Louisville braces for Black Lives Matter blowup as Breonna Taylor ruling looms

Kentucky’s largest city, Louisville, is on edge as residents await an impending decision from Attorney General Daniel Cameron regarding charges for police officers in the Breonna Taylor shooting case.

Downtown looked like a ghost town Tuesday with no traffic on the streets and only a smattering of people outside City Hall and at Jefferson Square Park. City staff put up barricades and boarded up police buildings and courthouses.

The Louisville Metro Police Department is conducting a probe to determine whether six officers involved in Taylor’s death violated department policies.

Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT and aspiring nurse, was fatally shot after police broke down the door to her apartment while executing a late-night “no-knock” warrant in a narcotics investigation on March 13.

None of the officers involved in her death have been arrested or charged. Two remain on the force, while a third officer was fired and is appealing to get his job back.

Sgt. Jon Mattingly, one of three LMPD officers involved in the shooting, confirmed to local NBC affiliate WAVE 3 News that he sent a lengthy email to his department colleagues early Tuesday morning.

In the raw, emotional email, he referred to protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter as thugs, saying they will “throw bricks, bottles and urine” on officers, and will “get in your face and yell, curse and degrade you.”

The text, which includes strong language, reads: “I’m not here to give you a Rah Rah you got this speech. I’m not here to tell you that you signed up to help this community and to keep your head up. I’m here to tell you I’m sorry you have to go through this. I’m sorry your families have to go through this. I’m sorry the Mayor, Amy Hess and Chief Conrad failed all of us in epic proportions for their own gain and to cover their asses.

You DO NOT DESERVE to be in this position. The position that allows thugs to get in your face and yell, curse and degrade you. Throw bricks, bottles and urine on you and expect you to do nothing. It goes against EVERYTHING we were all taught in the academy. The position that if you make a mistake during one of the most stressful times in your career, the department and FBI (who aren’t cops and would piss their pants if they had to hold the line) go after you for civil rights violations. Your civil rights mean nothing, but the criminal has total autonomy.

We all signed up to be police officers. We knew the risks and were willing to take them, but we always assumed the city had your back. We wanted to do the right thing in the midst of an evil world to protect those who cannot protect themselves. To enforce laws that make it possible to live in a peaceful society. We as police DO NOT CARE if you are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, what you identify as…this week. We aren’t better than anyone. This is not an us against society, but it is good versus evil. We are sons, daughters, husbands, wives, partners, brothers, sisters, dads and moms. We are human beings with flaws, feelings and emotions.

Now I’m just rambling, but I want you to know that I’m still proud to be a cop. To be an LMPD cop. No matter the ineptitude in upper command or the mayor’s office, this is one of the greatest jobs on earth. With that being said these next few days are going to be tough. They are going to be long, they are going to be frustrating. They will put a tremendous amount of stress on your families. Do not let your ego get you in a trick bag. Have your partner’s 6. De-escalate if possible. DO NOT give the pencil pushers at the top, you know the ones who are too scared to hold the line, a reason to open investigations on you. The same ones that couldn’t make decisions to save their lives. We need leaders that lead from the front and not in a room under a desk. Do what you need to do to go home you your family. Just do it with dignity and make sure you can justify your actions because everything down there is recorded.

I don’t know a lot of you guys/gals but I’ve felt the love. Regardless of the outcome today or Wednesday, I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night. It’s sad how the good guys are demonized, and criminals are canonized. Put that aside for a while, keep your focus and do your jobs that you are trained and capable of doing. Don’t put up with their shit, and go home to those lovely families and relationships.

I wish I were there with you leading the charge. I’ll be praying for your safety. Remember you are just a pawn in the Mayors political game. I’m proof they do not care about you or your family, and you are replaceable. Stay safe and do the right thing. YOU ARE LOVED AND SUPPORTED by most of the community. Now go be the Warriors you are, but please be safe! None of these “peaceful” protesters are worth your career or freedom. God speed boys and girls,” he concluded.

Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder said Tuesday authorities don’t know when the decision will be announced but the city is restricting downtown access and taking other actions.

“I hope, we hope, that all of this is simply not needed, that it will be a peaceful situation and we’ll all be talking in a week going, ‘Wow, that was something we didn’t need to do,’ ” Schroeder said. “But on the front side of it, where we don’t know what’s going to happen, we have to plan the best we can to protect the public.”

“We just ask that people bear with us as we go through these unprecedented time,” Schroeder said. “… We felt these steps were necessary to help protect the public.” LMPD is closing several downtown streets, but foot traffic is not impacted,” he noted.

Any use of tear gas during any potential unrest would have to be approved by him, Schroeder explained, unless a serious situation such as gunfire calls for immediate action.

In a 3:30 a.m. release, a department spokesman said in order to keep downtown safe for “those coming downtown to express their First Amendment Rights, as well as those who live and work in the area,” police are putting up vehicle barricades around Jefferson Square Park (the site of ongoing protests) and across the downtown perimeter and will restrict access even further near the park, with only pedestrian access allowed.

LMPD is also restricting vehicle access from Market Street to Broadway and from Second Street to Roy Wilkins Avenue, allowing in only those who live or work in the area. Parking and access to parking garages inside the perimeter will also be limited, according to the department, which asked anyone currently parked in the area to move their car as soon as possible.

“We recognize that this is an inconvenience, and will cause difficulty for those that live, work and have business downtown, and we apologize for this inconvenience. However, public safety is our number one priority, and it would be irresponsible if we did not take preemptive action to preserve it,” police said.

Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted Tuesday morning: “Our goal with these steps is ensuring space and opportunity for potential protesters to gather and express their First Amendment rights, & to prepare for any eventuality to keep everyone safe.”

LMPD put in place a department state of emergency Monday to provide for adequate staffing for whatever situations arise, Schroeder said. All department off days and vacation requests were canceled Monday.

The Transit Authority of River City, Louisville’s public bus system, also announced Tuesday morning that it would make some route changes ahead of an anticipated announcement in the Breonna Taylor case.

All stops along routes between Broadway and River Road and between First and Ninth streets will be closed “until further notice,” TARC said in a statement. Several of those blocks were closed off by Louisville police officials earlier in the morning as steps were taken to restrict downtown access.

Last week officials announced that four federal buildings identified by the Department of Homeland Security as ‘high risk’ targets and they are closed from September 21 to 25.

Those buildings include Louisville’s federal Gene Snyder US Courthouse & Customhouse, the Romano L Mazzoli Federal Building, the US Attorney’s Office building and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement building.

The courthouse will be closed to the public through Friday, September 25, according to an order by Greg Stivers, US District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. All scheduled in-court appearances will be continued or converted to videoconference proceedings at the discretion of the presiding judge, the order said.