The Fight for Justice: Simon and Schuster blocks publishing book by officer involved in killing of Breonna Taylor
Jonathan Mattingly was shot and fired six rounds into the apartment Taylor shared with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker on the night she was killed.
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Simon & Schuster, the American publishing company, announced late on Thursday, April 15, that it will not distribute the book being written by Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, the Louisville, Ky. police officer who was shot when raiding the home of Breonna Taylor in March 2020.
Mattingly fired six shots into the apartment that Taylor shared with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, on March 13. The officers involved in the raid did not knock or announce their presence or identity, so Walker said he believed that their home was under invasion.
Walker, a licensed gun owner, fired back in self defense, to protect himself and Taylor, who was asleep in her bed as the raid began. Mattingly suffered a gunshot wound to his femoral artery that required emergency surgery.
Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron claimed that Walker was the one who fired the shot that injured Mattingly, but a ballistics report from the Kentucky State Police did not support this statement.
The report “could not determine that Kenny’s shot is what hit Officer Mattingly.”
A grand jury did not indict the officer for his involvement in the incident that ultimately led to Taylor’s death. Three lesser counts of wanton endangerment were announced, but only against one out of the four officers involved, Brett Hankinson. Hankinson was later fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD).
The death of Breonna Taylor and the insulting lack of justice that followed made waves among the Black community of Kentucky and allies across the county. It only served to re-traumatize a nation still reeling from the police murder of George Floyd.
Taylor’s death led to demonstrations of all sizes, some were massive street marches, mostly in union with George Floyd marches. Others were more direct, and held even more risk to the safety and well-being of activists.
In one demonstration, 87 protesters were arrested for sitting outside the home of AG Daniel Cameron and refusing to leave.
Later that month, a small group of four protestors in Louisville began a hunger strike, claiming that they would not stop until justice was served.
Amira Bryant, Ari Maybe, Vincent Gonzales and Tabin Ibershoff said that they were restricting their consumption to vitamins, water, green tea and black coffee only.
The young adults streamed their journey on Facebook via their page Hunger Strikers for Breonna.
Unfortunately, justice did not come, and it still hasn’t, thus the group was obligated to conclude their strike after 25 days of intense fasting. On their page, they announced the end of their strike, but encouraged others to conduct their own fasts for justice.
“Fasting is a time-honored form of spiritual centering and a way to ‘feel’ and center more empathy and compassion for the injustice and oppression experienced by Black and Brown people in our society, particularly with policing and the justice system. So it is also a profoundly political act of resistance,” they wrote.
“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,” the publishing company wrote in a statement. “We have subsequently decided not to be involved in the distribution of this book.”
After the news of the book deal was first reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal, Post Hill Press, and by association, Simon & Schuster were met with backlash from many, including politicians, organizations and legal experts.
Sam Aguiar, the Louisville attorney who represented Taylor’s mother in a civil suit against the city and the LMPD, expressed gratitude for Simon & Schuster on Facebook for its decision.
Aguiar explained in his post that a LMPD investigation determined that Mattingly violated policy and deserved discipline, but the acting chief “chose to ignore it, override it and exonerate him.”
According to the attorney, the department then attempted to bury these findings under open records law exemptions. Aguiar said he hopes that Mattingly plans to acknowledge in the book that his own colleagues were aware of his wrongdoings, but he is doubtful.
"This book will be a joke and do nothing to expose all the things he's been hiding," Aguiar wrote.
Shannon Coulter, co-founder of the progressive Grab Your Wallet boycott campaign with more than 90,000 followers, also took to social media to air her grievances about the book deal.
Coulter specifically took aim at Simon & Schuster, asking them if they plan to distribute the book, and encouraged others to join her in calling out the publishing company.
Thank you to everyone in the #GrabYourWallet community who emailed Simon & Schuster today. https://t.co/nV9vZYG4IR— Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) April 16, 2021
A Moveon.org petition, started by Nandini Jammi, with the goal of canceling the distribution deal, generated more than 20,000 signatures, and ended with a clear victory. The initiative called the book a “brazen attempt to rehabilitate” Mattingly’s image.
I’ve just started a @MoveOn petition. Let’s get it to 100,000 signatures.https://t.co/4rDCG5hsIW— Nandini Jammi (@nandoodles) April 15, 2021
The upcoming text, which Mattingly says is still being written, is entitled The Fight For Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy.
Despite the backlash, Post Hill Press is still moving forward with Mattingly’s book. A publicist for the independent publishing house told The Washington Post that his story deserves to be heard.
“We feel strongly that an open dialogue is essential to shining a light on the challenging issues our country is facing,” said the company.
The Tennessee-based publishing house has orchestrated the release of several books from conservatives, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, Fox News contributor Dan Bongino and far-right activist Laura Loomer.
Last March, Simon & Schuster posted a statement showing support for Black Lives Matter, writing that it stands against racism and violence.
Many authors and readers felt that this sentiment was inconsistent with the decision to distribute a book by Mattingly, who wrote in an email that he and other officers did the “legal, moral and ethical thing” on the night that Taylor died.
It seems that Simon & Schuster listened to the feedback and is now choosing to do the actual moral and ethical thing, by choosing not to distribute this book.
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