President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice lodged federal civil rights charges against four officers in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor on Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Taylor, a black woman, was killed in a no-knock raid in Louisville, Kentucky in 2020. Her death in March, several months before the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, contributed to nationwide civil unrest during the summer of 2020.
Taylor, who was 26 at the time of her death, was asleep with her boyfriend at the time of the raid; police had a warrant to search the apartment in connection with a drug investigation.
Taylor’s boyfriend thought the police were intruders and opened fire on them. Three police officers responded with over 30 bullets, at least six of them hitting Taylor.
One of the shots was fatal.
While a grand jury heard charges against the three officers involved, only one was charged locally — Brett Hankison, who was cleared of wanton endangerment charges earlier this year.
However, Biden’s Department of Justice has now gotten involved, with the Journal reporting the charges include “civil-rights offenses, unconstitutional use of force, obstruction and conspiracy.”
Prosecutors say that, among other things, the officers facing charges — Hankison, Joshua Jaynes, Kelly Goodlett and Kyle Meany — lied to obtain the search warrant that led to Taylor’s death.
“The defendants knew their actions and falsifying the affidavit could create a dangerous situation, and we allege these unlawful acts resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland during a media briefing.
“Breonna Taylor should be alive today.”
Attorneys for Taylor’s family said the DOJ’s move “was a huge step toward justice.”
Hankinson’s attorney, meanwhile, guaranteed his client would be fighting the federal case.
“I can guarantee you that he will be contesting [the new] charges as vigorously as he did in Kentucky,” Stew Mathews said.
However, as the Journal noted, this is part of a new pattern on the part of the Biden-era DOJ.
“The indictments come as the Biden administration has sought to overhaul local police departments with an emphasis on civil-rights enforcement,” the outlet reported.
“The Justice Department last year also launched a civil-rights investigation into the conduct of the Louisville Metro Police Department more broadly, one of several so-called ‘pattern-or-practice’ probes the Biden administration is conducting.”