Former US police officer pleads guilty to Breonna Taylor cover-up

Kelly Goodlett becomes first officer held criminally responsible for 2020 Louisville police raid that killed Taylor.

Protesters march against racial injustice and for Black women following the grand jury decision in Louisville's Breonna Taylor case.
Breonna Taylor's killing during a police raid in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 2020 prompted mass protests demanding an end to deadly police violence against Black people in the US [File: Kevin Mohatt/Reuters]

A former police officer in Louisville, Kentucky, has pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in relation to the killing of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman whose shooting death during a police raid prompted mass protests for racial justice across the United States.

Kelly Goodlett pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy on Tuesday in a federal court in Louisville, the New York Times first reported, becoming the first officer to be held criminally responsible for the raid.

Federal investigators said Goodlett, who helped write the warrant that led to Taylor’s killing in March 2020, added a false line to that document and later conspired with another detective to create a cover story when Taylor’s death began gaining national attention.

Taylor’s killing at the hands of police, along with that of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and others, fuelled mass protests demanding an end to deadly police violence against Black people across the US.

Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was asleep with her boyfriend on March 13, 2020, when police conducted a no-knock raid and burst into her apartment. Taylor’s boyfriend fired once at what he said he believed were intruders. Three police officers responded with 32 shots, six of which struck Taylor, killing her.

Since then, the 26-year-old’s families, friends and supporters have continued to demand justice and for the officers involved in the raid to be held accountable.

Goodlett was one of four former Louisville police officers charged by the US Department of Justice earlier this month for their role in the fatal shooting.

Goodlett and another ex-officer, Joshua Jaynes, met days after the shooting in a garage where they agreed on a false story to cover for the false evidence they had submitted to justify the botched raid, prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutors also charged Jaynes and current Sergeant Kyle Meany with civil rights violations and obstruction of justice for using false information to obtain the search warrant.

A fourth officer, former Detective Brett Hankison, was charged with civil rights violations for allegedly using excessive force.

In March, a jury acquitted Hankison on a charge of wanton endangerment. A grand jury earlier cleared the other two officers who shot Taylor but charged Hankison for endangering neighbours in the adjacent apartment.

Goodlett, who resigned from the police department on August 5, a day after Attorney General Merrick Garland announced new federal charges in the case, is expected to be sentenced on November 22.

US District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings, who heard her plea on Tuesday, said there may be “extenuating circumstances” that may move the court to push back the sentencing date. Part of the plea hearing was also kept under seal and was not discussed in open court.

Prosecutors and Goodlett’s lawyer were not immediately available for comment.

The 35-year-old former officer faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Source: News Agencies