Kentuckians marched for Black lives and to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, Louisville, KY, June 2020. Credit: Samuel Crankshaw, ACLU of Kentucky Foundation.

The United States Department of Justice has charged four officers involved in Breonna Taylor's murder for violating her civil rights. Three were arrested by the FBI the morning of Thursday, August 4. Louisville Metro Police Department remains under federal investigation for systemically violating the civil rights of the very people they were sworn to protect and serve.

For more than two years, Breonna Taylor’s family, the Louisville community, and people throughout the world have marched and pleaded for justice. Those cries have finally been heard. This is the first time Louisville police officers are being held directly accountable for Breonna Taylor’s murder. State and local officials failed to act time and time again, charging only one officer for bullets that hit drywall and endangered neighbors – not for the bullets that struck and killed Breonna Taylor.

These federal charges would not have happened without the determination of Breonna Taylor’s family, her legal team, and public protests in Kentucky and across the nation. The four officers face a variety of charges. Brett Hankison has been charged and arrested for violating Taylor’s constitutional rights by willfully using unjustified and excessive force, as well as depriving Taylor’s neighbors of their constitutional rights when he blindly fired shots through a sliding glass door that was covered with blinds and curtains. Kelly Goodlett, Joshua Jaynes, and Kyle Meany falsified information to obtain the warrant required to conduct the raid. They face charges for conspiracy, civil rights violations, and lying to federal investigators in an attempt to cover up the falsified warrant. Jaynes and Meany have also been arrested. LMPD fired Hankison in June 2020 and Jaynes in January 2021. The department began termination proceedings for Goodlett and Meany after DOJ announced charges.

The ACLU of Kentucky proudly represents Kentuckians who were tear gassed, knocked down, shot with pepper balls, and wrongfully arrested as they demanded justice for Breonna. Our federal lawsuit is still in court as we continue our fight to protect the right to protest and exercise free speech. We are re-invigorated by today’s announcement, finally seeing these officers held responsible for killing a young Black woman while illegally exercising their power under the law.

It should not have taken this long for Breonna Taylor’s murderers to face legal accountability. If not for the United States Department of Justice, accountability may have never come, following the failure of state and local officials to act.

This is a first step toward justice for Breonna Taylor. True justice would bring Breonna Taylor back to her family, her partner, and her community. She should still be alive today.