Daily Wire media reporter Ben Johnson held an exclusive interview with John Mattingly, who as a sergeant on the Louisville Metro Police Department was seriously wounded while serving a warrant on an address that had been linked to Breonna Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, a suspected drug dealer. Mattingly reveals the facts behind Breonna Taylor’s death in his new book, “12 Seconds In The Dark,”which is now available. We discuss the legacy media’s deceptions about the Breonna Taylor shooting, the threats his family lives under every day, and the way officials at every level of society turned their backs on a severely wounded officer in obedience to the Woke mob. This transcript has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity. — BJ.
BJ: What made you want to be a cop?
JM: Well, I grew up in a poor end of town. My dad was a pastor — still is; he’s been doing that for over 50 years — and we had a church in the inner city. People kept telling him, “Man, you’ve got to get out of the inner city to grow your church,” and he would tell them, “No, this is my calling. This is who I want to help.” I saw his heart, being willing to help other people and put aside financial gain. Everybody wants to be like their dad, so I thought I was going to follow in his footsteps. But growing up in that community, I saw the drug dealing; I saw the assaults; I saw the violence. Even as a kid, it made me mad that people would take advantage of other people, and I always just wanted to be a police officer; that’s how I wanted to help. When I was 27, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge, and I got on the department in 2000.
BJ: You recount some of your background on the force and some of the ways that you reined in Louisville’s narcotics trade in your book, “12 Seconds In The Dark.” You also talk about your role in serving the warrant that led to the Breonna Taylor shooting. What are the biggest lies that the legacy media told us about that night?
JM: One of the first ones they told was that we had the wrong apartment, and Breonna’s name was not on the warrant. Her name was on the warrant. Her vehicle was on the warrant, so we were at the right place. Another one, which continues to this day, is that she was asleep in her bed when she passed away. That’s not true: She was in the hallway with Kenneth Walker. There were many rumors out there that we were there to rob them or that we went back there to cover up after the fact. None of those things could be further from the truth. I mean, we were in a briefing with 50 other guys: There’s no way we leave that briefing to go to an apartment to “rob” people of their money. We were just there to assist the officers serving the warrant that night.
My department totally failed to get the truth out. The city failed to release the facts even to this day, and all that pushed the narrative that we were out here killing people in their sleep, breaking into their home, illegally going to rob them, covering up a crime — all these things that could have easily been debunked in the very beginning but weren’t. This caused a negative spiraling out of control of hate — even more hate for the police than already existed.
BJ: You describe the drama that unfolded as soon as you got there, including how you ended up receiving a life-altering injury as a result.
JM: Yeah. When we knocked and announced, we gave [Walker] about 45 seconds to a minute to come to the door. We never got a response. My boss at the time looked at me and gave me the nod to go ahead and ram the door. Once the door came open, before I could even get in the house, I was met with gunfire from Kenneth Walker from about 25-30 feet away. He and Breonna were shoulder-to-shoulder down this narrow hallway, and unfortunately, the coward in him dove out of the way and left her standing there. After he shot me, she attempted to follow him, and she was caught in the crossfire.
BJ: It’s a tragedy. One of the intriguing lines in your book — which is incredibly engaging — is that you believe Breonna Taylor might still be alive today if you had served a “no-knock” warrant, as you were charged with doing by the media. Help our readers understand why that might be.
JM: Yes. Like you said, the media still push to this day that it was a “no-knock” warrant. We had a bill passed called “Breonna’s Law,” which banned “no-knock” warrants in Kentucky. If we had only done a “no-knock,” then I believe Breonna would be alive, because we gave them so much time that they were able to get up, get dressed, get a weapon, and wait for us at the end of the hall when we came in. Had we done this as a “no-knock,” like the warrant was signed, then we would have had the advantage psychologically and in terms of time. People can’t really gather their senses in the first 10-15 seconds after you wake them up in their sleep. You come in, and you have an aggressive tone — not to be mean — but just to control the situation so that incidents like this do not happen. We were asked at the briefing to give her some extra time to open the door, because the main target of their investigation was going to another location. So, we gave it time, and I believe that was a mistake.
BJ: You believe this was an ambush?
