MONTGOMERY, Ohio — One of the Louisville, Kentucky, police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor is speaking publicly for the first time, saying she “didn’t deserve to die” but insisting her death should not fall into the same category as the killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.
Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly described in an interview Tuesday with The Louisville Courier Journal and ABC News the events that led up to Taylor’s death in a March 13 drug raid at her apartment.
Taylor was killed after police entered the home, were shot at by her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, and then returned fire.
Mattingly, 44, said the incident does not compare to the deaths of Floyd and Arbery, both Black men. Floyd died in May during an arrest after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes — which Mattingly called a case of misconduct. Arbery was fatally shot in February while jogging in Georgia — a white father and son are charged with his murder.
Those slayings, along with Taylor’s and other police-involved deaths this year, sparked nationwide protests against systemic racism in law enforcement. In Louisville, demonstrations have been held for 146 consecutive days.
"This had nothing to do with race," Mattingly said. "Nothing at all.
“This is not relatable to George Floyd,” he said. “This is nothing like that. It's not Ahmaud Arbery. It's nothing like it. These are two totally different types of incidences. It's not a race thing like people wanna try to make it to be. It's not.
“This is not us going, hunting somebody down. This is not kneeling on a neck. It's nothing like that.
“What we were being was someone who's defending their lives against gunfire coming at them,” Mattingly added.
Mattingly was one of three officers who fired their weapons in Taylor’s apartment. Police say a bullet fired by Walker struck Mattingly in the left thigh, which severed his femoral artery and required emergency surgery.
None of the officers face charges for Taylor’s death. One detective, Brett Hankison, was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment for shots he fired that penetrated a neighboring apartment, where three people were home.
A grand juror said Tuesday that the jurors were not presented with any homicide charges to consider, adding they were told “there would be none because the prosecutors didn’t feel they could make them stick.”
Walker contends police never identified themselves before entering the home and he believed the raid was a home invasion and that he was acting in self-defense. Mattingly said he believes Walker knew they were police, partly because you don’t have “that loud of a knock, that loud of an announce, that long — and people not know it’s police.”
“Everybody knows the police knock,” Mattingly said. “When that took place for that long — and they had that much time to think and react and formulate a plan — I don’t know he didn’t hear us. We were talking 20 feet away through a thin metal door.
"So, my opinion, yes, he heard. But I’m not the end-all, be-all.”
Mattingly added that Taylor “didn’t deserve to die. She didn't do anything to deserve a death sentence.” But he added that police were not at her home by "happenstance."
"There's a reason the police were there that night," he said. "And if you're law-abiding citizen, the only contact you'll probably ever have with the police is running into them in Thorntons (convenience store) or if you get a speeding ticket. Other than that, unless you know them, you're not really dealing with the police.”
Mattingly said a police officer’s biggest fear is to shoot an innocent person. He recalled an incident from a decade before when he did not return fire after being shot at by a suspect through a door and later learned a baby and little girl were asleep inside the apartment.
He wasn’t so fortunate with Taylor, who was struck by six bullets in her hallway.
"You want to do the right thing," Mattingly said. “You want to be the one who is protecting, not up here looking to do any damage to anybody's family. That's not anybody's desire that I've worked with.”
Mattingly was critical of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and his administration for not addressing misinformation in the weeks following Taylor’s death. He said by speaking up, the mayor made the outrage over the case even worse.
Mattingly said he begged the mayor's office to release evidence or factual information but was told officials didn’t want to “set precedent” for future cases.
“My response to that was, ‘So you’re willing to let the city burn down to not set a precedent for another case?’” he said. "A lot of [the] flames that have come up, a lot of this stuff could have been diverted. Now, would people still have a problem with it? Yes. But I think with the truth coming out, then you wouldn’t have as much distrust."
Mattingly cited misinformation such as that Taylor was killed while asleep, that officers were at the wrong home or that Taylor did not know Jamarcus Glover, her ex-boyfriend who was a main target in the drug investigation that prompted police to search Taylor’s home.
Fischer said in a statement: “I deeply appreciate and respect the difficult and often dangerous job that our police officers do. My focus from the start of the Breonna Taylor case has been to get to the truth — for Breonna, her family and our larger community, which obviously includes the men and women of LMPD. That requires letting the legal process play out, no matter how challenging it may be. In the meantime, we will continue to move forward and take steps toward healing, reform and progress."
Mattingly said he does not expect to return to the Louisville Metro Police Department because he is disappointed with its leadership, including the mayor’s office, and because it would be unsafe for himself and his family. He is eligible to retire but said he won’t do that until the department’s Professional Standards Unit has concluded its investigation into the officers’ conduct in the raid on Taylor’s apartment.
“I don’t want people to think we’re hiding,” he said.