Mobs, Myths, and Courage

Mob action is often premised on falsehoods. The most notorious in recent years was the “Hands Up” lie in the Ferguson, Missouri matter. See this post. Now we have the facts in the death of Breonna Taylor, and once again the mob has been calling for the prosecution of the wrong people. Today’s Profile in Courage award goes to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

The pervasive myth is that police officers burst into the apartment of Ms. Taylor unannounced, prompting her boyfriend to fire at them in the reasonable belief the home was being invaded by criminals. The mob therefore demands criminal prosecution of the officers, a demand backed up by protests, riots, and screaming at people simply trying to have dinner at sidewalk restaurants.

But it’s not true. AG Cameron’s office released this statement after a thorough investigation (emphasis added):

Evidence from SPU’s investigation shows that officers both knocked and announced their presence at the apartment.  The officer’s statements about their announcement are corroborated by an independent witness who was near in proximity to Ms. Taylor’s apartment.

When officers were unable to get anyone to answer or open the door to the apartment, the decision was made to breach the door. After breaching the door, Sergeant Mattingly was the first, and only officer, to enter the residence.  Sergeant Mattingly identified two individuals standing beside one another at the end of the hall, a male and female.  In his statement, he says that the male was holding a gun, arms extended, in a shooting stance.  Mattingly saw the man’s gun fire, heard a “boom,” and immediately knew he was shot as a result of feeling heat in his upper thigh.

Mr. Kenneth Walker fired the shot that hit Sergeant Mattingly, and there is no evidence to support that Sergeant Mattingly was hit by friendly fire from the other officers.  Mr. Walker admitted that he fired one shot and was the first to shoot. In addition to all the testimony, the ballistics report shows that the round that struck Sergeant Mattingly was fired from a nine-millimeter handgun.  The LMPD officers fired [.]40 caliber handguns.

In short, the officers did nothing wrong in the entry to the apartment. Although they had a warrant that authorized “no-knock” entry, they did not use that authorization. After proper entry, they were not only fired upon, but one of them was actually shot. Of course they returned fire, and correctly so.

The investigation found that Sergeant Mattingly and Detective Cosgrove were justified in their use of force, after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker.  Secondary to this justification, the KSP and FBI ballistics analysis reached different conclusions, creating a reasonable doubt in the evidence about who fired the fatal shot.

A third officer appears to have fired recklessly and has been indicted for that offense, but there is no evidence that any of his bullets hit anyone.

Ms. Taylor’s death is a tragedy, but from the facts as we know them at this point the person who may be guilty of a criminal homicide is Mr. Walker, her boyfriend. He fired on police officers properly serving a warrant with the entirely foreseeable result that they would return fire. He might have a mistake of fact defense if he did not hear or did not understand their announcement that they were police officers.

AG Cameron will surely take enormous heat for speaking truth to the mob. In the long run, though, when the country recovers its sanity, he will get proper credit for courage.

1 Response

  1. A note on caliber for the uninitiated. The diameters of gun barrels and the bullets that fit them are sometimes measured in inches and sometimes in millimeters. A .40 caliber gun has a barrel that is 0.40 inches in diameter. There are 25.4 millimeters in an inch, so 0.40 in * 25.4 mm/in = 10.16 mm. A .40 caliber gun is 12.9% larger than a 9-millimeter. This is an easy ballistics test. No doubt on this fact.