Louisville, KY

DOJ Finds Racism In Louisville Policing


Breonna TaylorPhoto by(Wikipedia)

One of the most defining aspects of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 was the manner in which the country, and the world at large, responded to blatant instances of injustice. Specifically, they were watching as the police, those who swore to serve and protect, murdered innocent or incapacitated black people in cold blood. Their response was nothing short of uproar. One of those deaths was that of Breonna Taylor. She was a medical worker who was shot and killed by police in Louisville Kentucky during a botched raid. The public response to her murder may have been a partial catalyst for the unprecedented progress we have seen in her case.

Sadly, no police officer has ever been charged with the murder of Breonna Taylor. However, there was a charge in August of 2022. On that day, the Justice Department charged four current and former police officers with federal civil rights violations, including lying to obtain a search warrant for her apartment. One of the four people charged, Kelly Goodlett, who retired as a detective after getting charged, pleaded guilty at a hearing on August 23. Then, Another officer from that same group of four, Kyle Meany, was fired by the Louisville Police Department on August 19.

There was a third officer who stood alone with regard to the charges being faced. Brett Hankison was the only officer who had to face state charges in the raid. He was indicted on a charge of wanton endangerment of neighbors whose apartment was hit when he fired without a clear line of sight into Breonna Taylor’s apartment. He pleaded not guilty and was acquitted.

As mentioned before, Breonna Taylor was killed by the police during a raid that they were conducting. Once the case blew up on a national scale, many were tasked with looking into the details of that raid. The New York Times, for example, conducted countless examinations of video footage, witness accounts, police statements, and forensics reports. The results of their investigations did not look good for the Louisville Police. So what exactly did happen that night? Let’s take a closer look at the events that led to an innocent black woman losing her life in a senseless act of violence.

Just before midnight on March 13, 2020, several Louisville police officers were executing a search warrant at the apartment of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. They used a battering ram to enter her residence. The police claim they were there due to an ongoing investigation. They suspected 2 men were selling drugs out of a house that was not close to Taylor’s home at all. What they did believe though, was that one of the men was using Taylor's home to receive packages that may have contained the drugs. That belief allowed them to obtain the warrant in the first place. According to a lawyer for Taylor’s family, Breonna did have a relationship with the man in question at one point in time. But that relationship had been over for a long time and the man was no longer staying at that residence.

Breonna was in bed with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker. When they heard the bang from the door being rammed, Kenneth got out of bed. According to him, both of them called out asking who was at the door. Kenneth believed that Breonna’s ex-boyfriend, the man that the police were looking for, may have been trying to break into their apartment. After not getting a response, Kenneth fired one shot from his gun. The bullet struck the thigh of Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly. The police began firing several shots blindly into the apartment. Breonna Taylor was hit 5 times during the gunfire.

When speaking with investigators, Kenneth recalled that Breonna was struggling to breathe for at least 5 minutes after being struck with bullets. There was an ambulance outside of the apartment on standby, but they were told to leave about an hour before the raid started. The officers did eventually call the ambulance back and began administering medical aid, but all of it was focused on their colleagues. Breonna Taylor received no medical attention at all. It took 5 minutes after the shooting for emergency personnel to even notice that she was shot.

Jamarcus Glover, the ex-boyfriend that the police were looking for, was arrested on Aug. 27, 2020, in possession of drugs. He set the record straight that Breonna Taylor had no involvement in the drug trade.

As more digging was done in this case, it would appear that claims by the police before the raid was even executed were untrue. In an affidavit, Louisville Police officers claimed that Breonna Taylor’s ex-boyfriend was receiving packages at her home. Prosecutors, however, found that there was no evidence to support that claim. Three officers, Joshua Jaynes, Kelly Goodlett, and Kyle Meany were found to have knowingly made false claims in the affidavit in order to obtain the warrant. An excerpt from the New York Times reads. Mr. Jaynes sent a draft of the affidavit to Ms. Goodlett, who prosecutors said knew the claim was false but further bolstered it with “misleading” information. Mr. Meany, who led a department investigative unit, approved the affidavit despite knowing that it contained false information.

Just 2 months after that tragic night, Jaynes and Goodlett met and agreed to falsely tell investigators that a sergeant had told them that the packages were being sent to Taylor’s apartment, according to prosecutors. That is when the Justice Department got involved. The Department accused Jaynes and Meany of violating Taylor’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Goodlett and Jaynes were also accused of conspiring to falsify the affidavit. Additionally, Goodlett was also accused of conspiring to hinder the subsequent investigation. Hankison was accused of depriving Taylor, her boyfriend, and their neighbors of their rights by unreasonably firing 10 bullets through a window and sliding glass door that was covered only with blinds.

As a result of the fallout from this case, Louisville legislators would ban the use of no-knock warrants. This occurred on June 11, 2020. A year after that, a bipartisan senate bill was signed into law that partially bans no-knock warrants. Under that law, no-knock warrants would be limited to a certain degree, but not outright banned by law. Greg Fischer, the mayor at the time, announced other changes to ensure “more scrutiny, transparency, and accountability. This included the naming of a new police chief, a new requirement that body cameras always be worn during the execution of search warrants, and the establishment of a civilian review board for police disciplinary matters.

The case of Breonna Taylor would continue to spark change. It was even starting to reach a systemic level with regard to the policing of the Louisville Metro Police Department. The Justice Department conducted its own investigation into their practices. On March 8, 2023, they released what was referred to as a damning 90-page report. Investigators detailed a pattern of serious abuses, including excessive force. searches based on no-knock warrants. car stops, detentions, and harassment of people during street sweeps. and broad patterns of discrimination against Black people and people with behavioral health problems. Local officials said the report accurately reflected the complaints of citizens for years, and they vowed to restore trust in the department.

In the report, Merrick Garland said investigators uncovered instances of blatant racism against Black residents, including the disproportionate use of traffic stops in Black neighborhoods and the hurling of epithets like “monkey,” “animal” and “boy.” One woman also told the Justice Department she had informed the police more than once that a narcotics detective was extorting sex from her daughter and two other women whom he had accused of drug possession. The accusation was labeled “unfounded”, but turned out to be true five years later after three more women came forward with similar accusations. The detective resigned but was never prosecuted. There was also an example in which a man with behavioral issues was arrested 25 times in two years. During some of his encounters with law enforcement, the police “needlessly escalated the situation and used unreasonable force.” He later died in custody.

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