thursday against Meany and Goodlett.
“While we must refer all questions about this federal investigation to the FBI, it is critical that any illegal or inappropriate actions by law enforcement be addressed comprehensively in order to continue our efforts to build police-community trust,” the department said in a statement.
Hankison had served with LMPD for about 17 years, Jaynes for about 15 years, Meany (the supervisor of the Place-Based Investigations Unit) since 2013 and Goodlett (a detective in the PBI Unit) for about a decade.
The charges alleging civil rights violations that the officers face, except for Goodlett, can carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, with no parole in the federal system.
What happened in Breonna Taylor’s apartment
One of the new indictments that the DOJ announced Thursday accuses Jaynes, Meany and Goodlett of engaging in “untruthful actions” to obtain the warrant to search Taylor’s apartment.
The LMPD officers had obtained five search warrants with “no-knock” clauses as part of a larger narcotics investigation. All the homes were in the West End except Taylor’s apartment. They went to Taylor’s home looking for cash or packages they suspected her former boyfriend, a convicted drug trafficker, had stashed in her apartment.
Police insist they didn’t use the “no-knock” clause, instead announcing their presence before forcing open the door of Taylor’s apartment. But neighbors and Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was in bed with her, said they never heard them announce they were police.
Walker said the two heard pounding on the door and got up to investigate when the door crashed open. Walker said he fired a single shot from his legally owned handgun, hitting one of the officers, Detective Jonathan Mattingly, in the thigh and severing an artery.
Officers fired back 32 times, hitting Taylor six times and killing her.
In a separate indictment, Hankison is charged with using “unconstitutionally excessive force during the raid on Ms. Taylor’s home” for blindly firing 10 shots into Taylor’s home during the raid, several of which went into an occupied, neighboring apartment “without a lawful objective justifying the use of deadly force,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division announced during a Thursday morning news conference alongside Garland in Washington, D.C.
Hankison was acquitted by a Jefferson County jury earlier this year on the state charges of wanton endangerment that related to the shots fired into the apartment, which came close to but did not injure any of Taylor’s neighbors. He was the sole officer indicted on state charges by a grand jury led by Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office.
Cameron’s prosecutors never recommended charges against any other officers.
Breonna Taylor case:Ex-detective’s firing upheld by Jefferson Circuit Court judge
Nationally known civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented Taylor’s family along with local attorneys Lonita Baker and Sam Aguiar, said after Thursday’s announcement it was “a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor.”
“Thank God Attorney General Daniel Cameron did not get the last word in the death of Breonna Taylor,” Crump added during a news conference at Jefferson Square Park, the hub of protests in 2020 over Taylor’s killing.
Cameron, Kentucky’s Republican attorney general, drew the ire of protesters and Taylor’s family in 2020 after he announced that only Hankison and no other LMPD personnel would face state charges related to the case.
“Today was a huge step toward justice,” Crump, Baker and Aguiar said in a joint statement. “We are grateful for the diligence and dedication of the FBI and the DOJ as they investigated what led to Breonna’s murder and what transpired afterwards. The justice that Breonna received today would not have been possible without the efforts of Attorney General Merrick Garland or Assistant AG for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke.
“We hope this announcement of a guilty plea sends a message to all other involved officers that it is time to stop covering up and time to accept responsibility for their roles in causing the death of an innocent, beautiful young Black woman.”
Gov. Andy Beshear, asked about the indictments during a Thursday afternoon update on the devastating flooding in Eastern Kentucky, said he had not yet had a chance to review the new charges and largely declined to comment.
Pressed on whether he was concerned that the DOJ indicted several officers while the prosecution from Cameron’s office did not ultimately earn a conviction against Hankison, Beshear noted there are differences between federal and state charges.
Steve Romines, who represented Walker in ongoing litigation against LMPD and the officers at Taylor’s apartment that night, criticized LMPD and Cameron in a tweet and later told The Courier Journal “we have said from the beginning that various LMPD officers repeatedly violated it’s own policies and Kenny Walker’s Constitutional rights in the investigation, raid and subsequent false arrest of Kenny as an attempt to cover up their own wrongdoings in the killing of Breonna Taylor.
“It appears a federal grand jury agreed,” Romines said. “We will continue to seek justice in the civil courts as well.
