A Beloved BBQ Chef Who Fed Police For Free Was Fatally Shot After Louisville Authorities "Returned Fire" At A Crowd
David McAtee was a popular barbecue chef in the community who often used to feed police officers for free.
A man was shot and killed in Louisville, Kentucky, after police said officers and the Kentucky National Guard "returned fire" on a group of people gathered outside a restaurant early Monday morning.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement Monday that the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) and the Kentucky National Guard "were fired upon" while working to disperse a crowd as part of a citywide curfew.
They "returned fire," which resulted in a man's death, Beshear said, adding that he has authorized the Kentucky State Police to independently investigate the shooting.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced Monday that he had fired Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad after learning that the body cameras of the officers who had fired their weapons were not active at the time of the shooting.
Fischer, along with family members, identified the victim as David McAtee, the beloved chef and owner of a popular barbecue joint located next to the Dino's Food Mart, who was known to be a "good friend" to LMPD officers.
Authorities had earlier stated that they "do not know" who shot McAtee and if it was related to a "separate incident" or if he was killed due to shots fired by Louisville officers or National Guard members.
On Tuesday, LMPD released security camera footage that they claimed showed that McAtee had fired a gun out of the door of his business as police approached and that he was fatally shot by either a National Guard member or an LMPD officer. LMPD said that it appeared McAtee had fired his weapon first, but added that it was an ongoing investigation.
LMPD's assistant police chief, LaVita Chavous, acknowledged that the surveillance footage — which did not have any audio — "raises more questions than it answers," including why McAtee allegedly fired his weapon, where officers were when he allegedly fired it, and who he was shooting at.
LMPD said Tuesday that without audio and without having interviewed the officers involved in the shooting yet, they had yet to determine the exact sequence of events that led to McAtee's death but they released the footage to provide "transparency."
The LMPD said that the officers and National Guard members had used pepper balls to disperse some individuals in the crowd which is when the "conflict" occurred.
Authorities said they interviewed 13 people who were at McAtee's restaurant and recovered seven firearms from the scene.
LMPD officers and National Guard members fired approximately 18 shots during the incident, authorities said. A preliminary autopsy report determined that McAtee died from a single gunshot wound to his chest.
Two LMPD officers, Kate Crews and Allen Austin, have been put on administrative leave after the shooting.
Both Beshear and the acting LMPD chief Rob Schroeder acknowledged that it was "unacceptable" that the officers involved in the shooting did not have their body cameras on or active.
Schroeder said that the two officers who fired their weapons violated policy by "either not wearing or not activating their body cameras."
While there was no body camera footage of the incident, Schroeder said that other footage from the scene "clearly shows officers reacting to gunfire."
McAtee, 53, was known to donate his time and food for several community events, his longtime friend, Metro Council President David James, told BuzzFeed News. He also used to feed police officers for free.
"He liked the police," James told BuzzFeed News. "He used to give the police free food while they were working. He talked to them all the time."
Schroeder said that over the years McAtee had been a "good friend of the police officers of the LMPD." He was "frequently making sure our officers had a good meal on their shifts and becoming a good friend to many of those officers," Schroeder said.
James said that McAtee was "everybody's friend."
"He loved people. He loved to cook, and he cooked for anybody," James said. "He was just a really good person who used to give free food to people in the neighborhood and to police officers."
James also said he wants answers as to why the National Guard was dispatched to 26th Street and Broadway on Monday.
"There was no protesting or anything and no critical infrastructure to be protected there," James said.
He added that people often hung out at the corner every night, and he did not know if authorities were dispatched because of curfew violation.
"I hope the person who is beloved figure in the community was not killed over the curfew," James said.
"My son was a good son," McAtee's mother, Odessa Riley, told the Courier-Journal. "All he did on that barbecue corner is try to make a dollar for himself and his family. And they come along and they killed my son."
The now-fired Louisville police chief Conrad told reporters earlier that at 12:15 a.m. on Monday his officers and members of the Kentucky National Guard were dispatched to Dino's Food Mart on 26th Street and Broadway to "clear a large crowd in the parking lot" that had gathered in defiance of the city's dusk-to-dawn curfew.
Conrad said that as officers and soldiers were working to clear the lot, they were "shot at." Both LMPD officers and the national guard units "returned fire," killing a man at the scene, Conrad said.
Conrad said his department was interviewing "several persons of interest" and was collecting video footage from the scene.
Referring to days of police brutality protests in Louisville, Conrad said the night's protest "once again turned from peaceful to destructive."
A bystander who livestreamed the incident said the people gathered in the parking lot outside Dino's Food Mart were not there to protest.
"We weren’t protesting... We were just having a good time. We were eating... We were listening to music, having a good time," Smith said. "That’s all we were doing out there."
Smith's video appeared to show him and a group of others eating, drinking, and listening to music in the parking lot, before hordes of police officers and national guard members arrived in the parking lot and ordered the crowd to leave.
A gunshot can be heard in the video, followed by a brief pause, and then the sounds of several shots being fired in succession.
Several armed police officers and national guard members can be seen taking cover behind parked vehicles with their weapons raised.
A clip of the shooting was widely shared on social media.
“It was like a delayed reaction, like they were looking to try and see where it was coming from, if it was a gunshot, if it was a firework, or whatever," Smith told the Associated Press. “Then all of a sudden they just started shooting.”
In a press conference on Monday, Beshear said he had called on police to release body camera footage and other footage of the incident as soon as possible so that "the people of Kentucky can decide whether this was justified or whether it is cause for more concern."
"Put it out. Let people see it," Beshear said.
"This is really what it comes to?" Smith told the Associated Press. “We’re just having drinks, chilling and the National Guard pulls up with machine guns? I never thought I could just be sitting somewhere having a drink, minding my own business, and the army pull up with machine guns and jump out. Never thought I would experience that here in America."
Last week, seven people were shot in Louisville during heated protests over the deaths of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman who was fatally shot in her home by LMPD officers in March, and George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after a Minneapolis officer used a dangerous knee chokehold on him. Louisville authorities said police did not fire any shots during the shootout.
Louisville officers have used tear gas and shot pepper bullets at protesters as well as journalists covering the protests.
"It has been a difficult four days for our city," Conrad said early Monday. "Our officers are working very hard to keep people safe and protect property. While doing that, our officers have been shot at and assaulted. It is very, very clear that many people do not trust the police. That is an issue that we're going to have to work on and work through for a long time."