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The group showed footage of Breonna Taylor’s fatality at a restaurant event, diners say

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Body cam footage and footage from the night Breonna Taylor was killed in 2020 was shown this week in front of diners at a restaurant in Kentucky during an event where a GOP women’s group hosted one of the officers who fired on Taylor’s apartment, according to an NAACP chapter and patron accounts.

The South Central Kentucky Republican Women’s Club held a dinner Tuesday at Anna’s Greek Restaurant in Bowling Green, Ky., for Jonathan Mattingly, a former sergeant with the Louisville Metro Police Department who was one of the officers who carried out the failed no-knock raid in Taylor’s Louisville apartment looking for her ex-boyfriend. Mattingly, one of the officers who shot into the 26-year-old black woman’s apartment the night she died, was cleared of wrongdoing in an internal police investigation and retired in 2021 to become a conservative author and pundit.

Cayce Johnson, a Bowling Green resident dining at Anna’s on Tuesday, told The Washington Post that after Mattingly was introduced to “raw applause” from event attendees one floor above them, the former sergeant played a presentation with footage and images from the night Taylor was killed. After the lights in the restaurant dimmed, diners not affiliated with the event could hear and see the graphic descriptions of Taylor’s murder, Johnson said.

“You could hear the gunshots in the footage,” said 34-year-old Johnson on Saturday. “Our dinner was completely hijacked. We couldn’t hear ourselves at the time.” She added, “It makes me feel sick just thinking about it now.”

Katelyn Jones, another Bowling Green resident who dines at Anna’s, expressed her frustration in a Facebook post about how the group “one of the cops who killed Breonna Taylor there and held some kind of loud tribute/demonstration to support him while we were there” in the spotlight. eating.”

“It was extremely disrespectful, disturbing and loud,” she wrote of the footage of the gunfire. “It was so loud and no one wants to hear or see police footage, especially of the murder of an innocent black woman as they try to enjoy their meal.”

Death sentence vacated for man charged with botched raid without knocking

Representatives from the South Central Kentucky Republican Women’s Club did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s requests for comment Saturday. The GOP group’s Facebook page was unavailable Saturday morning. Ahead of the event, the group said in a statement this week to Spectrum News in Louisville that they had invited Mattingly to speak at the event “to get a first-hand account” of what happened the night Taylor was murdered.

“These events may be controversial, but we believe that Sgt. Mattingly has the right to share his experience,” the group said in a statement to Spectrum. “Other individuals with first-hand experience on this matter are welcome to also request an opportunity to speak with our organization.”

Mattingly, who did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment on Saturday morning, wrote on Facebook that he enjoyed his time at the event, saying: “Food was great and staff were even better!” After Jones responded to his message by thanking him “for ruining my family’s and everyone else’s dinner,” Mattingly offered to pay for her family’s dinner, saying he meant no harm by his presentation.

“That was not the intention,” he wrote on Facebook.

Anna’s Greek Restaurant did not immediately respond to The Post’s email or voicemail requesting comment Saturday morning. The Facebook page was also inaccessible at the beginning of Saturday. No one answered a call to a number listed for Vilson Qehaja, who is listed in state records as the business owner.

The event was moved to Anna’s after it was to be held at the Bowling Green Country Club, which had declined to host it “after being notified of the guest speaker,” the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. There would also be an appearance by Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, a 2023 gubernatorial candidate in the state’s Republican primary. But the nominee pulled out because of what his agency described as “the controversial nature of another speaker at this event,” according to Spectrum News.

The GOP group’s event at the Greek restaurant drew backlash, including from the NAACP’s Green-Warren County Bowling Chapter.

“It is beyond reprehensible to subject anyone, let alone children and customers of African American descent, to such indecent exposure, graphic and disturbing imagery while trying to enjoy their meal,” Ryan Dearbone, president of the NAACP Department, said in a statement Thursday. “Such disturbing events should not be tolerated, especially in public accommodations. These acts are, to say the least, devoid of humanity and violate the most fundamental principles of human decency.”

Tuesday night looked set to be a fun night for Johnson, who made a reservation for eight people at Anna’s to welcome back some friends. Johnson said she overheard part of a report about how Mattingly was going to speak from somewhere, but thought nothing of it.

“I didn’t see the location,” she said. “I had no idea it was happening in my town, caused by people in the community.”

Johnson and her party noticed that a buffet event was being held upstairs for an estimated 80 people. They thought it was funny and weird that the event raffled off a chocolate cake, she said. But after a woman at the event made a joke about covid-19 over the sound system blaring through the restaurant, Johnson wondered what kind of event was going on.

It didn’t take her and her group long to realize that Mattingly was the guest of honor and what he was talking about: March 13, 2020 and the no-knock raid that killed Taylor. Johnson’s party, which included two people of color and a veteran with PTSD, was startled by what they heard and saw.

“We were just sick and in shock, and we didn’t know what to do,” Johnson told The Post.

Johnson she said and her party found Qehaja, the owner of Anna’s, and expressed concern about how their dinner was disrupted by what was supposed to be a private event. Mobile footage obtained by The Post shows a man, whom Johnson identified as Qehaja, shrugging in response to their concerns.

Mobile footage obtained by The Post shows a man, whom Cayce Johnson identified as Vilson Qehaja, shrugging in response to their concerns. (Video: Cayce Johnson)

“I have no idea what’s going on,” the man replies.

Johnson’s group indicates the event included gunfire from Taylor’s murder, then the man replies, “I have nothing to do with that.” At one point in the video, loud bangs from the presentation can be heard in the background.

After another member of Johnson’s party asked if he knew Mattingly was speaking at his restaurant, the man in the video answered the question with an unrelated question: “You get served, right?”

Four officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s murder face federal charges

The GOP women’s group event came five months after the Justice Department filed federal civil rights charges against four former Louisville police officers for Taylor’s murder. Former detectives Brett Hankison, Joshua Jaynes and Kelly Goodlett and former sergeant Kyle Meany face the first federal counts stemming from Taylor’s death amid mounting anger from civil rights activists and Taylor’s family.

In the four days since the dinner, Johnson said it was hard for her or any of her friends to sleep after hearing the gunshots that killed Taylor during what was expected to be a fun night out.

“The GOP women’s group must apologize to Breonna Taylor’s family and the people who were present that night and were subject to it,” Johnson said. “Why they wanted to give Jonathan Matting a platform to speak about Breonna Taylor, I don’t know. It’s disgusting.”

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