Federal investigation into Breonna Taylor’s death casts broader web


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – Their numbers have dropped since protesters first flooded the streets of Louisville after police shot Breonna Taylor dead in her home a year ago, but their pressure for justice has never diminished.

A federal investigation into the shooting that has been quietly unfolding could be your last chance.

“We can’t expect people to keep moving emotionally and mentally when there has yet to be justice for Breonna Taylor,” said Representative Attica Scott, a state legislator who was tear gassed and arrested during the city’s summer protests. “They have failed us every time at all levels of government, and we need a fucking break.”

That could come in the form of the ongoing US Department of Justice investigation, which appears to have expanded well beyond the actions of the three police officers who fired their guns at Taylor’s home on March 13, 2020. Last year, a grand jury made up of state attorney general Daniel Cameron charged an officer with endangering Taylor’s neighbors, but did not issue charges related to his death.

The warrant he sent police to Taylor’s home was not part of Cameron’s criminal investigation, but that document and how it was obtained are being reviewed by federal investigators. And there are signs that the investigation could encompass the Louisville police response to the protests after the shooting.

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Taylor’s death initially went unnoticed by the media as the COVID-19 crisis shut down the partnership, but George Floyd’s death in Minnesota and the launch of a chilling 911 call from Taylor’s boyfriend in late May sparked interest. if.

Months of protests, police reforms and investigations followed. The city banned the controversial arrest warrants, hired a new police chief, and paid a $ 12 million settlement to Taylor’s mother. Two of the officers who fired the shots were fired from the department, along with a detective who sought the warrant.

Despite everything, the protesters continued to shout: “Arrest the police!” But that has not happened.

The federal investigation into his death will be “slow and methodical,” experts said, examining everything from what officers may have been thinking that night to how they were trained before the shooting.

“The civil rights investigation will change the whole situation,” said Cynthia Deitl, a former director of the FBI’s civil rights unit that has overseen similar police investigations into shooting. “You look at everything, everything the officers learned.”

“It takes time to build a case against police officers,” Deitl said.

He said a change of government in Washington would have no effect on the officials leading the case.

After officers opened Taylor’s front door, her boyfriend fired his gun once and later said he feared an intruder was breaking into the apartment. An officer was wounded and he and two other officers fired 32 shots at the apartment, hitting Taylor five times.

The FBI has declined to comment on the details of the investigation, but there are indications that other actions by the Louisville Metro Police Department have caught its attention. That includes responding to citizen protests, especially in late May and early June, when the city was under a curfew and officers were patrolling the streets in force.

FBI agents have interviewed a local television reporter who was hit with pepper balls fired by Louisville police during Taylor’s demonstrations in the early summer.

They have also interviewed witnesses to the shooting death of West Louisville restaurant owner David McAtee, who was killed by a member of the National Guard after Louisville police doused their customers with pepper balls during a touch of is sparked by protests. McAtee fired two shots with his gun before he was shot dead.

Steve Romines, an attorney suing Louisville police on behalf of McAtee’s family, said he did not know whether the federal investigators’ witness interviews were part of a larger Taylor-related investigation or a separate investigation.

Despite disappointment with the grand jury result, there is a “cautious and cautious hope” that the federal investigation may bring some justice, said community activist Christopher 2X.

The Louisville FBI office has declined to provide details of the federal investigation into the Taylor shooting while it is ongoing.

But in a conference call in July with an AP reporter and others organized by 2X, Robert Brown, the special agent in charge of the Louisville FBI, said investigators would look at “every aspect, where the events that led to this, the actual incident and things that might have happened afterward. ” According to the Justice Department, civil rights violations committed by individuals acting in an official capacity, such as police officers, can carry up to a life sentence in prison after conviction.

Cameron, the Kentucky attorney general, has confirmed that federal investigators were looking into how the warrant was obtained.

Two of the Louisville officers, Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison, who fired guns during the March 13 raid, were fired, along with Joshua Jaynes, the detective who sought the warrant and later acknowledged it contained false information. The third officer, Jonathan Mattingly, who was shot in the leg by Taylor’s boyfriend during the raid, remains in the apartment.

Jaynes may face scrutiny for a bogus line in the court order he wrote for Taylor’s apartment. The detective said he confirmed with a United States postal inspector that a suspected drug dealer was receiving packages at Taylor’s home. He later admitted that he did not contact the postal service.

In response to a civil lawsuit filed by Taylor’s boyfriend, Jaynes said he made an “honest mistake” and did not knowingly violate the law.

A recent internal Louisville Police Department investigation by a consulting firm found numerous problems with Louisville’s warrant process. He said supervisors generally approved the probable cause statements in the search warrants “without conducting an in-depth review” of the content.

Proving that Jaynes and other officers knew they were violating the civil rights of Taylor or others will be key to a conviction in a federal case, Deitl said.

It is a high standard.

“The feds have to show that the officer knew what he was doing, knew it was wrong and did it anyway,” Deitl said.

That can lead to long-term investigations that eventually last for years.

“It’s frustrating for the public, but what I always try to tell the victim’s family is: I know you are anxious; I know that today he wants an answer from us, ”said Deitl. “But what you really want is an honest, truthful and very thorough investigation, and that will take time.”

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