Four US police officers have been arrested and charged over the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. Ms Taylor was killed in her home in Louisville, Kentucky, on 13 March 2020 by plainclothes police who were executing a “no-knock” search warrant.
The hospital worker, 26, was shot as officers stormed the apartment just after midnight while she was with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Her death sparked racial injustice protests around the country.
Federal investigators say that three of the four officers conspired to falsify the arrest warrant that led to Ms Taylor’s death. Only one officer involved in the raid, former Louisville detective Brett Hankison – had been previously charged over the case. He was the only one of the four indicted on Thursday who was present at the scene of Ms Taylor’s shooting.
Mr Hankison, who fired 10 shots during the raid, was acquitted by a jury earlier this year of endangering Ms Taylor’s neighbours when some of the bullets he fired entered their home.
The other officers charged by the Department of Justice are Joshua Jaynes, also a fired officer, and serving officers Kelly Hanna Goodlett and Kyle Meany. Louisville police say they are trying to fire Mr Meany and Ms Goodlett.
The federal indictment announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland accuses the four of civil rights offences, unlawful conspiracy, unconstitutional use of force and obstruction.
Mr Meany and Mr Jaynes are alleged to have violated Ms Taylor’s civil rights by preparing a false search warrant affidavit. Ms Goodlett allegedly conspired with Mr Jaynes to falsify the warrant.
Mr Hankison is accused of civil rights offences for firing his service weapon into Ms Taylor’s apartment through a covered window and glass door.
“Breonna Taylor should be alive today,” Mr Garland told reporters on Thursday.
The search warrant obtained by police included Ms Taylor’s name and address. Authorities suspected her ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, a convicted drug trafficker, had used her apartment to hide narcotics or money.
No drugs were found at the property, though Jefferson County Prosecutor Thomas Wine said the search had been cancelled after the shooting. The warrant, which was signed by Mr Jaynes, said that police had confirmed packages for Glover were being sent to Ms Taylor. Investigators say they later discovered that police had never confirmed this with the postal inspector, as claimed on the warrant.
According to prosecutors, Mr Jaynes and Ms Goodlett met in a parking garage days after the shooting to arrange a cover story to justify the falsified evidence that led to the warrant.
In 2020, the Taylor family sued Louisville police and reached a $12m (£9m) settlement.
Reacting to news of the charges on Thursday, the family’s lawyers said: “Today was a huge step toward justice.” “Today’s overdue, but it still hurts,” said her mother Tamika Palmer.