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Quarles pulls out of event with controversial ex-officer from Breonna Taylor raid

Sgt Jon Mattingly LMPD Breonna taylor
LMPD
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Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly

Ryan Quarles, Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner and a Republican candidate for governor, rescheduled his appearance at a Republican event in Bowling Green after revelations that a former Louisville Metro police officer who participated in the fatal raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment was also scheduled to speak.

Former Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly was one of three officers who fired his gun during the raid and blamed Taylor’s death on her boyfriend Kenneth Walker in a book released early last year.

The event, hosted by the Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky, is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Jan. 17 at the Bowling Green Country Club.

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Quarles announced he wouldn’t attend.

“I, like other candidates running for Governor, have been invited to introduce myself to this group. I was invited independently of other speakers and due to the controversial nature of another speaker at this event, we have decided to reschedule to a later date,” he said.

The group has not responded to questions about whether the event will go on without Quarles. The initial Facebook post advertising the event has been taken down.

The March 2020 police raid that led to Taylor’s death sparked widespread protests across Kentucky and the country.

Mattingly shot his gun into Taylor’s apartment during the raid. He was not terminated from his position on the force and later retired. Mattingly was injured by a single gunshot fired by Walker as officers broke down Taylor’s door. Walker later said he did not hear the police identify themselves and thought they were intruders. The raid was part of a broader narcotics investigation focused on Taylor’s ex-boyfriend.

Since the incident, a former LMPD officer has pleaded guilty to one federal count of conspiracy, admitting to falsifying, covering up an affidavit to justify the search of Taylor's apartment. Three other officers were indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles during or in the leadup to the raid.

Mattingly was not charged, but was party to a defamation suit brought by Walker against several police officers and the city. The city paid $2 million to settle the lawsuit in November.

Mattingly wrote a book, "12 Seconds In The Dark: A Police Officer’s Firsthand Account of the Breonna Taylor Raid," on his 20-year career, the events that led up to the night Taylor died and the resulting fallout.

His account of the events leading up to the raid contradicted his fellow officers’, which he explained as “the Gospels in the Bible — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They all tell the same story but from different viewpoints, experiences and perspectives.”

In the now-deleted Facebook post, the group said that Mattingly would “share what really happened during the raid that killed Breonna Taylor, what he saw, and how the media’s narrative has been corrupted and twisted to fit into a false, woke storyline.”

“That storyline resulted in months of ‘Say Her Name’ protests, social posts, and even policy changes that had severe and far-reaching consequences for American citizens,” the post stated.

On Monday, the Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky posted a statement on their Facebook page responding to backlash over inviting Mattingly, saying he “had a right to share his experience.” “We have recently invited Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly to speak at our meeting to obtain a firsthand account of the drug raid where Breonna Taylor was killed in Louisville. Sgt. Mattingly was one of the officers involved and injured in the raid,” the group wrote in the statement.

Investigators said they found no drugs or money in Taylor’s apartment following the raid.

The statement continued, saying, “these events may be controversial however, we believe Sgt. Mattingly has the right to share his experience. Other individuals with firsthand experience relating to this case are welcome to request an opportunity to speak to our organization as well.”

Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Colmon Elridge condemned Quarles’ initial plan to appear at the event.

“From Till to Taylor, the extreme right has a legacy of traumatizing & ridiculing POC when innocent black folk are murdered, but this is abhorrent. Apparently the worth of a murdered innocent black woman is a country club dinner at $40 per person, tax & tip included,” Elridge wrote on Twitter.

Quarles is running in a crowded GOP gubernatorial primary with 12 candidates, and is in his second term as agriculture commissioner.

After publication of this story, Mattingly sent the following statement:
"I think it’s a shame in this country and state that the few loud voices control the narrative. The more that individuals and organizations cower to the demands of uninformed or willingly ignorant protesters, the stronger we allow them to become. I will not back down, I will not cower, and I refuse to be silent or cancelled. The show will go on!"

This story has been updated

Divya is Kentucky Public Radio's Capitol Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.