Former Louiseville Officer Goes on Trial for Fatal Shooting
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Family and friends of a former Louisville police detective believe he was wrongly charged for fatally shooting an armed man during an undercover drug buy.
But many civil rights activists and those in Louisville's black community and say holding a white police officer accountable for the murder of a black man is long overdue.
McKenzie Mattingly, a 31-year-old former Marine and five-year veteran of the police department, goes on trial this week for the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Michael Newby, who was shot three times in the back after an altercation during a drug buy.
The Jan. 3 shooting reignited anger in a black community still upset over the fatal shooting of a handcuffed man by a white officer a year before.
Newby was the seventh black man fatally shot by Louisville police in the past five years, but Mattingly is the first officer facing criminal charges in any of those cases.
Mattingly was indicted for murder and wanton endangerment in March and fired a month later.
The shooting rallied Louisville's black community, one activist said.
"To them this was just totally out of order, and it's unacceptable to them," said the Rev. Louis Coleman, who has led dozens of protests in front of Louisville police headquarters in the past few years. With Newby's death, more young people have joined the protests, he said.
"These young people know that getting shot in the back running away is wrong," Coleman said.
Newby's death came just over a year after the December 2002 fatal shooting of 50-year-old James Taylor. Police shot Taylor 11 times in an apartment after he was handcuffed. Two white officers at the scene said Taylor, who was black, lunged at them with a boxcutter knife. After the officers were cleared of criminal charges by a grand jury, activists stepped up their protests, and Taylor's family filed a civil suit against one of the officers.
In Mattingly's case, court records say Newby was carrying a small amount of crack-cocaine, some marijuana, a .45-caliber handgun and a large amount of money the night of the shooting. He was posthumously charged with drug trafficking, assault and carrying a concealed deadly weapon, but the charges were dismissed.
One of Mattingly's close friends, who started a Web site to raise money and support for the former officer, said his friend shouldn't be facing a murder trial.
"There's so many hypocrisies here, it's unbelievable," said Lukas Dwelly. He said his Web site had had 22,000 hits in eight months and scores of responses from people upset that Mattingly was indicted for murder.
"You've got a guy who's put it on the line for 11 1/2 years ... that's where the anger comes from," Dwelly said. He said his Web site has raised about $35,000 on Mattingly's behalf.
The case has been covered extensively by the Louisville media and carried in some national news outlets, prompting Mattingly's attorneys to ask that the trial be moved to another town and out of the media spotlight. Jefferson Circuit Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman denied that request in May, but left the door open for Mattingly's attorneys to try again before the trial begins.
Prosecutors and Mattingly's attorney, Steve Schroering, have declined to comment on the trial. Schroering has experience defending police officers. In June, a jury cleared his client, a Liberty officer, of second-degree manslaughter charges for fatally shooting a suspect.
Convincing a jury that a police officer committed intentional murder in an on-duty shooting is a tough sell for prosecutors, according to one expert.
"It wasn't a premeditated thing like, 'I'm going to go out and find someone to kill on duty today,"' said Tim Apolito, a former Ohio police officer who is now a criminal justice professor at the University of Dayton.
Mattingly joined the Louisville police department in 1999 and was promoted to narcotics detective in two years.
The late-night shooting happened near a liquor store in western Louisville as Mattingly was attempting a drug buy with Newby and two other suspects.
Mattingly said he was robbed during the buy and told prosecutors that he feared for his life before he fired, according to court records. Mattingly got out of his vehicle to arrest Newby but the two struggled, Mattingly said in an interview with prosecutors.
The officer's gun discharged once during the struggle, and Mattingly said he thought he had been shot in the foot.
Newby "moved away, he was not trying to flee, he was trying to get a weapon out, and I felt in very real fear ... for my life," Mattingly said during questioning. "I thought, this guy is trying to get a gun out and he's gonna kill me."
Mattingly fired four shots; three hit Newby in the back. The teen died the next morning at a hospital.