Four officers face federal indictments in Breonna Taylor’s death

The Justice Department has charged four current or former Louisville, Kentucky, police officers with civil rights violations in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. The federal charges include falsifying information to obtain a search warrant at Taylor's home that led to the raid during which the 26-year-old Black woman was killed. Vice News reporter Roberto Ferdman joins Stephanie Sy to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    More than two years after Breonna Taylor was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, the U.S. Justice Department has filed federal charges against four police officers involved in her death.

    Officers fired more than 30 rounds into her apartment. Her case sparked national marches, protests, and calls for social and racial justice.

    Stephanie Sy has the latest development in the case.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Judy, this is the first time multiple officers have faced criminal charges for actions that Attorney General Merrick Garland said resulted in Breonna Taylor's death.

    Four current and former officers, Joshua Jaynes, Brett Hankison, Kelly Goodlett, and Kyle Meany, are facing federal indictments. Among the charges, the attorney general alleges that officers submitted an affidavit for a search warrant that they knew was based on lies, and then conspired to cover up what they allegedly did.

    The Department of Justice also said Hankison used excessive force when he fired blindly into Taylor's apartment.

    Breonna Taylor's mom, Tamika Palmer, reacted to the news.

    Tamika Palmer, Mother of Breonna Taylor: Breonna has taken us all to a place that we can't even imagine. Today is overdue. But it still hurts.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Breonna Taylor's mom has been counting the days for federal charges to be filed.

    Joining me now is VICE News correspondent Roberto Ferdman, who has been covering the investigation.

    Roberto, thank you so much for joining the "NewsHour."

    Breonna Taylor's mother never stopped fighting in the last two years for some accountability for her daughter's death. How far do these federal charges go in offering hope for her and others who feel that those officers felt they were above the law?

  • Roberto Ferdman, VICE News:

    I would say that Tamika Palmer is by no means the only person in Louisville who feels like some semblance of justice is beginning to be served after the death of Breonna Taylor, her daughter.

    People in Louisville have been waiting for over two years now. And they feel like they have been failed at the city level, at the state level, certainly by the Kentucky attorney general office's investigation.

    For instance, Brett Hankison just a few months ago was acquitted on charges not that dissimilar from those that were just brought at the federal level. So I think that they view this as the start of some change, some justice.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    As you mentioned, Brett Hankison was just acquitted a few months ago, and there was criticism that none of the officers ever faced homicide charges.

    The Kentucky attorney general decided not to do that. These do seem like serious charges out of the Department of Justice. But are they enough to give some peace to Breonna Taylor's loved ones?

  • Roberto Ferdman:

    It's hard to say what exactly peace would mean.

    But I know that there were some Easter eggs in the press earlier today by the attorney general's office and the DOJ, where they made it clear that this is the first part of what's being released as a result of their now year-and-a-half-long investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department.

    And that investigation includes not just a look into what happened that night, but also to broader practices by the police department. So I think that people are going to be paying very close attention to see what announcements come next, what charges are announced next.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    As far as these four officers are concerned, I know at least a few of them have turned themselves in, been arrested, been booked.

    What happens next in this process?

  • Roberto Ferdman:

    So, three of the officers have been arrested. One of them was not arrested.

    That's Kelly Hanna Goodlett. It's believed, it seems pretty clear it's because she has already agreed to plead guilty and is potentially cooperating. What's next for them as a trial. The dates have been set for a few of them. The expectation is that Kelly Hanna Goodlett ill plead guilty when her trial starts.

    For the others, it seems like they're prepared to plead not guilty. But their lawyers have basically not shared anything, other than a confirmation of their arrests, which we also know from the mug shots that have been released.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    As you say, the Department of Justice is continuing a separate investigation into civil rights violations by the Louisville Metro Police Department.

    I know you and your team at VICE have also been looking into the department for the last two years. What have been some of your main takeaways about what's going on there?

  • Roberto Ferdman:

    So, a few months ago, in May, we released a two-year-long investigation that was broken into two different parts. The first part focused on a pattern of sexual misconduct by police officers at the department and the department's failure to thoroughly investigate claims.

    This is part of what the DOJ is investigating, their internal affairs department. And then we also released a second part that focuses on a pattern of disappearing money and drugs from search warrants. This is a problem that is specific to the narcotics unit.

    And the DOJ is also investigating its practices around search warrants. So our hope is that the Department of Justice will uncover some of these things that we pointed out in our investigations. And our hope is also that, as a result of this news today, more people, not just in Louisville, but elsewhere will become privy to that.

    And it seems all too often only through public disappointment, public outcry do these things actually change, because not very much has changed locally in Louisville.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Just in the last 30 seconds we have here, Roberto, what would you say as far as the message that this sends, the fact that these charges against four officers, no less, federal indictments, have come down?

    What message does it send to police departments that are dealing with their own cases of excessive force and questionable police practices?

  • Roberto Ferdman:

    I think that there's a broad understanding with — that police departments are not capable of regulating themselves.

    And there are examples of cities and states not doing it either. And I think the federal government here is coming in and saying that, if you're not going to do it, we're going to do it.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Roberto Ferdman with VICE News, thank you so much for joining the "NewsHour" and for your reporting.

  • Roberto Ferdman:

    Thank you for having me.

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