- A Kentucky GOP group hosted an event for one of the officers involved in the police raid that led to Breonna Taylor’s death.
- The group and the restaurant involved have since received backlash after diners complained about hearing gunshots.
- Cayce Johnson, a guest at the restaurant, said the GOP group owes the community an apology.
A Kentucky GOP women’s group hosted a dinner featuring Jonathan Mattingly — one of the officers involved in killing 26-year-old Breonna Taylor — as a speaker and played the footage of the raid that led to her death during the event.
The event, which was hosted by the Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky on Jan. 17 at the upstairs area of Anna’s Greek Restaurant in Bowling Green, drew complaints from other diners casually eating at the restaurant who heard graphic audio and gunshots as they ate their meals.
One diner, Cayce Johnson, told Insider in a phone interview it was “trauma torture on our dime.”
Johnson said the lights were lowered as she was eating when Mattingly, a former Louisville Metro Police Department Sergeant, was introduced one floor above while dozens of guests unrelated to the event dined below. Mattingly, who used a slideshow and a microphone during his presentation, was not criminally charged for his role in the March 2020 raid and has since authored a book about the altercation.
Johnson described the restaurant manager as “extremely dismissive” when she complained and said that people attending the GOP event appeared to be taunting some of the other diners.
“After the conversation with him, I think our frustration really boiled over at that point,” she told Insider. “We felt helpless. We’re paying for this, and this is awful. It was trauma torture on our dime. There was nothing we could do.”
She added, “And that’s when we started recording and trying to just get out of there before things escalated between us and the people upstairs because they were trying to intimidate us. They were staring and making faces at the people of color in our group and kind of antagonizing them, like ‘Do something. Come up here.'”
Johnson, a 34-year-old analyst from Bowling Green, shared a video on Facebook of her and a friend confronting the owner of the restaurant, Vilson Qehaja, and complaining that some of the guests from the GOP event were staring and “smirking” at them.
“I didn’t know this was going on tonight. Why weren’t the guests aware of what was going on if we have reservations? I would not have sat here through this,” Johnson’s friend, who is Black, can be seen saying to Qehaja in the video. “I think it’s very rude.”
“It’s the first thing I’m hearing about it. I have no idea. They reserved the room to eat,” Qehaja responded in between sips from a coffee cup. “I have nothing to do with that, so.”
When Johnson and her friend complained that they made reservations and “paid to eat here” but received no warning that the disruptive event was going on, Qehaja replied: “You’re being served, right?”
As they left the restaurant after paying their bill, Johnson said she and her friends chanted, “Say her name,” a slogan that raises awareness for Black women who have been victims of police brutality and become a rallying cry in Taylor’s case.
In response, Johnson said her party heard Mattingly say into his mic: “Come up here. You might learn something.”
Representatives for the restaurant and Mattingly did not immediately return Insider’s requests for comment on Saturday.
Some 80 people attended the GOP event where Mattingly went through a presentation of photos and videos of the raid, per The New Republic. In a since-deleted post, the Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky advertised for the event saying that Mattingly would “share what really happened during the raid that killed Breonna Taylor, what he saw, and how the media’s narrative has been corrupted and twisted to fit into a false, woke storyline,” per TNR.
The Bowling Green-Warren County chapter of the NAACP released a statement calling the event “horrific.”
A spokesperson for the Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky did not respond to Insider’s request for comment on Saturday.
The event was initially meant to be held at the Bowling Green Country Club and included Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Ryan Quarles. However, both Quarles and the country club later backed out, TNR reported.
Johnson told Insider that the GOP club owes the community an apology.
“They need to put out an apology to Breonna Taylor’s family and to our Bowling Green community because this is not a reflection of us,” Johnson said. “We do not support the profiting of murder.”