Federal Charges: Four Current and Former Louisville Police Officers charged in Breonna Taylor’s death

Image: Photograph of Breonna Taylor drawing at the George Floyd memorial in Minnesota.

The face of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor has become one symbol of abuse by police officers against African-Americans in the United States. The young woman, an emergency medical technician (EMT), was shot five times when police executed a no-knock warrant and simply opened fire, shooting blindly into her apartment. She had broken up with the subject of the warrant, who wasn't there. Taylor's new boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was sleeping with Taylor in the apartment when police arrived.

New Federal Charges

On Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced charges had been filed against four current and former Louisville police officers relating to the death of Taylor and that more charges were likely coming.

Three of the officers are charged with supplying false information for a search warrant that led to Taylor’s death. The fourth officer, Brett Hankison, is charged with civil rights violations for blindly firing his weapon into the apartment through a window and a sliding glass door.

Former Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) Detective Joshua Jaynes, 40, and current LMPD Sergeant Kyle Meany, 35, are charged with federal civil rights and obstruction offenses for their roles in preparing and approving a false search warrant affidavit. Former LMPD Detective Brett Hankison, 46, is charged with civil rights offenses for firing his service weapon into Taylor's apartment through a covered window and covered glass door. The third charging document — information filed by the Department of Justice — charges LMPD Detective Kelly Goodlett with conspiring with Jaynes to falsify the search warrant for Taylor's home and to cover up their actions afterward.

"Since the founding of our nation, the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution has guaranteed that all people have a right to be secure in their homes, free from false warrants, unreasonable searches, and the use of unjustifiable and excessive force by the police. These indictments reflect the Justice Department’s commitment to preserving the integrity of the criminal justice system and to protecting the constitutional rights of every American," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke in the press release announcing the indictments.

Lawsuits and Botched Charges

At nearly every step of the state-level investigation, there have been allegations of corruption by citizens in Louisville and the national media, some of whom have been investigating LMPD since this incident.

In May of this year, VICE News aired a two-part series about LMPD that alleged sexual misconduct by police officers, with internal investigators downplaying or ignoring the accusations. VICE also accuses officers of mishandling evidence, particulate cash.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron has been accused of helping to cover up the incidents surrounding Breonna Taylor’s death by not bringing homicide charges against them in his grand jury investigation.

Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, who was in the apartment and armed, apparently tried to defend them from the intruders who, he alleges, never announced themselves. He was arrested on charges of first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer. It took almost a year for the charges against Walker to be dismissed, the stand-your-ground law that allows a person to defend themselves when they’re under attack. This dismissal would show the police didn’t adequately announce themselves. According to reports, a dozen neighbors, including one standing outside smoking a cigarette, never heard the police announce themselves before battering down the door. The police, however, relied on the misinterpreted statement of one passerby who thought maybe they had, but only after opening fire. It’s worth noting that Walker allegedly fired one shot and hit Sargent John Mattingly. The police fired dozens, riddling Taylor’s body with bullets and endangering neighbors who had nothing to do with the search warrant.

Former LMPD-Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly has filed a countersuit against Kenneth Walker as he was injured in the incident. His lawsuit alleges that Walker’s response to the police invading his home on a no-knock warrant was "outrageous, intolerable and offends all accepted standards of decency or morality." The decision by the State to drop charges against Walker because of the stand-your-ground law will probably make Mattingly’s case an uphill climb as it implies that police didn’t adequately announce themselves and that Walker was defending himself precisely as the law allows.

The City of Louisville paid Breonna Taylor's estate $12 million in the wrongful death of Taylor but admitted no wrongdoing. The settlement also requires LMPD to change its standards and practices that led to Taylor's death.

Breonna Taylor’s neighbors, Cody Etherton and Chelsy Napper, who was pregnant, have sued, alleging wanton endangerment as police opened fire on Taylor’s apartment. Multiple bullets went through walls as police fired allegedly indiscriminately. That lawsuit, against officers Hankison, Mattingly, and Brian Cosgrove, along with other officers and the LMPD, is still pending.

An op-ed from Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY 3rd), who represents most of the Louisville metro area, details many of the concerns that residents had up to the point of the publication in September of 2020. His allegations include cover-ups, lies, misdirection, delays, and more on the part of LMPD and the officers involved.

There are several other lawsuits pending, including officers attempting to sue LMPD, the neighbors, the victims, and more.

All of this has created fatigue among jury pools in Louisville, which may bias decisions. It remains to be seen where the federal trials if there are any, will be held.

As it stands, four officers have been federally charged, removing the power of anyone in the State of Kentucky or the City of Louisville to shield officers from punishment for crimes they may have committed.

Bob Peryea

National Correspondent

The Kentucky Daily

By Fibonacci Blue from Minnesota, USA - Artwork for Breonna Taylor at the George Floyd Memorial, CC BY 2.0,

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