AG Cameron defends handling of Breonna Taylor case
Cameron initially said the grand jury declined to indict any other officers. But several anonymous grand jurors said that wasn’t true, and that they were never presented with any additional charges.
Thursday evening, Cameron published a series of Tweets defending his handling of the case and criticized those he said “want to use this moment to divide Kentuckians, misrepresent the facts of the state investigation and broadly impugn the character of our law enforcement community.”
“Our primary task was to investigate whether the officers who executed the search warrant were criminally responsible for Ms. Taylor’s death under state law,” Cameron tweeted. “At the conclusion of our investigation, our prosecutors submitted the information to a state grand jury, which ultimately resulted in criminal charges being brought against Mr. Brett Hankison for wanton endangerment. I’m proud of the work of our investigators & prosecutors.
“This case and the loss of Ms. Taylor’s life have generated national attention. People across the country have grieved, and there isn’t a person I’ve spoken to across our 120 counties that isn’t saddened by her loss.”
Cameron ended by saying he wouldn’t “participate in that sort of rancor” intended to divide Kentuckians.
“It’s not productive,” he tweeted. “Instead, I’ll continue to speak with the love and respect that is consistent with our values as Kentuckians.”
Indictments allege a cover-up
During the Thursday announcement, Garland said the federal charges focus on the conduct of LMPD’s Place-Based Investigations Unit, which lawyers for Taylor’s family labeled in a 2020 lawsuit as a “rogue” group that targeted people and drugs in Louisville’s West End.
The since-disbanded PBI Unit issued five search warrants related to suspected drug trafficking in 2020, four of which were served at properties in the West End and one at Taylor’s apartment that was roughly 10 miles away from the others on Springfield Drive in the South End.
Jaynes, Meany, the supervisor of the PBI Unit, and Goodlett, a detective in the unit, were involved in the warrant for Taylor’s home, the DOJ officials said.
Garland said the DOJ alleges the members of the PBI Unit “falsified the affidavit to used to obtain the search warrant of Ms. Taylor’s home,” which violated federal civil rights law — including Taylor’s Fourth Amendment rights — and “resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death.”
Jaynes, Meany and Goodlett sought the warrant for Taylor’s home “knowing that the officers lacked probable cause for the search,” Garland said, and they knew the affidavit in support of the warrant “contained false and misleading information and that it omitted material information.”
Garland then outlined several details that had previously surfaced when Jaynes was fired last year, namely that in the affidavit, which he swore to before a judge, Jaynes wrote he’d verified through a U.S. Postal inspector that Taylor’s ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, a suspected drug trafficker, was having packages delivered to her apartment.
Goodlett added a paragraph to the affidavit stating investigators verified, through databases, that Taylor’s address was Glover’s as of February 2020, which the indictment states was misleading.
But Jaynes had actually spoken to Mattingly, who had gotten information from Shively Police, not the postal inspector. According to those Shively officers, postal inspectors said there were no packages. Police found no drugs or cash in Taylor’s apartment after the fatal shooting.
New allegations that Garland shared Thursday include that Jaynes and Goodlett met in Jaynes’ garage in May 2020 and “conspired to knowingly falsify an investigative document” and “conspired to mislead federal, state and local authorities” who were investigating the shooting.
What are the federal charges each LMPD officer faces in the Breonna Taylor case?
According to the DOJ’s news release, the first indictment, which charges Jaynes and Meany in connection with the warrant, contains four counts:
- Jaynes and Meany “willfully deprived Taylor of her constitutional rights by drafting and approving a false affidavit to obtain a search warrant for Taylor’s home”;
- Jaynes committed “conspiracy, for agreeing with another detective to cover up the false warrant affidavit after Taylor’s death by drafting a false investigative letter and making false statements to criminal investigators”;
- Jaynes falsified a report “with the intent to impede a criminal investigation into Taylor’s death”; and
- Meany made “a false statement to federal investigators.”
The second indictment is against Hankison and includes two civil rights charges alleging he “willfully used unconstitutionally excessive force, while acting in his official capacity as an officer, when he fired his service weapon into Taylor’s apartment through a covered window and covered glass door.”
