Simon & Schuster has scrapped its plans to distribute a book written by one of the Louisville police officers who shot Breonna Taylor, after news of its publication ignited widespread criticism.
Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly was not charged over his involvement in the botched narcotics raid that killed the 26-year-old Black woman last March. His plans to publish a book about the case were revealed Thursday by the Louisville Courier-Journal, which it said learned of them after he contacted a staff photographer seeking to use a photo from last year's protests.
The book will be titled "The Fight For Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy" and is set to be released in the fall, the Courier-Journal reported.
It will be edited and published by Post Hill Press, a Tennessee-based company that says it focuses on "pop culture, business, self-help, health, current events, Christian, and conservative political books." Some of its high-profile clients include conservative commentator Dan Bongino, far-right activist Laura Loomer and embattled congressman Matt Gaetz.
A publicist for Post Hill Press told the Associated Press in a statement that the publishing house supports its authors' free speech rights and that Mattingly "deserves to have his account of the tragic events heard publicly."
But news of the book deal angered scores of critics, who said they viewed it as an attempt to seek fame and profit off of Taylor's name.
"People love to profit off of Black pain and tragedy. It sells," tweeted Kentucky state Rep. Attica Scott.
Hey @simonschuster this (giving a book deal to Breonna Taylor's killer) is a bad look and you should reconsider this business decision before people make it clear just how bad a business decision it's going to be for you. #notathreatjustapromisehttps://t.co/IMI6xsB9dE— Jessamyn! MLib. (@jessamyn) April 15, 2021
The company had suggested earlier on Thursday that it could not refuse Post Hill titles, according to the AP, but reversed course that night.
"Like much of the American public, earlier today Simon & Schuster learned of plans by distribution client Post Hill Press to publish a book by Jonathan Mattingly," it said in a statement. "We have subsequently decided not to be involved in the distribution of this book."
Post Hill Press is moving forward with its plans to publish the book, a publicist confirmed to NPR over email on Friday morning.
"His story is important and it deserves to be heard by the public at large," she wrote. "We feel strongly that an open dialogue is essential to shining a light on the challenging issues our country is facing."
Mattingly's role in the raid
Mattingly was one of two officers that fired into Taylor's apartment in the early morning hours of March 13, 2020. Taylor — whose name has since become a rallying cry at protests against police brutality and racial injustice — was not a target of the fatal raid, and the suspect police were searching for was not present. None of the officers involved have been directly charged over Taylor's death.
Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a warning shot after mistaking the entering officers for intruders. It struck Mattingly in the leg, at which point he and then-detective Myles Cosgrove returned fire.
The FBI later determined that Mattingly had fired six times. Cosgrove fired 16, they said, including the shot that killed Taylor. A grand jury declined to bring charges against the two last fall, with Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron saying they were "justified in their return of deadly fire."
A third officer, Brett Hankison, was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment over shooting into neighboring apartments. He was terminated from the force in June, and Cosgrove — along with another detective who sought the warrant on Taylor's apartment — was officially fired in January.
Taylor's boyfriend, Walker — against whom all charges over the night of the raid have been dropped — filed a civil lawsuit against the city and police department last fall. Mattingly filed a countersuit one month later, accusing Walker of committing battery, assault and intentional emotional distress.
Mattingly remains on the force, which has cleared him of any wrongdoing. The AP reports he was reprimanded last month for violating the department's email policy by sending an email critical of leadership to all officers in September, in which he reportedly wrote that those involved in the raid "did the legal, moral and ethical thing."
He is also the only officer involved in the raid to speak publicly about it in the year since.
In an October interview with ABC News and the Courier-Journal, Mattingly said his family had received death threats and had to go into hiding. He also described the raid as "not a race thing like people try to make it to be."
Across the country, protesters took to the streets last summer to demand justice and accountability for Taylor and other Black Americans killed and injured by law enforcement, including George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and Jacob Blake. A fresh wave of demonstrations is unfolding now over the police killings of Daunte Wright in Minnesota and Adam Toledo in Illinois.