LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (AP) — Louisville activists put in long hours on the phone and in the streets, working tirelessly to call for arrests in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, but it was mostly two years full. of frustration.
This week they saw their fortunes suddenly change, when the Attorney General of the United States, Merrick Garland, federal charges announced 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 a welcome sense of relief.
“It’s like a weight lifted off your shoulders,” said Sadiqa Reynolds, president of the Louisville Urban League, who has defended Taylor’s family and led protest marches. “What this decision yesterday did is begin to lift the cloud that hung over us.”
The indictments represent the first time Louisville police officers have been held accountable for Taylor’s shooting death at his home. Most of the new charges center on the flawed warrant that led officers to Taylor’s front door.
the 26 year old black woman she was shot to death after officers used a battering ram to break down her door during a drug search. None found. Taylor’s boyfriend fired a defensive shot that hit one of the officers as he walked through the door. The boyfriend later said that he thought the officer was an intruder. Several police officers returned fire, hitting Taylor multiple times.
The spring and summer of 2020 became a time for reflection on how the police treat Black communities. Protesters shouted Taylor’s name along with that of George Floyd, a black man who suffocated to death three months after Taylor when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
Last year, federal officials brought civil rights charges against four officers in Floyd’s death and federal hate crimes charges against three white men involved in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a black Georgia man killed in February 2020. All were convicted of the charges in February of this year.
When that happened, “we celebrated it, but there was a part of us that felt like we never had anything like that in Louisville,” Reynolds said Friday.
In the case of Breonna Taylor, the officers who fired the fatal shots were not involved in creating the warrant and did not know it was flawed, Garland said. The two officers who shot Taylor were not charged this week.
Indictments unsealed Thursday name former Louisville officers Joshua Jaynes and Brett Hankison, along with current officers Kelly Goodlett and Sgt. Kyle Meany. Louisville police are moving to fire Goodlett and Meany.
Jaynes and Meany knew that the warrant used to search Taylor’s home had information that was “false, misleading and out of date,” the indictment says. Both are accused of conspiracy to commit a crime and deprivation of rights. They and Hankison face a maximum sentence of life in prison. Taylor family attorney Ben Crump said Goodlett pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
The warrant used to search Taylor’s apartment alleged that she was receiving packages for a suspected drug dealer who was an ex-boyfriend. Investigators later learned that Jaynes had not confirmed any package deliveries with the postal inspector.
Hankison was the only officer charged Thursday who was at the scene the night of the murder. He was indicted on state charges in 2020, but they were related to the bullets he fired that nearly hit Taylor’s neighbors. He was acquitted in march senseless endangerment. The new federal indictment charges Hankison with excessive force for shooting at the apartments of Taylor and a neighbor.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican running for governor, has drawn the ire of many protesters since announcing in September 2020 that only Hankison would be charged.
During a 2020 news conference to announce the grand jury’s findings, Cameron said jurors “agreed” that the manslaughter charges were not justified against the officers, because they were shot. That prompted three of the jurors to come forward and dispute Cameron’s account, arguing that Cameron’s staff limited their scope and did not allow them to consider more severe charges.
“The federal government had the guts to do what Daniel Cameron didn’t do,” said Lonita Baker, one of the Taylor family’s attorneys. “The misconduct displayed by the Kentucky Attorney General’s office in this case shows that his political career must end now.”
Cameron said this week that some “want to use this moment to divide Kentuckians, misrepresent the facts of the state investigation and broadly impugn the character of our law enforcement.”
“I will not participate in that type of grudge,” he said in a press release. “It’s not productive.”
Another longtime activist, Tamika Mallory, moved to Louisville with members of the social justice group Hasta la Libertad more than two years ago when she learned about the Taylor case from Crump. Her goal was to draw attention to Taylor’s death at a time when the growing coronavirus pandemic was dominating headlines.
“We needed a movement on the ground here,” said Mallory, who moved from New York.
On Thursday, minutes after the indictment was announced, she was speaking in a downtown park that was the launching pad for hundreds of days of protests following Taylor’s death. The protesters had renamed it “Injustice Square”.
“There were a lot of people who tried to tell us that we were wasting our time,” Mallory said. But we knew that “we still had a fallen soldier who will never return in Breonna Taylor.”
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