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The DOJ alleges Hankison used a “dangerous weapon” and his conduct involved “an attempt to kill,” with the counts charging him with:
- “depriving Taylor and a person staying with Taylor in her apartment of their constitutional rights by firing shots through a bedroom window that was covered with blinds and a blackout curtain”; and
- “depriving three of Taylor’s neighbors of their constitutional rights by firing shots through a sliding glass door that was covered with blinds and a curtain.”
The information charging Goodlett with conspiracy contains one count of “conspiring with Jaynes to falsify the warrant affidavit for Taylor’s home, and file a false report to cover up the false affidavit,” the DOJ announced.
All of the civil rights violations that Jaynes, Meany and Hankison face are related to the federal statute on “deprivation of rights under color of law” and carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment “where the violation results in death or involves an attempt to kill,” according to the DOJ.
The obstruction-related charges that Jaynes and Meany face carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The false statements offense that Meany faces carries up to five years in prison, as do the conspiracy counts that Jaynes and Goodlett face, per the DOJ.
“Actual sentences, in case of conviction, are determined by a judge,” the DOJ noted in its news release.
Goodlett is also one of several officers who was named in a separate FBI investigation that began in June 2021 and related to LMPD personnel allegedly throwing drinks at people in Louisville’s West End.
As a result, she was reassigned in the department.
A year later, two other LMPD officers were convicted this past June of federal civil rights violations related to the investigation. Those two are scheduled to be sentenced in September. It is unclear if Goodlett will also face charges in that case.
2 officers who fired shots that hit Breonna Taylor not charged
No federal charges were filed against the officers whose rounds struck Taylor, since they didn’t know the information in the search warrant was wrong, Garland said.
The officers who broke down Taylor’s door fired 32 rounds, with Hankison firing another 10 rounds from the side through a patio door and window, both of which were covered.
Detective Myles Cosgrove, who fired the shot that killed Taylor, and Hankison were previously terminated by LMPD for their actions. Mattingly, who fired non-fatal rounds that struck Taylor after he was shot, was cleared but retired from the department.
“The officers who ultimately carried out the search at this Taylor’s department were not involved in the drafting of the warrant, and were unaware of the false and misleading statements they contained,” Garland noted Thursday.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement Thursday the indictments “are a critical step forward in the process toward achieving justice for Breonna Taylor.”
“My thoughts are with Ms. Tamika Palmer, Breonna’s mother, and all those who loved and cared for Breonna,” Fischer said. “While we cannot reverse her tragic death, we can and must continue to pursue justice for her. I deeply appreciate the hard work of the federal government to tirelessly pursue this case. And, 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.”
“Today is an important day in that process and in the journey toward justice,” Fischer, a Democrat, added. “And, I pledge to my city that my administration will continue to be unflagging in our work to pursue this justice, and create a more equitable, safe and compassionate city for all Louisvillians.”
Earlier this year, a jury found Hankison not guilty of wanton endangerment charges that related to bullets he fired into an occupied, neighboring apartment during the raid at Taylor’s apartment. He was the only officer charged at the state level in connection with the case.
The FBI has been investigating Taylor’s death since May 2020, when it opened its “color of law” case that focuses on allegations of police officers or other officials improperly using their authority, including excessive force, false arrest or obstruction of justice.
Justice Department investigation of LMPD still underway
Last year, the DOJ also opened a “patterns and practices” investigation into LMPD and Louisville Metro Government. Thursday’s announced charges against the four defendants are separate from the ongoing “patterns and practices” probe, according to the DOJ.
Garland said last year the probe would focus on several areas, including whether the department:
- Used unreasonable force, including during peaceful protests;
- Engaged in unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures, including unlawful search warrant executions on private residences;
- Discriminated against people based on race; and
- Failed to provide public services in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The DOJ, as part of its probe, also has been completing a comprehensive review of LMPD’s policies and training, along with an assessment of the effectiveness of its supervision of officers and its system of accountability, including its misconduct investigations.
The investigation is continuing, and Garland gave no indication when it would conclude.
Read the indictments against the 4 current and former LMPD officers
This story has been updated.
Reporters Jonathan Bullington and Krista Johnson contributed to this report.
Reach Billy Kobin at firstname.lastname@example.org