The Current

Email from officer in Breonna Taylor shooting shows some officers think 'nothing was done wrong,' scholar says

A mass email sent by a police sergeant involved in the shooting that killed Breonna Taylor is indicative of police culture in Louisville, Ky., and across the U.S., says scholar Ricky L. Jones.

1 officer indicted for shooting into neighbouring apartments, but no charges in Taylor's death

A demonstrator holds a sign with the image of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville police, during a protest against the death of George Floyd in Colorado on June 3. (Jason Connolly/AFP/Getty Images)

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A mass email sent by a police sergeant involved in the shooting that killed Breonna Taylor is indicative of police culture in Louisville, Ky., and across the U.S., says scholar Ricky L. Jones.

"What Sgt. Mattingly did, I think, was show a moment of honesty, a spasm of truth that happened to be revealed to the public," the professor and chair of pan-African studies at the University of Louisville told The Current's Matt Galloway.

"He said exactly what many of us think that a good percentage of police officers feel — that nothing was done wrong."

"The follow-up question to that is do police here or anywhere else ever feel they do anything wrong?"

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, who is on administrative leave, emailed a letter of support to 1,000 of his colleagues, maintaining that the officers "did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night."

He wrote that he's sorry for the "tremendous amount of stress" the officers and their families will face in the coming days, and that they don't deserve to be in a "position that allows thugs to get in your face and yell, curse and degrade you. Throw bricks, bottles and urine on you and expect you to do nothing."

A VICE News correspondent shared screenshots of the email on Twitter. The New York Times reported that it verified the letter with Mattingly's lawyer.

A Kentucky grand jury has since indicted Brett Hankison for shooting into neighbouring apartments, but did not charge any officers in connection with Taylor's death.

Police in riot gear stand in formation during protests on May 29 in Louisville, Ky. The city is under a state of emergency in anticipation of protests over Wednesday's grand jury decision. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Louisville's mayor declared a state of emergency in the city on Tuesday in anticipation of the possible "civil unrest" that may follow Wednesday's announcement. The Louisville Metro Police Department has also erected barricades downtown.

Speaking before the grand jury's decision, Jones said there's no other word to describe the mood in Louisville right now than "tense."

"There are some people who feel ... that the attorney general has kind of held the city and the state and even the country hostage with the release of so little information about this case," Jones said.

At Wednesday's news conference, state Attorney General Daniel Cameron said, "the decision before my office as the special prosecutor in this case was not to decide if the loss of Ms. Taylor's life was a tragedy. The answer to that is unequivocally yes."

"I understand that Breonna Taylor's death is part of a national story, but the facts and evidence in this case are different than others" involving police shootings.

"If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice. Mob justice is not justice. Justice sought by violence is not justice. It just becomes revenge."

He said the FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in the case.

Shooting happened during search warrant

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman and emergency medical technician, was shot and killed in March while police were executing a no-knock search warrant at her apartment as part of a drug investigation. A judge had signed a warrant for her home because police believed a man Taylor previously dated had received packages at her apartment.

When police knocked down Taylor's front door, her current boyfriend Kenneth Walker shot at police, hitting Mattingly in the leg as he entered the apartment. Walker said he believed someone was intruding in the apartment and fired his gun in self-defence. 

Mattingly and two other officers fired back several times, hitting and killing Taylor.

No drugs were found in the apartment.

An undated photo provided by the Taylor family's attorney shows Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky. The 26-year-old was fatally shot by police in her home. (Sam Aguiar/The Associated Press)

In his email on Tuesday, Mattingly accused the police department, FBI and Louisville's mayor of going after officers' civil rights during "one of the most stressful times in [their] career."

"Your civil rights mean nothing, but the criminal has total autonomy," he said.

Meanwhile, the City of Louisville has agreed to pay Taylor's family $12 million US and reform police practices as part of a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Taylor family's lawyer has said it is the largest such settlement given out for a Black woman killed by police. 

Jones called the civil lawsuit "odd."

"In these cases, usually you will have the resolution of the criminal trial one way or another before you have a civil decision. In this, we have it inverted," he said.

"So somebody somewhere felt that something went terribly wrong to pay out that amount of money in a civil trial, where civil rights cases quite often take years to be litigated and decided."


Produced by Samira Mohyeddin.

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