BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Ryan Quarles backed out of a campaign event Tuesday, opting not to appear along with a now-retired Louisville police officer who fired at Breonna Taylor after being shot during the deadly raid on Taylor’s apartment three years ago.
The event in Bowling Green was publicized over the weekend, with Quarles and former LMPD Sgt. Johnathon Mattingly billed as featured speakers. Mattingly retired from LMPD and was one of the three cops involved in the infamous no-knock raid that killed Breonna Taylor. Mattingly was injured during the raid.
Controversy quickly swirled online in the wake of Mattingly's scheduled appearance, and subsequently Quarles' involvement in the same event. In a statement to Spectrum News, the Quarles campaign said he was invited independently of Mattingly.
"Due to the controversial nature of another speaker at this event, we have decided to reschedule to a later date," his campaign said.
Mattingly is also the author of "12 Seconds In The Dark: A Police Officer’s Firsthand Account Of The Breonna Taylor Raid," which was largely why he was invited to speak at the event, according to the group.
In response to an inquiry from Spectrum News, the Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky asserted that while the Breonna Taylor raid may stoke controversy, Mattingly has the right to share his side of the story.
“We have recently invited Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly to speak to 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. Sgt. Mattingly will be sharing his firsthand accounts of the evening. 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," the club's statement reads.
By all indications, the event is scheduled to go on with Mattingly in attendance. The women’s club has since deleted its initial Facebook post about the event, but critics shared the original flier and heavily criticized the appearance.
“From Till to Taylor, the extreme right has a legacy of traumatizing & ridiculing POC when innocent black folk are murdered, but this is abhorrent," wrote Colmon Elridge, the chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party. "Apparently the worth of a murdered innocent black woman is a country club dinner at $40 per person, tax & tip included."
In March 2020, the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police officers executing a no-knock warrant, sparked widespread protests across Louisville and the state.
Since then, a former officer of LMPD officer has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, admitting to falsifying and consequently covering up an affidavit to justify the deadly search on Taylor’s apartment in March 2020. Four other officers, including Mattingly, have been fired from LMPD.
Of them, three are central in the federal probe into the events surrounding Taylor’s death.
In announcing the charges in August, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the officers who served the warrant, including Mattingly, were unaware that it had been falsified.
Black Lives Matter Louisville chapter’s Chanelle Helm said she’s not surprised by Mattingly’s actions.
“What happened in 2020 should have been able to shake the core of this entire state,” Helm said. “Instead, people are still making sure that the roots of Kentucky are very much strong. And that’s exactly what this is showing, whether this is about LMPD or not. We’re really just looking at white men flexing their power.”
The Strategic Core lead organizer said more needs to be done to elect strong candidates that work for all Kentuckians.
“We’re gonna have to keep doing what it is that we’re doing, really taking and dismantling pieces of white supremacy that sit at our government at its core,” Helm said. “If it means getting people out to vote, and that’s what it means if it means putting in new prospective and strong candidates. That’s what it means.”
“It also means changing policies and creating new systems. Systems that are equitable for people who they’ve never been equitable before in Kentucky.”
In response to the dinner, the Bowling Green Freedom Walkers group organized a protest set for 5:30 CT “to be Breonna Tylor’s voice.”
Quarles is among a dozen Kentucky Republicans competing for their party's gubernatorial nomination in the May primary. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is seeking a second term this year.