JM: Oh, most certainly. He knew. Whether he claims he knew we were the police at the door or not, he knew someone was at the door. When they downloaded his phone, they found that Mr. Walker has a history of allegedly committing robberies: A lot of the time, the way drug dealers are robbed — at least in Louisville — is if the person robbing them can’t get them on the jump outside of a car or a club, then they go to their house. When they’re doing home invasions, they will bang on the door and yell, “Police!” And once that door is opened, they act as the police until they get in and do their business. And Kenneth Walker had talked on his text messages about how he cases places out, and he only does it if it’s a certain amount. My belief is — and in his interview, he said — he thought it was [Breonna Taylor’s] other boyfriend. But I think maybe part of his muscle memory thought, “Man, it’s coming back on me, what I’ve been doing to other people.” Whether he thought we were the police, whether he thought we were a bad guy: Yes. It was an ambush in waiting.
BJ: Obviously, everyone has “said the name” Breonna Taylor at this point, but people don’t necessarily know your name. They don’t realize that another life might have been lost. When you came through that door, bullets were flying, and one of them ended up striking your femoral artery. What happened from your perspective?
JM: I immediately knew I was shot, but even so, I was able to return fire. Then when I reached down and felt my leg, I felt a substantial amount of blood in my hand. I’ve been through first aid training for almost 20 years, so I knew a bleed like that in the leg wasn’t normal unless it hit an artery. So, my first thought was, “I’ve got to get off my feet, because if I move around, it’s going to pump more blood through my leg.” I was able to get to a point of safety between some vehicles, and I started asking for a tourniquet. Once the tourniquet went on, I knew I had a certain amount of time to get to the hospital and get this thing treated, or I was going to lose my leg due to the pressure. And I’ll tell you, being shot hurt, but the tourniquet is where the real pain came in. I wouldn’t want to go through that again in a million years.
BJ: Thank God you were able to get out alive, and you’re still walking around today on earth. But you talk about your recovery process. Even after all the bullets were fired in that house, you still faced a real threat of death for months after this, didn’t you?
JM: Oh, yeah. Getting shot was the easiest part of this whole ordeal. I’ve still got some numbness and some issues, but that was the easy part of this. The hard part came about a month-and-a-half afterward when we received word from the FBI that there were credible or verifiable threats, through separate sources, that a hit had been taken out on us officers involved. At that point, it is midnight, and I’m rounding up my entire family — my kids, their children, my parents, my sister — because we’d all been doxxed at this point. We’d all had threatening messages sent to us. And the FBI told us, “You’ve got to get out of your house. You got to find somewhere to go,” so we were able to round everybody up and get them to a safe location.
And the sad part is, the threats are still there because the investigation has been dropped by the FBI, due to the social implications and the outside pressures of this being a national media story that contains a white officer and a black individual who was killed. It was so hot in the media that they pushed this [investigation into threats against Sgt. Mattingly’s family] to the side and tried to ignore it or bury it. They weren’t even going to tell us about it.
Fortunately, I’ve got a pretty good attorney, and we kept digging and digging. We found out that they had been lying, and the case was closed. But the uncertainty of always having to look over your shoulder — I can handle it, but I hate it for my family.
BJ: And of course, one of the things that came up is how quickly the FBI closed their case. How fast was it closed?
JM: It was about 10 days, to the best of our knowledge. From the intel we got from inside and from what my attorney was able to dig up, the FBI closed the case in about 10 days. And if anybody knows anything about the FBI, they do not close a case in 10 days. As a matter of fact, we’re still going through the process with the FBI and DOJ over the shooting itself almost two years later. So, why they would close a case that’s parallel to this one, that involves this one, is beyond me.
BJ: Certainly, your family’s stress still remains to this day, as well. You mentioned in your book that people like Oprah Winfrey and Alicia Keys and others commented on your case. Several people have said that you’re “privileged,” because you’re a police officer; you’re from the area; you’re white; you have certain relationships with law enforcement that give you a certain structural power, according to them. How privileged did you feel when the FBI opened and closed that investigation in 10 days?
JM: Yeah, there’s not much privilege. The only privilege I have is that, fortunately, I’ve been saved, and I know where I’m going if I do die. That’s the privilege I have. But as far as being white, being a cop — that did nothing. The department totally distanced itself from me. And the FBI works as a political machine. I knew that, but I was still disappointed because I still thought, being a cop for 20 years and working with these guys over at the FBI (I had FBI clearance at the time), you would think that they would be more concerned about it. But when politics come into play, all that goes out the door. There’s no such thing as privilege. There’s political privilege, but there’s no white privilege.
BJ: You mentioned several politicians in your book, but most of them are acting in an ignoble manner. We might say the one shining exception is Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who steps forward and tells the truth. How refreshing is it for someone who is literally in the crosshairs, when a politician disregards the Woke mob and just speaks the truth?
