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DOJ Charges Cops for Breonna Taylor’s Killing. Why Didn’t Kentucky’s AG Daniel Cameron Do the Same?

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Image Credit: Amira Karaoud/Reuters

The Department of Justice has announced federal criminal charges against four former and current Louisville police officers over their roles in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. The charges come after the state of Kentucky failed to prosecute any police officers for Taylor’s death, despite nationwide Black Lives Matter demands to investigate. “How can it be that the federal government and state government are so far apart on this case?” says Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, who calls the federal charges “a great step in the right direction.” Reynolds is demanding an investigation into Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s prosecution of the case — which she says was either “incompetent” or “in collusion” with the police.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The Department of Justice has announced federal criminal charges against four former and current Louisville police officers over their roles in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. Her death in a hail of police gunfire in 2020 sparked protests across the United States and around the world under the banner Black Lives Matter.

Former Louisville Metro Police detective Joshua Jaynes was taken into FBI custody Thursday morning and charged with obstruction and civil rights violations for knowingly using false, misleading and incomplete information to get the no-knock search warrant for Breonna Taylor’s home that led to her death. Also charged Thursday were Louisville Police Sergeant Kyle Meany, officer Kelly Hanna Goodlett and former Louisville police detective Brett Hankison.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the indictments Thursday.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MERRICK GARLAND: Earlier today, I spoke with the family of Breonna Taylor. This morning, they were informed that the Justice Department has charged four current and former Louisville Metro Police Department officers with federal crimes related to Ms. Taylor’s death. Those alleged crimes include civil rights offenses, unlawful conspiracies, unconstitutional use of force, and obstruction offenses. …

A fifth search warrant was for Breonna Taylor’s home, which was approximately 10 miles away from the West End. The federal charges announced today allege that members of Place-Based Investigations Unit falsified the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant of Ms. Taylor’s home,
that this act violated federal civil rights laws, and that those violations resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death. …

Ms. Taylor was at home with another person who was in lawful possession of a handgun. When officers broke down the door to Ms. Taylor’s apartment, that person, believing that intruders were breaking in, immediately fired one shot, hitting the first officer at the door. Two officers immediately fired a total of 22 shots into the apartment. One of those shots hit Ms. Taylor in the chest and killed her.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Attorney General Merrick Garland. The head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, also spoke Thursday.

ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL KRISTEN CLARKE: The indictment alleges that by preparing a false affidavit to secure a search warrant for Breonna Taylor’s home, defendants Jaynes and Meany willfully deprived Breonna Taylor of her constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and we allege that Ms. Taylor’s death resulted from that violation.

In a separate indictment, the grand jury charges former LMPD detective Brett Hankison with using unconstitutionally excessive force during the raid on Ms. Taylor’s home. Without a lawful objective justifying the use of deadly force, defendant Hankison traveled away from Ms. Taylor’s doorway to the side of the building and fired 10 shots into Breonna Taylor’s apartment through a bedroom window and a sliding glass door that were both covered with blinds and curtains.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. She’s head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

We go now to Louisville, where we’re joined by Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Sadiqa. Can you respond to these federal charges that were brought against these four officers? The two white officers who actually shot Breonna Taylor were not charged.

SADIQA REYNOLDS: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me again. It’s a pleasure to be here.

You know, we understand, and we’ve always understood in Louisville, that all of the officers might not be charged, but, I have to tell you, this is a great step in the right direction. There really has been a sense of relief in Louisville among the family members, among protesters, among those of us who have really tried to encourage people to keep their hope, to, you know, really have some faith in our system. Certainly, this idea that any of these officers are charged with killing Breonna Taylor, it has really been a big deal and has been celebrated in Louisville. We know it’s not over, but we are extremely thankful for the Department of Justice, I have to tell you that.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, who spoke at a news conference in Louisville yesterday. She criticized the Kentucky attorney general, Daniel Cameron.

TAMIKA PALMER: You don’t deserve to be where you are, and you need to go. And if we don’t continue to eat him, one of y’all’s on the menu next. He was dead wrong. It didn’t start with him, but he had the first — he had the right to do the right thing, and he chose not to.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Sadiqa Reynolds, let’s talk about this. Federal civil rights charges have been brought against these four officers, but the state charges were never brought, except against Brett Hankison for wantonly shooting into the blind-covered windows, the bullets going into the next-door neighbors’, who were white. He was ultimately acquitted of that. Now he’s been charged again. But what about Daniel Cameron, his significance? He’s running for governor next year.

SADIQA REYNOLDS: [inaudible] to be governor, even to run for governor. He clearly did a disservice. And what we want an investigation into is: What did Daniel Cameron know? Where did he get the information? What did he share with the grand jury? How can it be that the federal government and state government are so far apart on this case? We are concerned that he is either incompetent or in collusion. We’re not sure. The people do deserve to understand, because all of these people — all of these officers of the court are sworn to uphold and seek justice. And in this case in Kentucky, everybody who had an opportunity to do the right thing, including our attorney general, failed. And we are, again, extremely thankful for the FBI keeping their eye on the ball, and the Department of Justice.

And I have to tell you, we have been talking a lot about this incestuous relationship between police and prosecutors. Across the country, you see the failure to prosecute police. You see the failure to hold them accountable. And so we haven’t really seen the changes that we’ve needed. Sure, we’ve all celebrated what happened with, you know, the George Floyd case, Ahmaud Arbery case and now Breonna Taylor’s case, but we have to look at those cases where there are no charges. There is a significant problem between our prosecutors and our police department.

But very specifically, in Kentucky, we want an investigation into the Office of the Attorney General to understand what they knew, when they knew, and what was presented. It’s especially important here because, remember, that in the grand jury case, you had grand jurors who came forward who said this is not — “We were not told certain things. This is not what we wanted.” And so, we have to figure out and get to the bottom of what exactly happened in that matter. I think it’s very, very important.

AMY GOODMAN: So —

SADIQA REYNOLDS: And, you know — oh, go ahead. I’m sorry.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to this issue of Cameron, because at a 2020 news conference announcing the grand jury’s findings, “Cameron said jurors 'agreed' that homicide charges were not warranted against the officers, because they were fired upon.” I’m reading from AP right now. “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 give them an opportunity to consider homicide charges against the police in Taylor’s death.” Sadiqa Reynolds?

SADIQA REYNOLDS: And that is the point. We need to understand what the scope of his investigation was, what was presented to that grand jury, what did he know, and what did he allow the grand jury to know. Was there any look at all into the warrant? And if not, why? Because at the point that he convened the grand jury, this city, protesters, every person, everybody in the city was saying, “There are problems with the warrant. There are problems with this case.” We were identifying things. Some of these things were so blatant and obvious that laymen were identifying them.

So we need to understand more about what our attorney general did or did not do, because it does feel like there may have been some predisposition as to what that case and how the case was going to turn out. And I think it’s important for those grand jurors to be heard. I mean, the jury system is an important system in this country. It is something that we rely on for our democracy, so we ought to hear from our jurors when they object to the process that they have been included in.

AMY GOODMAN: Sadiqa Reynolds, we want to thank you for being with us. And, of course, we’ll continue to follow this case. Sadiqa Reynolds is president and CEO of Louisville Urban League.

Coming up, we remember the life and legacy of Albert Woodfox, former Black Panther, who spent nearly 44 years in solitary confinement, longer than any prisoner in U.S. history. He died of COVID on Thursday. Stay with us.

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