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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Officers face charges in connection to Breonna Taylor’s fatal shooting

A photo of Breonna Taylor is seen among other photos of women who have lost their lives as a result of violence during the 2nd Annual Defend Black Women March in Black Lives Matter Plaza on July 30, 2022, in Washington, DC.    (Leigh Vogel/Getty Images North America/TNS)
Chris Strohm and Evan Peng Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department is charging four current and former Louisville police officers in connection to the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, during the execution of a search warrant in 2020.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that the charges for three of the officers are in relation to falsifying an arrest warrant to search her home when they knew they didn’t have the evidence to support it. A fourth officer is being charged in connection with use of excessive force.

Taylor was fatally shot in her apartment on March 13, 2020, when white plainclothes police officers forcibly entered it as part of a “no-knock” warrant. Her killing became part of a larger movement protesting racial bias in police departments that led to nationwide demonstrations in the summer of 2020 and a greater focus on systemic racism in the U.S.

“Breonna Taylor should be alive today,” Garland said. “The Justice Department is committed to defending and protecting the civil rights of every person in this country. That was this department’s founding purpose, and it remains our urgent mission.”

The DOJ charging documents allege that some of the officers “put false and misleading information” in the search warrant affidavit. “Another object of the conspiracy was to cover up, after the shooting, the fact that the warrant had been based on information that was false, misleading, stale, and unsupported by probable cause,” according to the filings.

Two of the officers called, texted and met each other in person “to coordinate their false cover story in an attempt to escape responsibility for their roles in preparing the warrant affidavit that contained false information,” according to the filing. They also conspired to make false statements to investigators, the U.S. said.

The Justice Department notified Taylor’s family Thursday morning. Garland also spoke with family members.

“Today was a huge step toward justice. We are grateful for the diligence and dedication of the FBI and the DOJ as they investigated what led to Breonna’s murder and what transpired,” Ben Crump, a prominent civil rights lawyer who has represented Taylor’s family, said in a statement. “We hope this announcement of a guilty plea sends a message to all other involved officers that it is time to stop covering up.”

Kentucky authorities decided not to pursue murder charges against the police officers involved in Taylor’s death in 2020, instead bringing lesser counts against one of the three men involved.