JM: Well, I had faith going in, because Cameron speaks about his faith and about what guides him morally, and his integrity. I was hoping that holds true, because you hear a lot of politicians talk about that, and when the pressure’s on, they just cave. But I held out hope. I prayed that Attorney General Cameron would just go by the facts and, if he found the facts to be against us, then so be it. But I wanted him to go by the law, the facts, and the letter of the law. And that’s what he did.
And he caught criticism. He caught heat. Everybody was saying, “Well, they should have at least gone to trial and let the jury figure it out” — but that’s not how the system works. Everybody’s confused on how grand juries work. People think every charge goes before a grand jury, regardless of whether it has any merit or any depth to it, and the grand jury is just going to indict and let a jury take it, but that’s not how it works. There have been many cases I’ve taken to the Commonwealth attorney or the district attorney and said, “Can we prosecute this?” and they look at the facts, they look at the evidence, and they say, “It doesn’t meet the elements of the charge, so we can’t even present it to a grand jury.” And that’s what happened here. Cameron did exactly what his position has authority to do. This was a rare example of that.
BJ: You literally close your book with a prayer. You write that you were shot, you were lied about, and your family faced potentially being hunted down by multiple criminal gangs. How important was your faith in getting you through all these stressful events in your life?
JM: Oh, it was the anchor. While I’m a Christian, and I have a relationship with God, I don’t go to church three times a week. But my faith in God has been grounded there. It was embedded in me since I was a child. And if I didn’t have that to fall back on, I’m not sure what I would have done. My encouragement to other people is simply: Find your faith. Have a relationship with God, because in all these trying times that we’re coming up on — I mean, look at our nation right now in the world; we’re in some scary times — if you don’t have something to believe in and ground yourself in, then you’ll be all over the place.
That’s my hope for the future of our country, too — that we can just come together and realize that most of us have the same common goals:” We want to be left alone. We want our freedom. We want to be able to choose for our families what we think is right. And I don’t want an overreaching government, especially on police departments, because there, there is a fine line where we can abuse authority. I mean, you saw what happened in Canada. You’ve seen what’s happened enforcing some of these vaccine mandates. And I think that’s overreach. I think you’re sworn to uphold the Constitution. And if you go outside those lines, then people shouldn’t respect you. People shouldn’t just “back the blue” blindly. I think we back the blue when they’re doing the right thing, and when they’re wrong, we call them out. When you do that, that gives you more credibility.
BJ: Of course, in your book, you also mention how you can too far in the opposite direction by being too soft on crime. You write about how, even before this particular incident, city officials would bow to the Woke constituency and enact soft-on-crime policies. What ends up happening when police do that?
JM: Two things happen: First, these guys realize there’s no punishment for what they do. There’s no accountability, so they’re going to roll the dice. It’s a lifestyle, whether they’re selling drugs or robbing people, the lifestyle is easier for them than going out and having a job, waking up early, and working hard. So, they often become repeat offenders, and that hurts society. These judges are letting people who get a 10-year sentence for manslaughter out in a year-and-a-half, two years. And all they do is they jump right back into the game. Society is getting demolished by this.
The second part of that is that we are dealing with the same people over and over, and they become emboldened. They get let out and realize, “They’re not going to do anything to me.” And they hear all this rhetoric from the Left and from the progressives about how the police are bad, the police are at fault. They know there’s not going to be much done to them, so we’ve seen the courthouses were attacked and the police officers were attacked. And there’s no accountability for that. And when police have to deal with these violent repeat offenders over and over again, that’s when you start to see the use of force rise. That’s when you see a lot of these incidents where the police have to subdue someone forcefully, and someone dies. Then, that blows up in the media. Most of the time those guys should have already been in prison. They should have never been out to have contact with the police. And they’re a menace to society. Until we start holding them accountable, we’re going to just keep seeing a cycle of crime — and we’re definitely in the middle of that cycle.
BJ: Last question for you: If a young man came to you today and said he wanted to be a police officer, with LMPD or any other unit, what would you tell him?
JM: I would tell him to proceed with caution. I do believe we need good police officers, so I would never deter someone from the calling that they believe God wants them to do. If my boys came to me, I’d say, “Man, I’ll support you, but we’re in scary times.” But I want good cops, so I would encourage anybody who’s got that desire, that drive to do it for the right reasons.
BJ: And tell the politicians to let them do their jobs, right?
JM: Oh, exactly. I wish the politicians would do their own job first.
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The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.